So how do I get started?
There is no real upper age limit provided you are reasonably fit, but by law you must be at least 14 years old before you can attempt solo flight. BHPA schools will often set their own higher age limit, often around 16. Learning to fly a hang glider or paraglider can be great fun, and isn't as daunting as you might think, provided you receive professional instruction at a BHPA registered school.
Although the standard which you will be expected to reach will be the same in every school, the actual training programme and methods may vary, as they are determined by the type of wing you learn to fly, the launch method, and the prevailing weather on the day.
Once you have mastered controlling the glider on the ground, which isn't as easy as it looks, you will be taught to take off and land correctly. Your first flights will be in a straight line only a few feet above the ground. If you are learning to fly a hang glider, these initial flights will be tethered with the instructor able to control the glider through his tether rope.
When you show that you can safely and confidently get yourself into the air and down again, your instructor will start to progress you to take-off points higher up the hill. With this extra height you will be able to learn how to turn.
A few days of practice should see you well on your way to completing the tasks for your Elementary Pilot award. You'll also be introduced to a limited amount of flying theory, usually fitted in around your practical flying instruction, and you'll complete a simple exam paper on the topics covered. Acheiving Elementary Pilot award is the first step on the ladder of the BHPA Pilot Rating Scheme.
Your instructor will sign off your EP and CP tasks as your training progresses, and will explain how Club Coaches will carry on this function once you have gained your Club Pilot rating, left the school, and joined your local BHPA recreational club.
You can also learn to fly in an airfield environment, using a winch to tow you aloft. Training takes less time and you can convert to hill flying later if you choose to.
We strongly advise pilots under training to join, or at least get in touch with, their local club as soon as possible - you don't have to wait to get qualified. This way you can get to know your fellow pilots, and be able to seek their advice on the right gear to buy and the right places to fly. This will also give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have before committing to a course of training.
Many people may think that flying hang gliders and paragliders is impossible for people with disabilities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For further information about the training opportunities available to people with disabilities please visit our Flyability page.
BHPA Membership and Insurance
Students under instruction at a BHPA registered school and qualified pilots flying within a BHPA recreational club all carry £5 million 3rd-party insurance for their own peace of mind. This is automatically included in BHPA membership. When you start training at a BHPA registered school you will be asked to take out BHPA Introductory, Training or Annual Membership through the school.
If you require personal or travel insurance, to cover you during training and beyond, this should be obtained from an independent insurance broker.
Your Health and Fitness to Fly
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 is 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.
Clothing, Food and Drink
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.
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.
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.
Other Sources of advice and information
The following list is just a small selection of the numerous alternative sources of advice and information about our sport available on the internet. These Facebook pages and forums are completely independent and are not affiliated in any way to the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association:
last updated: 03 March 2021
Enter the first part of your postcode to find your nearest BHPA registered school
Enter the first part of your postcode to find your nearest BHPA recreational club