What's the best way to start paragliding?
There are various ways to get into paragliding, and not really one best way for everyone. To help guide you on the right path with your all-important first steps we've provided some free general advice in Getting Started & More.
Can I teach myself to fly?
The sport attracts all sorts of adventurous souls. Those with a thrill-seeking attitude might think it would be more exciting to teach themselves. We strongly disagree. As a pilot, you will have years of solo adventures, but do the first bit (learning the basics) in good company!
As humans, we have no flying instincts to draw upon; everything must be learned. Air currents are invisible, powerful and complex. Flying is unforgiving of mistakes, and one accident will cost you more than your complete flying kit and training combined. An instructor provides you with a sheltered learning environment so you can focus on the controls, and gradually increase the aerial challenges you face so you can build confidence and eradicate bad (natural) habits.
For more free general advice on starting see Getting Started & More.
Can I buy my own kit before looking for a school?
Some make this mistake, due to the 'bargains' they see on marketplace websites. Most often the equipment is unsuitable, unsafe and a waste of money. In freeflight it's incredibly important to buy the right and best equipment for YOU, personally. Don't be tempted to rush into buying gear. There's a lot more to it than first meets the eye, and it's all too easy to make costly mistakes. For more free general advice on gear see the section 'Buying your own equipment' in Getting Started & More.
I've heard I don't need a licence to fly a paraglider in the UK?
Yes but you need to get into the sky first. As almost all of the paragliding sites in England and Wales are on private land, legal access is only possible according to the rules of the landowner. In most cases the landowners grant permission to a club, and any flying is undertaken as a guest of the club. As such you need to abide by the club's rules, which usually includes BHPA membership because it is the only way to get relevant insurance cover that specifically covers the landowner. Launch sites are incredibly precious.
We recommend you stick with a BHPA approved school so you can get the BHPA rating. This also means you can participate in the community, who will welcome you as a member and share knowledge with you. Don't underestimate the value of this! If you always arrive at the hill as an outsider, not properly insured and unaware of common practices, you'll feel unwelcome and nervous.
What age do you need to be to be allowed to paraglide?
There's no limit on tandem flying (as a passenger). For paragliding training in the UK you need to be over 14 years old, and over 16 to gain a solo licence. Under 18's need parental consent to paraglide.
How fit do I need to be to paraglide?
You should be fit and active, have good co-ordination and an alert, reasoning mind. As well as a fair amount of running around, you will be walking up 500ft hills carrying a 15-20kg rucksack full of paragliding equipment. Although no medical examinations are officially required you should be in generally good health. If you suffer from any medical condition such as epilepsy, fainting, giddiness, high blood pressure, heart condition, osteoporosis or diabetes you should ask your Doctor's advice before taking part in paragliding.
What's the maximum body weight for paragliding?
The maximum body weight for an individual to participate in paragliding is dependent on the maximum load the largest existing suitable paraglider is designed to carry, minus all of the paragliding gear including the paraglider itself.
For solo paragliding, this generally means a maximum body weight of around 120 kg for the largest solo wings. Some heavier pilots fly larger wings primarily designed for tandem flying, which are also suitable for solo flying, which can extend the maximum body weight of the pilot to as much as 180 kg.
For tandem paragliding, this depends on the maximum load of the tandem wing (usually around 200-240kg) minus the weight of the tandem pilot and all of the tandem gear (usually around 20-30kg). The tandem pilot should be able to confirm the maximum body weight of passenger the wing can carry.
Am I too old to learn to paraglide?
It's not so much about how old you are, it's more about how good your general level of fitness, health and mental state is. Other considerations to think about are things like your eyesight, any medical conditions you may have which may affect your ability to fly, your mental health and ability to make rational decisions etc. You need to be reasonably fit and able to run and jump around for sustained periods. You will need to be able to carry a 15-20 kg pack up hills. For take-off and landing you may need to run (sometimes quite quickly) for 10-20 metres or more whilst wearing a paragliding harness. Your eyesight needs to good enough so that you can see obstacles 100's of feet away, and be able judge your height and approach, to land correctly.
What is the British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (BHPA)?
The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA) is the Governing Body for hang gliding and paragliding in the UK. BHPA Registered Paragliding Schools are equipped and staffed with instructors who will train you at a rate of progress that is suitable for you. BHPA schools are monitored for safety, the quality of the training they offer and the equipment they use, and their trained instructors are licensed by the Association. BHPA membership provides 3rd party legal liability insurance cover which is there to protect you and the landowners where flying activities have been negotiated.
What about personal accident insurance?
Personal accident insurance is available from various insurance companies. Particularly if you're travelling with your wing, we recommend having rescue and medical cover that specifically covers paragliding. The following companies might provide this (offers change, and we do not take any responsibility for their services): Harrison Beaumont, Airsports Insurance Bureau and AXA.
Paragliding — Getting Started & More
To help guide you on the right path with your all-important first steps into freeflying, we've provided free general advice on getting started—including tandem flights, taster days, licence courses, FAQ and buying your own equipment, plus a whole lot more—in Getting Started & More.
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