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Enter the first part of your postcode to find your nearest BHPA recreational club
Imagine parking your car at a beautiful upland vantage point on a sparkling spring day. You open the boot and don flying suit and boots, then lift out your incredibly light flying machine in its carrying rucksack and trek off a few yards to where your friends are preparing to fly.
After a few minutes spent inspecting your equipment you put on your helmet and harness, look around, allow the wind to raise the canopy of your glider and launch off into space. This is paragliding!
Developed from parachuting canopies, modern paragliders can be soared effortlessly on windward slopes, and flown across country in good conditions.
In the UK paragliding is a thriving sport. Shops run by enthusiasts sell high quality equipment, and the country-wide network of BHPA recreational clubs offers literally hundreds of flying sites and a supportive flying and social environment.
It's the same freedom that hang glider pilots enjoy, but a paraglider is more portable and a little easier to learn to fly. They are more hampered by strong winds than hang gliders, but are easier to land in small fields.
Do you always need a hill?
Paragliding is not limited to upland environments. Tow launching is also possible. This uses an engine-driven winch to pull pilots aloft where they can search for lift like their hill flying friends.
Parascending pilots use a vehicle to tow their wing up, and then descend onto a chosen spot, displaying incredible skill in regularly landing within centimeters of their target.
Are they expensive?
Paragliders are not cheap, although they do represent one of the least expensive ways to get into the air. A new competition paraglider is likely to cost over £3,500, but a paraglider suitable for a recently trained pilot is more likely to cost around £2,000 - £2,500 new, and secondhand canopies can be obtained for much less. You will also need a harness, helmet, flying suit, and boots. Later, as you become more experienced, you may also want to purchase additional items, such as an emergency parachute, and a GPS.
Where do you fly them from?
Pilots fly from hill and tow sites controlled by one of the local BHPA recreational clubs that can be found throughout the UK. The emphasis is usually on hill flying, but tow operations can frequently be found in the more low lying areas of the country.
Paragliding is a great community. You'll often find championship-winning pilots comparing notes with novices. Both know that their sport is perhaps the simplest and most intuitive way of flying yet devised. If you want to enjoy the challenges that only being truly at one with the elements can provide, book a training course today!
What can you do with one?
Many paraglider pilots strive to perfect their skills in cross-country flying. A summer sky filled with fluffy cumulus clouds provides abundant - but invisible - lifting currents which pilots use to gain altitude. Setting off on such a day, either towards a pre-selected goal or just drifting where the wind will take you, is one of the most breathtaking experiences available today. Most pilots will talk of the sense of privilege they feel when drifting from cloud to cloud, in almost total silence, watching the landscape unfold beneath them as they navigate across the sky.
Flights of over 250km have been made by paraglider pilots in this country. Abroad, especially in the Alpine regions, the potential is infinitely greater, and many British pilots take advantage of the paraglider's portability to visit Europe or more exotic locations further afield.
How about competitions?
Paragliding competitions are held at club, national and international level, and the 'Brits' usually do well in international competitions.
Forthcoming national and international paragliding competitions are listed in our competitions & events calendar, and our competitions structure page outlines the competitions structure within the BHPA, and provides links to dedicated websites for major British paragliding competitions.
Learning to fly a paraglider
It normally takes around ten days of flyable weather to train a would-be pilot to Club Pilot level, the minimum standard required to fly unsupervised with a recreational club.
Your instructor will explain how the canopy is laid out, inflated and controlled by its brake lines. You'll then take it in turns with other members of your group to have your first short training hops down a gentle slope.
When you've become adept at ground handling, controlling airspeed and making gentle turns, you'll graduate to higher and longer flights, and be introduced to a limited amount of flying theory. This will usually be fitted in around your practical flying instruction, when the weather's not so good. Once you've completed the appropriate tasks and passed a very simple theory exam, you'll receive your Elementary Pilot award. This is the first step on the ladder of the BHPA Pilot Rating Scheme.
A further 4 - 6 days of instruction should see you well on your way to completing your Club Pilot tasks, and as things fall into place you'll learn to soar, and stay up in favourable winds so you can make longer flights.
Then, subject to a good assessment from your instructor and passing a simple theory examination, you'll receive your Club Pilot rating. This will allow you to start flying with your local recreational club, and progress towards more and more rewarding flying as your experience grows.
A full training course at a BHPA registered school will cost around £1,200 - £1,600. If you're not sure about committing to a full course of instruction, most schools offer a one day taster course. Charges for a taster day vary, but are usually around £150. Some schools will also allow you pay by the day when you sign up for a full course. Charges will again vary, but you should expect to pay around £150 for a day's tuition.
For further information about learning to fly a paraglider, please visit our learn to fly page.
The Paragliding Forum can also be a useful source of advice and information for anyone interested in learning to fly a paraglider. The Paragliding Forum is completely independent and is not affiliated in any way to the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.