Learn to paraglide: what is the first step?

Jun 04, 2015 BY Paul McWilliams

Sometimes you can see them when you drive through the British countryside. High above the hills, so small you can barely make them out, there are people floating through the air…. Would you like to learn to paraglide like them?

Learn to paraglide flickr image by Derek Keats

Imagine what it must feel like. You drive up to a beauty spot on a glorious sunny day, you thoroughly check your equipment and prepare yourself. Then you simply take a run up and launch yourself off the hillside and soar out into the valley below. It’s completely and utterly peaceful, there are no noisy engines or burners to spoil the experience. The ground drops away below your feet giving you one of the closest sensations to flight possible. This is paragliding and it sounds tempting doesn’t it?

Paragliding is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK. It developed from using modified parachute canopies and, along with its sister sport hang gliding, is overseen in the UK by the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA).

A keen bunch of amateurs take part in the sport and there are plenty of shops selling equipment and safety gear. If you’ve ever dreamed of soaring through the sky like a bird, then paragliding is the sport for you. But the big question is, how do you learn to paraglide?

Learn to paraglide in the UK

It will take most people about ten days to learn how to paraglide to a Club Pilot level, which is the minimum required to be able to fly solo. There are some fairly obvious safety concerns with paragliding, so it will take an initial outlay of both time and money to get started but it’s definitely worth it.

Learn to paraglide flickr image by Bill85704

Initial instruction involves ground layouts and getting to know your equipment. There’s also a hefty dose of theory, again, as you might expect. Once you have passed a simple theory exam, you will be awarded your Elementary Pilot Award, the first rung on the BHPA Pilot Rating Scheme. You will need a further four to six days of instruction before being awarded your Club Pilot rating.

How much does it cost to learn to paraglide?

If you want to do a full instruction course at a BHPA certified school it will cost you about £1,000 to £1,300. However, not everyone is in a position to commit to ten days or that amount of money in one go. That’s why most schools will offer day taster sessions and even tuition by the day. The costs will vary slightly depending on the school but you should expect to pay around £150 for a day’s tuition.

Learn to paraglide flickr image by Alois Staudacher

What about equipment?

Of course, once you have qualified you will need to purchase some equipment. There’s no other way to say this but they’re not cheap. A paraglider suitable for a recently qualified pilot will set you back about £2,000 to £2,500. A competition standard glider will cost you upwards of £3,500. It does sound a lot but then if you think about it, if someone said you could fly like a bird and all it would cost is three grand in total, you’d bite their hand off.

Paragliding is not for everyone. The fainthearted need not apply. But if you’ve ever had the urge to fly or the idea of flinging yourself off a steep hill into the valley below sounds tempting, maybe it’s time to learn to paraglide.


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