How to learn to fly a Paraglider

If you ever envied the birds, wanted to see the world from the height of their flight, and wondered why people do not fly, this article is for you. About paragliding, about how and where to learn to fly and where to go to improve your skills, says Sergey Pakhomov, master of sports in paragliding.

How to choose a paraglider school

No need to look for individualized instruction. Paragliding is a collective sport; therefore, it is best to choose a club: there are always people of different backgrounds who can tell you something, provide assistance if necessary. Flying alone, even on low slides, can be dangerous. Finding a way out of an emergency is easier when there are other pilots nearby.

Do not choose those who promise fast results. Learn quickly and go flying – it won’t work. In paragliding, it is important to know the theory and gradually practice; the weather and equipment are of great importance. Remember that you can get injured even from the height of a stool.
Read reviews. The reviews will help you to understand which club is closer to you, what impressions are left for those who have already completed training there.

When choosing a place, choose the people with whom you will communicate. Most clubs are free to attend the first lecture. There you can meet and chat with everyone. Therefore, after analyzing the information on the Internet, what are the clubs, write yourself 2-3 options and go get acquainted. Only after that, it is worth making a decision about where to study.

Those who want to learn a little faster can take a vacation and go to study in the south of Russia or in another country, where the weather is more likely to be suitable for training. There you will have more time and opportunity to train.

In any case, you can begin to practice only after you conclude a service agreement with the club, so take your time and choose the club carefully.

The main stages of training

Theory
Before going to the field, you need to listen to the theory. At lectures, you will be told what paragliding is, how a paraglider is designed, what you have to learn, and what kind of emergency situations are. In some clubs, the theory is combined with practical exercises: theory takes place on one weekend, and practice on others. It also happens that the theory is read on weekdays, and on weekends they leave for the field.

Ground preparation
At this stage, you learn to raise the paraglider above your head, standing on the ground, and move where you want, and not where the paraglider wants. It is important that you can raise the wing, control it and then extinguish. You need to be able to stop the flight and make sure that the wing is not above your head but on the ground.

Direct puffs, first raids, and rallies

The process of flying on the plain is the process of launching a kite. There is a rail, and there is a drum that reels the rail. Direct tightening – this is when a person just comes off the ground, comes off, and practically without any turns comes into the landing. This is done so that you work off and, most importantly, that you understand how to make a pillow correctly and smoothly – an element of landing when we translate horizontal speed to vertical.

Each student takes a different amount of time to this stage. Someone grasps right away, quickly develops motor skills, can adequately assess the distance to the ground and make a pillow in time, someone needs more time.

This also includes the first turns and first turns, the skill of returning to the starting place for a full-time landing is being developed, the skill of landing in a limited space is being developed. Gradually, the pilot improves his skills and expands the weathering framework in which he can fly. Start and landing are the most important skills in paragliding, which are honed and trained constantly as in any business, the more repetitions, the better the result.

Flying in dynamic flows

So, you have learned to start, fly, and land. After that, you can go to Crimea, Pyatigorsk, or Anapa to fly in dynamic flows – this is when the wind comes up against some kind of obstacle and rises. There you have to learn how to start from a hill without a winch, to dynamize, and most importantly – to learn how to assess height, situation, and think ahead. They also learn the rules of who skips whom, who is responsible for whom on different tiers, and how to disperse in the air.

SIV-course

SIV-course (from the French Simulation incident en Vol) is a simulation of incidents in the air. In this course, you learn to get out of emergency situations, better understand the flight processes, and control the paraglider in different conditions. This is usually done above the water, at an altitude of about 1100 meters. You intentionally introduce a paraglider in an emergency situation, bring it to the point where you could throw a rescue parachute, but do not throw. Trying to do what you will not do above the ground.

Many skip this step because it is optional and is quite expensive. However, this is necessary for safe flights, so that you do not have to learn to get out of an emergency already at the place when such a situation happened.
The most popular venue for the SIV course is Oludeniz in Turkey. Good flight weather lasts there for a long time, infrastructure is developed, and besides, the family can come there, for everyone there is an occupation.
But the possibilities are not limited only to Turkey: there are enough places where the SIV course is conducted.

