"It is as close to being a bird as you can get floating around on a breeze. Lean left go left, the wind in your face and all the world is below you. Soaring around in the wide open spaces, no stop signs, no lanes, no problems."

You have just taken a little step off a big curb to become a paraglider and/or powered paraglider pilot!

Before your first flight experience in a paraglider or powered paraglider, you must learn some basics of the sport and the equipment. This will do two things for you. One, it will help you enjoy the sport more as you will spend less time fussing with the glider and other equipment. Two, it will greatly enhance your "security in flight", making you a safer pilot. Our instructors will introduce the following basic concepts in your first day or two of training, as they are fundamental in flying our aircraft.

The Structure and Flight Dynamics of the Glider

A Paraglider is an ultra light aircraft with no rigid structure in the wing. It's shape is held open by the very air you are flying through. It's convenience and ease of flight make it the best way to get in free flight time. It can be carried like a backpack, set-up in moments and is capable of foot launching from any hill with no obstructions and can achieve flight at almost any altitude. A Paraglider can fly with out a motor because you are the motor. Your suspended weight causes the glider to "glide" meaning they take your weight pulling down and grab the air sliding down and around and direct this air to flow around the wing as a result you have forward relative speed. This speed causes the wing to form lift resulting in slowing your fall from the heavens and giving you a "glide." Since you are trading forces with a mechanical device there is loss due to friction (drag). So you are always descending at about 200 feet per min (fpm). More importantly, they also glide forward through the air at about six feet for every foot of vertical drop (6:1 glide ratio). The way to stay aloft or ascend is to find air that is rising more than 200 fpm + other drag and other losses so that the amount you are loosing is canceled out by the rising and you keep the change as "lift". (see pic below)

The way to stay aloft or ascend in a powered paraglider is to increase your angle of attack by pushing you self forward under the paraglider so that you are gliding up. What this means is you do not need the motor running to fly safely to the ground. in fact, many people turn off the motor to land. (see pic below)

There are many types of paragliders available, each striving to combine in their wing the best of safety and performance. Most paragliders are certified in Europe and issued ratings. DHV is the German rating system, and uses numbers to indicate the level of pilot skill needed to fly the glider. These numbers indicate the level of pilot input that will be required to recover from collapses and stalls. A beginner wing (DHV 1) will offer a great level of safety but will likely have a lower glide ratio and overall performance. A higher rated wing (DHV 2 or 3) will require a great deal of pilot input to recover from collapses and stalls but will generally be faster, have a better glide ratio, and maneuver more quickly. It is of the utmost importance to fly a wing that is within your skill range. Therefore, during your first few lessons with Southern Skies, you will fly a DHV 1 or 1/2 glider and when you are ready to move ahead, your instructor will help you choose the glider from a from reputable dealer that is best for you. Many of our pilots still fly a DHV 1 or 1/2 because; why fly a wing with more glide and less safety when you can extend your glide with the motor and not sacrifice any safety; and the wings of today are so much better there is very little to gain by moving up the scale. No matter what brand of paraglider you are flying, there are details that will remain the same. A familiarity with this equipment and terminology will be helpful during your lessons. As it provides a base dialog to learn from.

The canopy is made of ripstop nylon. A coating is applied to maintain low porosity for the life of the glider. It is designed to be lightweight yet sturdy, however, proper maintenance is required to ensure the 250-300 hour warranty.

The bottom surface of the wing is down during flight and has the lines attached to it.
The top surface of the glider it is up during flight
Cells are openings that allow air to inflate the wing.
The front part with the cell openings is called the leading edge.
The back of the wing is called the trailing edge; it's sewn shut.
Lines are connected to the canopy on the bottom surface.
The lines are attached to one of the risers which hook to your harness with the carabiners or biners for short.

"A" Risers (the most forward set of risers) may be a single riser or split risers. They are connected to the lines that attach to the leading edge of the glider. The A risers and lines are used to accelerate the glider.
"B" Risers (the second set of risers) offer stability and form to the wing. They are also used in advanced maneuvers.
Rear Risers (C or D) gather the lines that are connected to the trailing half of the glider. They normally are the attachment point for the brake line as well. The Rear risers and lines are used to decelerate the glider when kiting.
Brakes are used to turn the wing as well as to decelerate and flare the wing. The brake toggles are attached to the trailing edge of the wing. When kiting or in flight gently pulling the left or right brake will turn the glider in that direction.

The Harness consists of a seat and back panel or protector, leg straps and a chest strap that should be fastened securely. Other extras are available for security and to make flight more comfortable.

