British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association
anyone Fly? Are hang gliders, and paragliders only flown by supermen
or women? No! Nevertheless for paragliding you need to be over 14
and for hang gliding you need to be over 16. Under 18s need parental
consent. You should be fit and active; have good co-ordination and
an alert, reasoning mind (but you don't need any previous flying
experience). Although no medical examinations am required you should
be in good health. If you suffer from any medical condition such as
epilepsy, fainting, giddiness, high blood pressure, heart condition
or diabetes you should ask your Doctor's advice.
Many people may think that flying hang gliders
and paragliders is impossible for people with disabilities. Nothing
could be further from the truth. The message from the free flying
community to any people with disabilities is: 'You can fly!' See
Flyability - the BHPA's disability initiative - for further information.
Clothing. Cloths are important. In the course
of one training day you'll have periods of intense activity - and
sometimes you'll sit and wish! You may also have to contend with the
chill factor of the prevailing wind, so it makes sense to go
properly prepared. Layers of light but warm shirts/sweaters mixed
with a windproof on top are much better than just one or two thick
heavy garments. Wearing an overall or similar is a good idea; if you
have some waterproof overalls or a one-piece ski suit, so much the
better. A pair of warm gloves is essential in cooler weather, even
if you take them off to fly. For hang gliding they should be made of
leather or other suitable material which will not slip on the
control bar. And take along a waterproof jacket that you can slip on
over everything; you won't train when it's pouring with rain but
sometimes low cloud over the hills can have the same effect.
Foot Wear. Apart from all the walking that your
feet are going to get, they do need to be kept dry. Good flexible
hill walking or jump boots without lacing hooks (they can snag and
damage suspension lines and get caught in rigging wires and
harnesses) are best, though in summer trainers, preferably with
ankle support, are often worn.
Food & Drink. Training is usually conducted far
away from creature comforts like warm cafes with loos. On your first
day at the school, even if your instructor knows a good tea-shop in
the village, don't neglect something to eat and drink to sustain you
through your day.
gliding, since its inception in the 1970s, has developed into a
practical and relatively safe sport, using simple yet
sophisticated machine built of aluminium, carbon-fibre and
high-tech sail fabrics. Manufacturers, both in the UK and
overseas, build examples that are respected the world over.
What exactly do you do?
glider pilots, suspended from their gliders by a special
harness, launch from hills facing into wind, from winches on
flat ground or by being towed aloft from an airfield behind a
microlight aircraft. The objective is always to stay airborne in
lifting currents of air and - for many - to undertake long cross
country flights. The UK record for distance currently stands at
over 250km and for altitude at an astonishing 16,000ft.
Do they cost a lot?
A top-of-the range competition hang glider can
cost over £4,500 new, although sports machines with only
slightly less performance cost £2 - 3,500 and second hand ones
much less. A full training course will cost around £5 - 700,
much less for a shorter introductory course. Pilots also need a
harness, helmet, flying suit, boots, etc; additional bits of
equipment such as instruments may be required as you progress.
you make it go where you want?
The pilot launches his or her machine by running
to accelerate it to flying speed, then relaxes into the
comfortable prone harness while controlling the glider by moving
their weight in relation to the control bar. Flying a hang
glider is a little more demanding than flying a paraglider and
not quite as easy to learn, but the machine is capable of much
higher speeds and better gliding performance and can be flown in
Where do you fly them from?
fly from hill and tow sites controlled by one of the numerous BHPA clubs dotted around the country. The accent is on hill flying but tow
operations and aero tow facilities are normally in lowland
locations. Competitions are held at club, national and
international level and the 'Brits' have often led the way in
competition at World level.
Circling up to cloudbase on a summer's day and
setting course on a long cross-country flight over patchwork
fields is one of the wonders of the modern world. Landing out
after a long flight using only the natural power of the
atmosphere and your accumulated knowledge of the sky gives a
hang glider pilot an unsurpassed feeling of accomplishment.
Hang gliding has joys in store outside of
the challenge of cross-country flying. In the long summer
evenings pilots often congregate after work to soar a nearby
hill, united in the pursuit of an hour or two's soaring in the
face life's pressures - and the setting sun. To be aloft on the
breeze seems to them a rare privilege made more precious by the
fact that so few of the teeming millions seem to know about it.
It's not really a secret; come along and share it with us!
Learning to hang glide
Not all BHPA
schools are in upland areas as winching from flat ground is
as effective a method of training as hill flying. It normally
takes between eight to ten days of flyable weather to train a
would-be pilot to Club Pilot level, although two-day 'taster'
courses are offered and a limited Elementary Pilot certificate
is also available.
instructor will show you how to rig and inspect the glider
before you have your first short flight down a gentle slope.
First flights in tow training are conducted using a very gentle
winch pull, keeping you close to the ground. For the first day
or two the glider will be restrained by tether ropes until you
become adept at steering and controlling airspeed by moving your
weight. You'll then graduate to higher and longer flights, and
when the weather's not so good retire to the classroom to learn
basic flight theory, meteorology and air law. Towards the end of
the course you'll progress on to a more sophisticated glider
than the first one you first flew, and subject to a good
assessment from your instructor and a pass in the simple exam
you'll receive your Club Pilot rating, allowing you to fly on
club sites and begin your progress to more and more rewarding
Powered hang gliding
Powered hang gliders that take-off and land on wheels are
classed as microlights and are outside the scope of this guide.
Lightweight, foot-launched versions, powered by a small 2-stroke
engine, offer the pilot the ability to take-off from a
relatively small, flat field and climb away to find the lifting
thermals that all glider pilots rely on to make cross-country
flights. Alternatively, the pilot can cruise around,
sightseeing, or fly to a destination using much less fuel than a
microlight and retaining the uncluttered view that the hang
glider pilot enjoys. The power units cost around £3 - 4,000, to
which you need to add the cost of a new or second hand hang
Compared to the
simplicity of para-motoring these devices are heavier and more
cumbersome, but they offer something extra to the keen hang
glider pilot. Like the paramotor, the engine can be detached and
the glider used to soar without power; this flexibility is in
itself an attraction, as is the leisurely flying speed, short
rigging time and relatively small packed-down size that these
Although their main appeal at the present
time is undoubtedly to the already experienced hang glider buff,
interest in these machines is growing rapidly, particularly in
areas where there are no hills. To learn to fly one you'll need
to first learn to fly a hang glider, and the same degree of
background knowledge of air law, flight theory, meteorology, etc,