Thermal flights

The fun begins – flying in thermal upward flows. How it works: the sun warms the earth, the earth warms the air. Heated air rises, cold air goes down. In good weather, this process does not stop; thermal upflows are obtained. Together with the rising air, paragliders can gain altitude and then spend this altitude on planning to the next point.

Thermal flights are different from flying in calm air; here, you need active piloting skills that you develop in the previous stages of preparation. If the flight in dynamics is stable, even air, then in thermal flows, the air either drops or rises. It often drops faster than your paraglider flies, so it is especially important here to be able to make decisions and navigate the situation.

In this process lies the whole mystery of paragliding. Of course, there is a theory, and many books have been written on this subject, many films have been shot. But this is a very lively process – how much you fly, how much you study. It is not always clear how some pilots choose transition lines, why they fly there, and how they know that there will be a stream. Until you try it yourself and see for yourself, it will be difficult. The surest way to master thermal flights is to listen carefully to the instructors in the initial stages, and then practice a lot in a group with other pilots.

Timeline training

To learn how to fly, you need to spend a fairly large amount of time. If you start training, go for a couple of classes, and then skip a few exits, start taking long pauses, then the progress will be very slow, you will not get pleasure from it, and most importantly, it will be unsafe.

It is also important to understand that paragliding is always dependent on the weather, and in the central part of Russia, for example, there is not much good flight weather. The smaller your skill, the narrower the weathering framework you can be in. Bad weather for paragliding is a strong wind, rain, cloudiness. It also happens that the weather is there, but it is not yours. Professionals on sports wings can fly in strong winds. They need other landing techniques, knowledge of emergency situations, which athletes can handle, but not beginners.
If you decide that this season you want to learn how to fly, you need to be prepared to devote a whole season to learning. And only after three or four main stages can you take a break if necessary.

Sample training timeline

*April – decided on a club in which you will be engaged, signed up, and went through the whole theory. Direct tightening and first flights.
*May – you have already flown a few days off, you can go to the Crimea, flying in dynamics.
*Summer – fly on the weekend, learn to land in a limited space, go on the target. Gradually, flights begin in thermal flows. In general, you will have to spend about a year on training in thermal flights.
*September – paragliding migration. You can fly to Turkey or Macedonia to take the SIV-course.
*Winter is considered off-season, but on slides with dynamic flows, you can fly to remember the technique, hold a paraglider in your hands. Not so far from Moscow, there are several such places – for example, in the village of Zhelokhovo, Kaluga region, near Ryazan, and in Sergiev Posad. If possible, it is worth going to fly to some warm country.
*March is the beginning of the season. You can fly to Europe or wait for the snow to melt in the fields and continue to study thermal flights.

Budget and paragliding gear

Training
The cost of training is approximately 25-40 thousand rubles, depending on the club and the region.
On the field, you will have to pay extra for puffs if we are talking about a winch complex.

What are puffs? To fly a paraglider, mountains are needed, but they are not everywhere. Therefore, a special winch complex was invented for flying on the plain, which allows you to raise the paraglider to a height of about 500 meters. It consists of a winch and a winder, which are controlled by two operators, maintaining communication with each other by walkie-talkie. The winch engine lifts the paraglider to a height, like a kite, and the winder engine pulls the cable. The winch operator controls the lifting process and, in the event of an unforeseen situation, can stop it.

One puff on the field costs from about 300 to 500 rubles. In the early stages of training, the number of puffs will be large because you will train a lot. On average, about five puffs are needed per exit. This is enough to keep everything in mind, but at the same time, you are not too tired.

Equipment

Before you spend money on equipment, you need to understand whether this is yours at all. Therefore, choose the club where during the training you will be given everything you need. What you definitely have to buy right away is boots and a helmet.
At the end of the training, you will be faced with the question of buying personal equipment. New will cost about 3000 euros, this includes:

1. Suspension system.
2. Paraglider.
3. Rescue parachute (it should definitely not be a control unit).
4. Boots (trekking can also be suitable, but it’s important that they are without hooks – paraglider lines can catch on them).
5. Helmet (many use ski models).
6. Gloves (tight so that you can not cut yourself or leave a burn from the slings).
7. Sunglasses.
8. The radio is personal.
9. Drinking system.

Clothing for paragliding

In summer, during training, there is enough clothing that completely covers the body so that you can not cut yourself on the sling – pants, a long-sleeved T-shirt. This is a necessary minimum, and then it all depends on the time of year, the place of flights, and your body.

