What is paragliding?
A paraglider is a soaring aircraft, capable of flights of over 500km distance and several hours duration. They were developed from ram-air parachutes, but a modern paraglider offers a glide angle of over 12:1. They are the most portable aircraft; they can be easily carried for a considerable distance using the rucksack provided. They can be readily taken onto public transport, including aircraft.
We launch from hills and either ridge soar or find areas of warm rising air (thermals) and climb to cloudbase. While you are learning it is unusual for you to gather the skills required to start soaring in less than five days.
What is hang gliding?
A hang glider is a soaring aircraft, capable of flights of over 300 miles and several hours duration. They were developed from rogallo wings, but a modern hang glider offers a glide angle of over 20:1. They are a semi-portable aircraft; they can be easily carried by car but weigh rather too much to carry for any considerable distance. That said, I have carried one both up and down Parlick Fell!. They cannot be readily taken onto public transport, including aircraft, due to their size when packed. One must further dismantle them, 'short-packing', prior to carriage and they remain vulnerable to damage.
We launch from hills and either ridge soar or find areas of warm rising air (thermals) and climb to cloudbase. While you are learning it is unusual for you to gather the skills required to start soaring in less than eight days. Once you have qualified as Club Pilot and gained a little additional experience, you may wish to start to launch by aerotow, where you are towed into the air by a microlight. This is rapidly becoming the most popular launch method.
What is the difference between hang gliding and paragliding?
Paragliders are far easier to master than hang gliders. They are somewhat slower, thus both launch and landing speeds are slower and they do not require active piloting to keep them in level flight.
The sink rates, that is the speed at which they descend through the air, are similar for both types of aircraft, however, the hang glider is significantly faster. Therefore the glide angle of the paraglider is not as good as that of the hang glider.
Paragliders are easier to carry and transport.
Hang gliders last longer: a hang glider can easily last more than twenty years, a paraglider will rarely last longer than 1000 hours flying time.
A poor landing in a paraglider rarely results in injury or glider damage. A poor landing in a hang glider will often break the uprights or worse.
Hang gliders are easier to launch when conditions are strong - not necessarily a good thing!
Paragliders have a variety of rapid descent techniques available to them and can readily escape cloud suck of 10 m/s or more. Other than in the hands of expert pilots, hang gliders have no effective rapid descent techniques available so they must rely on out-running any bad weather.
In Summary: For the reasons mentioned above, paragliding has marginalised hang gliding to the point where very few choose to learn hang gliding. However, they do ultimately offer more performance and many paraglider pilots are now cross-training so that they can fly both machines. Of course if you have dreamed of flying hang gliders for many a year, then really it is hang gliding you ought to learn first!
Learning To Fly
How will training proceed?
You'll begin your flying training on our nursery slopes & within a short space of time; you'll be taking your first steps into the air, all the time under the expert tuition and guidance of our instructors.
To fly a paraglider unsupervised you will have to reach the required standard of Club Pilot (Novice). This typically takes a minimum of 10 days of tuition (they do not have to be consecutive). However, your first goal will be to achieve the Elementary Pilot level (4 to 5 days).
When Is The Season?
We can get storms at any time of year, but the following is a good general guide:
The best weather for learning is usually to found in the winter months. No surprise really as paragliding originated as a winter sport! This is especially true for paramotoring.
By the end of March thermals are becoming strong with rough edges and sea breezes are resuming. We are still able to train, but the weather forecasts are becoming less reliable and gales more commonplace. Students often have to sit out the middle of the day in the hope that it will calm down for the afternoon.
By late May the thermals are becoming less rough, but sea breezes are strengthening. This means we usually have to change site at some point during the day. It can be warming up which can be lovely, but can make it challenging to be outside all day.
By late July on almost every day the thermals and sea breezes are too strong to teach, so we close at the end of the third week.
Come August bank holiday weekend the sun is getting less fierce and hence thermal and sea breeze strengths are moderating. Weather permitting, we reopen for the Bank Holiday weekend.
As the insolation decreases through September we usually get the most pleasant conditions of the year in this period: Warm, but not too hot, with reducing thermal & sea breeze strengths.
We then move into equinoctial conditions with late September and the arrival of October. We may get a few days of good weather, then it will break down into wind and rain. Over the last twenty three Octobers (@2023) there have been an average of only three teachable days, all at the beginning of the month.
These autumnal conditions will continue into November. Precisely when it will change to winter conditions is indeterminate. Some years it is good by Bonfire, sometimes it takes until the end of the month before it settles into winter conditions.
Is It Dangerous?
Any activity which involves the use of an aircraft has the potential for danger either to the pilot or to the public. It is not possible to remove all risk. In the hands of the reckless, just like motorcycling or skiing, it will be very dangerous. However, most accidents are due to pilot error and can, with good sense and foresight, be avoided.
What age limits are there?
The legal age limit for all paragliding and hang gliding based sports as pilot in command is 14. We can take 12 year olds up dual on a paraglider and, exceptionally, younger children where there is a valid reason, e.g. life limiting illness etc.
You must be less than 100kg to fly dual. 80kg if using the disabled buggy.
What ability and weight limits are there?
You must be less than 180kg and able-bodied to fly solo. We can accommodate physically and some mentally disabled/impaired* students, but the fee would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
* Students on the autistic spectrum can often be accommodated, but we would require a doctor’s letter and we cannot accept any such students onto an open-ended training course.