The Layout and Process for Kiting

To kite the wing, place the wing on the ground and unfold it so the top surface is on the ground and the bottom surface with the lines is facing up. Also the leading edge (the one with the cell openings) should be into the wind with the trailing edge towards you. Place the glider in a V or horseshoe pattern with the center of the wing farthest from you. This makes the center of the wing inflate before the sides, making the wing more stable during inflation. Lightly pull the lines out from the wing to start clearing them. Don't pull too hard as we want to check the lines not move the wing. Do one set of risers at a time. Rotate each set of risers until the A's are on top and lines lay cleanly on top of each other. If you have trouble, get help, as a little knot will become very big, very quickly, if not correctly dealt with. Never open the link between the riser and the lines unless you are sure you can put it back properly. The next step is to clear the lines by separating the A's from the rest and making sure they go straight to the leading edge. Then lift the B riser to check that the B lines lead cleanly to the center of the wing. Finally check the the remaining risers and lines in the same fashion. Repeat with the second riser set and set them face (A's) up on the ground. Now put on your helmet. Next put on your harness. Remember leg straps first, then chest strap. Now step between the two risers you just cleared and face away from the wing. Bring the risers up to your carabiners and hook them in on the loops with the A's to the outside. Repeat this process with the second set of risers as quickly as possible. If a gust of wind inflated the glider, it would be hard to control when only half hooked in. You are now ready to kite the glider. I suggest not hooking up the speed bar as it will just be in the way. You can now do a forward or reverse inflation and just keep running on the ground trying to keep the wing directly over head. The methods for the each technique can be found below. While kiting, steer with the brakes and weight shifting in your harness. Try to keep your shoulders square with the wing above and stay square with the wind. To make the wing fly faster pull on the A's and to make the wing go down pull on the rear risers. If out of control pull the rear risers to stall the wing and bring it down. Always be ready to do this as a gust can inflate the wing at any time. If you are being drug out of control pull any line(s) till your reach fabric and hold on to it, as this will keep the wing from flying. When you need to move the glider, you can gather the wing (also called a rosette or mushroom) and carry it over your shoulder. To do this put the brakes back in their keepers on the risers. Grab all the lines from both risers in one hand and pull a arm length loop in the other, continuing to loop the lines until you reach fabric (just like coiling a rope). The wing will be in a "rosette or mushroom" that you can carry.

Preflight of your Aircraft and Wing

To get ready to fly or kite you need to check your gear, the weather, and yourself. Every pilot must first decide when to fly. You are the pilot, it's your decision. In the beginning both you and your instructor will make the decision that the conditions are favorable and it's time to fly. Later you will judge the conditions yourself, on your own. This is the most important thing to keep you safe. If you are really scared stiff, don't go. Remember, as a student, you must give the go ahead before you will fly.

Before you fly, kite or even start your motor you will want to do a preflight check. The reasons we do a thorough, preflight before you launch/start are:

1.To check for damage to your gear.
2.To check that your motor is running good, if you are using a motor.
3.To check that you are hooked to your glider and strapped in your harness.
4.Your helmet and radio on, powered and secure.
5.Your glider lines cleared and correctly hooked to the carabiners.
6.When you are using a reserve parachute, that it is securely in place and the pin is installed correctly.

Preflight check list

Check current weather 
Check forecast weather (long term)
Look for rotor generators (mechanical turbulence)
Check winds aloft
Check takeoff/landing wind direction 
Check obstructions (especially power lines)
Check direction at top of hill if launch is lower (rotor)
Check ground conditions at LZ and launch (rocks grass twigs)

Lay wing out into wind 
Check lines straight and clear 
Check maillions tight 
Check correct brake length for gliding/motoring
Check riser/line condition
Check wing for tears/holes

Motor and/or Harness 
Check webbing for stress/fraying 
Check prop guard for alignment/stress/wear 
Check all fasteners for tightness 
Check carabiner condition 
Check radio secured 
Check sufficient fuel
Check belt tension
Check exhaust, carb, intake, propeller are tight
Check motor emergency release and or safety straps 

Strap In, Hook Up 
Check buckles secure (leg straps !!!)
Check chest strap adjustment
Check harness adjusted properly 
Check reserve attachment 
Check reserve deployment pin 
Check reserve handle in sight
Check risers hooked up correctly 
Check carabiner locked 
Check nothing loose to get in prop
Check radio for volume, clearness, channel (radio check)
Check helmet on, tight, fastened 

Startup and Launch 
Check brake lines/risers held correctly, no tangles 
Check kickbar/footbar/speed bar tucked out of way 
Check engine runup to correct RPM 
Check kills switch working (briefly push)