It is best to use the principle of layering. If we are talking about flying in the mountains, instead of a light T-shirt you should have:
Wind and moisture jacket.
Lightweight down jacket.
Flisk.
Thermal underwear.
Hat.

At the start in the mountains, it is hot, and everyone goes in T-shirts, but before the start, you have to put on a Thermo fly, a flisk, a membrane, and a down jacket. Sometimes you stand at the start in a down jacket at + 25 ° C and bathe, but then go up, and there, at a speed of 50-60 km / h, it can be very cold – and then it becomes clear how important it is to choose the right clothes.

Many clubs fly to the field for the whole weekend with an overnight stay. Therefore, if you have never before been engaged in tourism and you do not have camping equipment, you will also have to buy it: high chairs, sleeping bag, rug, tent. But this is something that is bought once, and that you will use regularly.

Where to paraglide in Russia and in the world

If you study in Moscow, you still have to travel to the Moscow region. In Moscow, flights are officially prohibited. Directions are mainly south and northwest.
In winter, as mentioned above, you can fly in the village of Zhelokhovo, Kaluga Region, near Ryazan and in Sergiev Posad.

The real mecca of paragliding in Russia is Yutsa Mountain in Pyatigorsk and Crimea. In Crimea, you can fly all year round.

In the Leningrad Region near St. Petersburg, the White Nights Cup is held annually – a competition for professionals and beginners, which is attended by athletes from all over Russia and not only.
In the Caucasus, there is the Chegem Gorge – now it is actively developing and becoming one of the most equipped places for flights. You should come here from April to October.
In other countries there is more choice:

Macedonia – if you take flight time and availability as a criterion, then it is most likely that it will win. The flight season lasts from May to October.
In the second place in Turkey, there is a wonderful place for flights – Oludeniz. You can go here with your whole family because here it is a good beach holiday and at the same time, the weather is almost always flying. You can fly in thermal streams, and pass the SIV-course.

Italy – in the spring, during a Catholic vacation in a place called Bassano del Grappa, paragliding competitions are held. In addition, every year in September in Italy, the Icarus Cup is held – this is a large-scale festival where all the most important innovations in paragliding are presented, 1,000 pilots start every day, all of the different levels. It is worth going there to feel like part of a large community, to look at new items, to fly with other pilots.

Tenerife in Spain – there is comfortable flying weather, very beautiful and a large number of paragliders. The season lasts from November to January.
It is also worth a trip to Serbia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Austria. The advantage of such trips to Europe is that you will always find something to do, even if the weather on someday is non-flying. Season – from May to September-October.

India – The flight season lasts from October to March. Pilots with experience should go here to improve their skills.
Paragliding is almost a national sport in Brazil, and many festivals and competitions are also held here. The ride is from September to May.

Why go to the competition?

One way to progress safely after you have completed all stages of training is to go to the competition. Yes, it costs money, but everything is thought out there: safety, routes, transport, flight tasks. You do not fly alone, but in a group, look at the pilots who are higher than you in rank, how they make decisions, how they fly. Competition is always a new experience, improvement in flight skills, and new acquaintances.

Are there any health restrictions in paragliding?

If you can drive a car and run 100 meters, you can fly a paraglider. Of course, you need to keep yourself in good physical shape, but in general, neither age nor weight category is important.

Do you need special training?

Special training is needed only for specifics. For example, hiking flying is when they go to the mountains, carry their equipment on themselves, and then fly. If you start practicing aerial acrobatics, you need to train the vestibular apparatus – for example, on a trampoline.

For ordinary flights, special training is not needed, but you can do cardio, general physical training because it is difficult to fly for 4 hours on a paraglider – your hands get tired.

How is paragliding developing in Russia?

We have many schools, clubs, and places where you can fly, but so far, there are no organizers who can hold large festivals, there is no full-fledged state support. And we do not have athletes receiving money for this, although paragliding in Russia has existed for a very long time.

For this to develop, athletes should pay more attention to the popularization of paragliding, including the federation. If other sports find money, lobby athletes, then paragliding is only embarking on this path. You need to tell more about this to people, give lectures, and not only about competitions, but also about how to learn to fly and what flights give to a person.

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