Making the decision to find a paragliding school, sign up, and learn paragliding is a really big step for most people. If you don’t live in a place where you’re surrounded by other people that fly (which is the case for most people here in Tirol, Austria), then that step is even more difficult for you to take. I understand how it feels because I come from a place where I had never even seen a paraglider before, let alone known anyone who had done it.
I am writing these paragliding school articles because I want to take some of the unknown out of what it takes to get your Paragliding license and fly like a bird!
Paragliding School – Beginner Course
(click to englarge photos)
DISCLAIMER: **NOT ALL PARAGLIDING SCHOOLS ARE THE SAME!** The rules and regulations for learning to paraglide and getting the license may vary widely between different countries. This article is only intended to give you a rough idea of what to expect and may not exactly reflect what you would experience at a different school.
Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let’s get started!
WHY GO TO A PARAGLIDING SCHOOL?: Learning to paraglide isn’t like learning most other sports. Paragliding is extremely complex and requires a great deal of understanding and practice to master. To keep paragliding safe, a pilot needs an excellent understanding of all the risks, and an ability to manage those risks. If you skip going to a school, and never learn about these risks, then you’ll be on a mission to learn from your mistakes instead… and in paragliding, mistakes can have big consequences.
BEGINNERS COURSE?: A beginners course or introductory course is offered by most if not all paragliding schools around the world. This course is intended to introduce potential pilots to the sport of paragliding. The course will normally take place at the schools beginner hill/training hill (a small hill), and teaches the basics of paragliding all the way up to your very first takeoff, flight and landing at the beginner hill.
What To Expect
EQUIPMENT RENTAL: All paragliding schools will offer rental equipment (Wing, Harness, Helmet etc.). And some also offer a “Rent-To-Own” option, where you can decide to buy that equipment minus the rental fee that you would have paid anyways. Most of the schools are also wing distributors, so you can buy your equipment straight up from them if you like.
TRAINING CURRICULUM: The training curriculum will vary from school to school depending on training styles. The school I am basing this off (Human Eagle) follows the principle of “Learning by doing”, which means they dig right into doing stuff, and saves the classroom theory for later.
MEET & GREET: Your instructor will give you a set date, time and place to meet for the first lessons. This will probably be on the training hill, or at a place where you all meet and the instructor transports you to the training hill.
The instructor will show you how to unpack and setup your paragliding wing. They will also give you an overview of all the equipment you will be using (wing, harness, helmet etc.), they will walk you through how to completely strap in.
- WING SETUP: You will learn how to properly unpack and set up your paragliding wing. The instructor will show you how to lay the glider out and prepare it for launching.
- HARNESS STRAP IN: The instructor will show each individual student how everything on their harness needs to be connected in order to completely strap in.
- CONNECT WING TO HARNESS: You’ll learn how to connect your wing to the harness in preparation for a forward launch takeoff.
PREFLIGHT CHECK: The instructor will teach you how to do a preflight check and the importance of doing it before every flight. There are a few different preflight checks floating around the world right now, to list a few:
- 5-Point Check
LAUNCH (TAKEOFF) PROCEDURE:
Now the instructor will teach you the takeoff procedure. First giving you a brief overview of a complete takeoff, then going into finer detail about each step. Their procedure should look something like this:
PULL UP RUNS: The instructor will have you do pull up runs. This allows you to feel what it’s like to launch without actually taking off. You will inflate the glider, get it positioned directly over your head, then stop yourself with the brakes before actually taking flight. This is great for getting a feel for what it’s like to inflate the wing, feel the lift of the wing, and also practice using the brakes.
AFTER TAKEOFF OVERVIEW: Here you will receive a “what happens after takeoff” overview from your instructor. Now that you understand how it feels to start launching your glider, the instructor will explain what you need to do after you actually liftoff.
SAFETY BRIEFING: You should receive an official safety briefing because now you’re about to really get down to business and make your first real flight! The instructor will stress all the do’s and don’t’s of launching, flying and landing.
This is what you came here for! Your first flight! During the first flight, you will be given a radio(walkie-talkie). Your instructor will need to be able to walk you through everything you need to do in order to have a safe and successful first flight. He will even be able to talk you through your first landing, letting you know when and where to land and start braking. Easy!
Sounds simple enough right? It’s not nearly as scary or complicated as most people think… there is even a possibility of doing your first flight on the very first day of training in an introductory course like this! NICE!!
A quick meet & greet, head out to the training hill, learn how to set up and connect all the equipment, do some practice launches, learn a few safety procedures and BAM, you’re doing your first flight. Your instructor is there to guide you through the entire process via radio, no problem.
If you were already contemplating whether or not you should learn how to fly then contemplate no further. Hopefully, I’ve given you the knowledge and ease of mind to sign up at your local paragliding school! Happy flights!
Enter your email address to subscribe to our monthly BigThermal "fresh" content notifications.