Can you actually become a qualified pilot, of a real flying machine, in 10 days?
That just doesn’t sound right does it. Or at least it didn’t to me – until I did it.

If you don’t know what a paraglider is, its basically an aeroplane without an engine that folds into a rucksack. You can carry it on your back, in your car, even on a plane (a plane inside a plane, madness!)

But how does it fly? You said it doesn’t have an engine…

Right, so the important part of Para-Glider is the Glider bit. It really doesn’t work like a parachute in the way most people think. Nor is it a hang-glider. Paragliders comes in three parts:

  1. The wing
  2. The lines
  3. The harness

First the wing, which is made of foldable fabric, self-pressurises with air to give it a shape that generates lift when moving through the air.
Then the lines, about 25 extremely strong pieces of string, attach the wing to the harness and allow you to steer the machine.
Lastly, you strap your fragile human body into an armchair-like harness. Which will comfortably lull you into false sense of security as you dangle god-like thousands of feet above earth’s surface.

In flight your paraglider is always moving forward and downward (due to the lack of an engine). This poses a problem, how do you take off? I won’t make this any more complicated than it needs to be: you find a hill or cliff and run off the side of it. You do not jump. You do remember to strap in. Unless it’s your first time, in which case you forget everything and shake uncontrollably. With any luck a few paces later you will find yourself soaring across the countryside like an eagle. The length of your flight will depend upon the height of the hill from which you launched, unless…

Understanding the magic – air flow

We breath it, it carries our voices, we feel it on our faces when the wind blows. But out in nature the air isn’t just moving from side to side as wind swirling around the earth, but up and down as well.
Air rises and falls in the millions-of-tons all around us everyday. If you can fly your paraglider into this magic rising air, you can stay up all day and fly for hundreds of miles.

But first you must learn, which is what I promised you at the beginning of this article “How To Become A Paraglider Pilot In 10 Days”

Making the ‘flight dream’ a reality

But isn’t paragliding just another hobby for extreme sports junkies? People with a genuine death wish?
There are risks involved in paragliding but no more so than crossing the road – look both ways and you’ll be fine. This adventure sport can be as tame or as crazy as you want it to be. Don’t be scared, learn more and everything will become clear.

What you need is a Club Pilot License granted to you by the BHPA (British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association).
In order to get this you need to complete 10 days of tuition with a registered flying school such as Fly Sussex.

You will work your way through tasks in a training log-book with the help of qualified instructors. By the end you will know how to handle a paraglider and be able to go out and fly it on your own.

I hope this article has given you a base-level introduction to the practicalities of paragliding. If you are interested in how I personally learned to fly, my ‘story’ if you will, then I tell my stories over email each week.

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