The Forward Launch

You will normally start with forward launch training. You will likely only use a forward inflation when launching in light winds or no wind. As a beginner, most of your first inflations will be forwards due to your need to fly in light conditions. One disadvantage to forward launching is that many beginners stop running as they glance up to check their wing, causing the wing to overfly the pilot. It is the only time you can check for tangles and sticks in your lines before your feet are off the ground. First locate the wind direction and layout your glider into the wind as discussed above. You want the wing to rise into the wind. After you are all set up, find the glider's center by finding even tension on the lines. Take a step back and let the risers hang down. Pull the brakes off their keepers and hold the right brake toggle in your right hand, left toggle in your left hand. Reach behind your risers keeping your toggles in your hands, and lay the entire riser set over your arms. As you do this, grab your A's or split A's before you raise your arms all at once. As you raise your arms the risers should be over your arms, the brakes in your palms and A's in your fingers. Re center and check your lines are clear one last time. Take a half step back and you are ready to forward launch. Yell clear, adopt a fairy stance for motoring or an alpine stance for free flight. Arms back, back straight, chest out or loaded on chest strap. Charge into the wind pulling evenly on both risers. Support both A's in a arc until the wing is overhead. Keep moving forward and let go of the A's as the wing comes overhead. Don't stop running! When launching in light winds, if you stop running to look up at your wing, it could fly past you and collapse. It will also loose internal pressure and be hard to control. Keep running along your course, leaning your shoulder into the riser the way you want to go. You can also use small amounts of brake to keep the glider over head and for directional control. (see pics below)

The most important thing is keeping the wing right over head but not pulling it over head ... you have to sidestep under the wing not pull the wing to you. Keep running!!! (see pic below)

The last thing is to keep your shoulders square with the wing. If you twist you will pull on one riser more than the other and that is the same a a weight shift turn, so keep your body square. You can also imagine a long pipe thru your shoulders. Keep the pipe parallel with the leading edge of the wing as this will reinforce good posture.

The Reverse Inflation

Reverse inflation is a method of inflating your glider using the wind to bring the glider overhead, much like flying a kite. Once the glider is overhead, you then turn and launch from the forward position. Reverse inflations will offer you several advantages over a forward launch. A reverse inflation allows you to launch in higher winds as it allows you to brace yourself against stronger winds that may pull you backwards during launch as well as allowing you to inspect the canopy and lines thoroughly before leaving the ground. Layout the wing as before and hook in. Now pass a riser over your head as you turn around. The way you turn is up to you, but make a habit of going one way to make your turn automatic. Now the risers will be crossed in front of you. Now grab the brakes off the rears and put them in your hands. Find your brakes by following the inside (facing your body) of the carabiners down the spine of the risers to the brake handle. Remove the brake from the riser and check that the brake line is routed directly from the pulley to your hand. Next grab each A' and it's split A' one in each hand opposite to the side of the wing it goes to. Now build a wall in preparation for launching. Step back to tension the lines and find your center. Lightly pull the A's and the glider will start inflating. Release the A's. Pull the brakes and step forward to the glider. It should lay on its back and look like wall with the cells open and pointing up. Now when a good wind comes up, inflate the wing by pulling on the A's in a arc. Keep pulling the A's until the glider is all the way overhead. Letting go of your A's too soon is a major reason for an aborted launch ... so keep pulling your A's until it's up over your head. Now you may need to back up to keep the wing inflated. Keep a eye on the wing when it's straight and square. Make a quick turn forward and run like discussed above, keeping the wing overhead. Also add throttle as you turn if you are using a motor as it will keep the wing loaded and will accelerate it to flying speed. The turn is what's important. It must be quick and controlled and you may need to keep backing up and moving as you turn. (see pic below)

In Flight controls, turns and glide judgment

Brakes or toggles as they are sometimes called are your primary means of control. Pull left go left, pull right go right. The trick to braking is to make sure you let up when you are done with your turn. Excessive or aggressive braking can result in a stall or spin. When you have completed your turn, return your brake toggle to the neural position with just a few pounds of pressure on it (about the weight of your arm). You should only use as much brake as needed to make the turn until you've got some flight time under your belt. Some teach this as a light system down to your shoulders "green light" -safest; down to your sides "yellow light" -risk; down to your waist and beyond "red light" -danger. You can also steer the glider with weight shift. Lean left go left; a good turn is to lean into it and pull some brake to make it carve a nice turn. As you get into soaring you will learn to make flat turns by leaning in the turn, adding just a little brake and some outside brake to flaten out the turn. (see pic below)

Now look at the picture ...

