First find an accomplished pilot and a seasoned instructor who is committed to safety
and has a great safety record. This pilots mindset will transfer to your flying style and
it is crucial to your safety to find top quality instruction.
The best way to get started is to do a tandem flight with your instructor. Here you
are going to experience flight with an advanced pilot and not be overwhelmed.
Each person will have their own harness that is connected by a spreader bar.
The instructor will sit behind giving you the best view of your surroundings.
The first thing you will learn on your solo lesson is how to preflight the glider and
connect it together.
A partial inflation of the wing creates a “wall” that allows the pilot to make
sure all the lines are clear of twists and tangles.
The perfect wall allows the glider to come overhead symmetrically during the inflation, so little
steering control is required. All that is required is to lean back and pull on the first set of risers called the “A Risers.”
Once the glider is overhead it is time to learn to “kite” the glider. This in essence is flying
while still on the ground. As the wind shifts, control inputs are needed by adding “brake” or
moving your body around to stay centered under the center cell of the wing. This skill takes
time to develop but is one of the most important steps in learning to paraglide. A pilot’s ability
to kite in a variety of wind conditions directly translates to his ability to fly the glider smoothly
through turbulence during thermic flight.
The next step is to do a number of low level flights, where the glider is inflated overhead
and then the pilot runs down a gentle slope working on steering the glider directly into the wind.
The pilot may get a few feet off the ground and start to practice flaring the brakes for a soft
landing directly into the wind. This is repeated several times to experience a number of landings
and ensure good directional control by the pilot.
It’s time to sit in a simulator and practice getting into the harness smoothly and work on turns
using weight shift and a small amount of brake input. To practice the landing procedure the student will
lean forward in the harness and pull the brakes down to the legs to simulate slowing the glider down.
Moderate level flight is achieved off a 200-400 foot hill. This is the first time the student will get comfortably
back into the harness and make a couple of turns before landing directly into the wind with a long straight approach.
A few exercises will be practiced including “Big Ears.” This is a technique used to make the glider smaller
and thus sink faster. It would be used if you wanted to come down in rising air. It increases your sink rate
from 200 feet per minute to 400 feet per minute. To regain the full wing,
all that is required is to let go of the risers that you pulled to cause the symmetric collapses.
Another exercise will be to use the “speed bar.” A foot bar is attached by lines to your A risers which
are the front risers. By pushing the bar with your feet you can change the angle of attack of your glider
and increase your speed while also increasing your sink rate. Depending on how much you push and
your glider’s design, you can increase your speed by 8 mph.
A solo mountain flight is required to earn your rating. You will receive a glide path briefing as
well as a better understanding of how the air might be moving over the mountain. The mountains
in Santa Barbara are 3,000 feet over the ocean. You can expect a 15 minute flight if you don’t
encounter rising or sinking air.
8 hours of ground school is required to earn your pilot rating. Subjects would include weather,
hazards to avoid, wing collapse recovery, reserve parachute deployment, FAA regulations, and local
site protocols. A minimum of 25 flights, 5 spot landings, skills testing, and a written test are required to earn
your P2 rating. You can expect 8-12 lessons or more and spend $1200 - $1800 to earn your P2 pilot rating.
© Circling Hawk Paragliding • Santa Barbara, California • Bo Criss • 805-403-5848 • Bo@CirclingHawk.com