So did you just look at the tree in the middle of the field ? Odds are you did. You see our eyes try to lock on a fixed target when our bodies are in motion or finding reference as in this case to try to keep a fixed idea of where we are in space. This allows us to have a natural sense of direction and balance. Paragliding needs you train your mind over again to realign. Now when flying and landing your mind is trying to realign constantly so you will tend to pick an object and lock on (with time you will learn to reference the horizon like GA pilot's and the ground rush to time your flair). Now we start your story of object fixation ... (yes ... yes ... we no you never had object fixation .. . uh hua .. sure.. ya . ya. ya.)
50 feet to go...
So now you're looking at the tree 50' off the deck and you mind is saying ok that way is a tree so this is up and that is down "I'm Cool". Meanwhile your are saying I got to miss the tree and you focus on the tree to make sure you avoid it. But remember your mind is locked on that object for reference so you start shifting your body to the tree or we could say, "weight shift turn". Remember the body follows the head, which follow the eyes, or where you look is where you go.
25 feet to go...
You are now completely locked on the tree like it was a tiger and you are a little bunny. Your mind lock's up as the reality of the crash sets in. Do you think our bunny is ready to perform a complex hard brake and weight shift turn requiring pilot input and smooth control actions as well as changing his minds point of reference?
10 feet to go...
Mind and body shut down for a instant as the crash happens "called sensory overload" This also happens when you make your first skydive It's about 5 seconds long and you don't remember or do anything during it. So once you are on the LZ and the jump master walks up and says what happened right after your feet left the deck of the plane? You look at him and stop for a second and say "I don't know" Then you realize you lost a few seconds of time. How about what happened right as you had a car accident? Or in our case why didn't you turn as you approached the tree? There answer 99% of the time "I don't know".

So now you have a base understanding of what is going on in your head and why you failed to act in time. What can you do to keep it from happening again? Well you need to retrain your eyes and mind to scan for reference while flying and learn of angles of perception. So first you need to scan about to find your location in space and look to the horizon to locate up and down at 90 degree to it. And scan for holes to land in. So look at the grass between the trees. Look where you want to go "simple hua ?". Only scan over the tree to note it in your picture as a non-hole. Ok now you have your landing spot in your head and in your "pilots" eyes and your mind is happy with what's up and down, left and right. You are ready to judge your glide to make sure you going in to your spot and not short or long in to "your tree". As you glide in you will need to be able to do this at a glance so even though I go thru and explain how to this step by step. You need to do this as quick and automatic as pushing in a clutch on a car. So while flying the bunny hill or tows note "your glide" and learn a feel. There are two good ways of doing this that I like, point on you relative to point on ground, and point on ground to point on ground at different elevation. However no technique will adjust for lift or sink, which could land you way way off on its own. Also you outgrow these tricks to identify your glide and learn to look out and say, "I am going to land there". These tricks help you learn the eye for it not how to do it. As far as lift and sink go shoot high you can always do circles or s-turn's or pulls some brake to retard your glide, but the air behind and above you is useless. Go to the LZ directly when in doubt and once you are there do S-turns to put your glide to the front middle portion of the LZ incase there is lift or sink in the LZ you will still be in.


Points on ground at different heights    Point on you vs. point on ground
Your View of the LZ to start.
Note: The top of the bush lines up with the power lines.
Your View of the LZ to start.
Note: The top of your feet line up with the spot on the field.
Case 1
As you approach the LZ the bush moves over the power line. You will clear the power line.
Case 1
As you approach the LZ the spot moves up from your feet. You will not make it to the spot.
Case 2
As you approach the LZ the bush moves under the power line. You will not clear the power line.
Case 2
As you approach the LZ the spot moves under your feet. You will over shoot the spot.
Case 3
As you approach the LZ the bush stays at the power line. You will go thru power line and hit the bush. (bad idea)
Case 3
As you approach the LZ the spot stays at your feet. You will land on the spot. (good idea)

To get all this put in to one simple idea when you are gliding in on a straight line you are going to land at the spot on the center vertical line in front of you that seems to not be moving up or down.

Landing techniques

Landing into the wind is a good idea because the head wind will result in slower ground speeds. Slower ground speeds at landing are safer and reduce the speed you have to run as you flare. When you are about your height above the ground you should be prepared to land. Get out of your seat wiggle upright with your landing gear down (legs). When landing (approximately 3-4 feet above the ground), you will flare the glider by pulling the brakes all the way down. This is done relative to your decent in a smooth action but when you are done you should be at full flair. Be sure to pull and then push your brakes down to your hips and hold till you are stopped. You may need to run a few steps as well.

After landing, you must immobilize the canopy. Continue your full flare and turn to the wing crossing the risers. Mushroom up the wing as normal and clear the LZ to make room for the next pilot. If the wind is making this hard try walking around to 90 degrees off the wind then gather the glider.

Harness Egress... To get out of your harness while hanging (most likely after tree landing). You may be 10 feet or more in the air but if you think you can make the jump here is what to do. First undo your chest strap (parachutists have died by hanging by there chest strap). Then undo your leg straps and wiggle out of your shoulder pads now grasp below the biner on the harness with both hands (between seat and main biner support webbing) and slowly slide out of your seat and transfer your weight to your arms. This will get you 6+ feet lower to the ground after you have reached full length of your arms let go and PLF. When in doubt about height DON'T JUMP!