So, you’ve decided you would like to give hang gliding a go but where do you start?! I’ve put together a few answers to some FAQs giving you an idea of how you can start your hang gliding journey.
Before really committing yourself to the training, there are a couple of options you can try out to make sure that becoming a hang glider pilot is right for you. Alternatively, these make great one-off experiences if hang gliding is something you’d love to try but don’t want to take up as a regular hobby.
Have a tandem flight.
This will be where you will be helped into a harness and clipped onto the hang glider alongside an experienced instructor. You’ll then either take off from a hill (small run involved) or be towed into the air by a microlight and once safely into the sky your instructor may let you have a go at controlling the glider. Tandem hang gliding (towing option) can also be a great option for anyone who is disabled or has mobility issues as no running is required.
Try a taster day.
On a taster day you will be introduced to the equipment and see how it all fits together, you’ll then get a feel for picking up the glider and how to handle it on the ground. Throughout the day you’ll build up from hopping along the ground to taking off and completing small, short flights- all under the guidance of an instructor.
These experiences are often offered at schools that teach hang gliding, so if you have a really great time you can go back to the school and pick up where you left off. A quick google search will point you towards the nearest hang gliding school.
Your initial lessons should be from a BHPA (British hang gliding and paragliding association) registered school, you can find a list of these on the BHPA’s website (https://www.bhpa.co.uk/schools/). There are a few schools dotted around the country often in very scenic locations, which makes for a nice day out even without the flying! The sport is weather dependent, so although possible, winter isn’t always conducive to the best flying conditions- dry days are where you’ll be able to get your training in. Generally, around 10 days of training will be enough for you to get your elementary pilot and club pilot certifications which means you can leave the school and fly from your local site.
You could also tie in learning to fly a hang glider with a holiday! There are several schools that operate in Europe. So if you would like to take advantage of the drier, more reliable weather on the continent, you could learn abroad and then get in contact with your local club when you get back to the UK to help transition into local flying.
Not straight away. The hang gliding school will provide all the equipment you need to get started, and will then advise on what equipment you will need to buy when you leave the school. The school will also have contacts in the community, so will likely be able to help with sourcing second-hand equipment which is much more affordable than brand new. When you are first qualified your main pieces of kit will be the hang glider, a harness and helmet. Having a radio is also helpful, and easy to source from the internet.
So now you’ve qualified, you have your elementary and club pilot ratings, your first bits of kit and you are ready to head off to your local site to fly. At this stage, you should get in touch with your local club (this can be found on the BHPA website and your school should be able to tell you). The club will have designated ‘club coaches’ who will meet you at your local site and be able to brief you on things like where the normal take off area is, where the landing area is, how best to approach the landing and where you can find the best lift etc. These coaches will usually be a pilot with tens of years’ experience and will have probably coached many pilots before you. Most clubs will also have resident competition pilots (some who will have represented Great Britain in world championships) who will be more than happy to lend a hand with take-offs and give advice. Flying is always a learning experience, and you’ll find your progress come along leaps and bounds with the help of the coaches and your local club member.
As you can see, hang-gliding is a diverse and wide-ranging sport, many people opting to soar the skies at their leisure, while others pursue the adrenaline rush of competition and beyond. Reach out to your nearest club, you have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain! There is truly something in this for everyone and I urge you to get out there and have a go.
For any other questions check out the ‘British Hangies UK’ Facebook page, the pilots there will be more than happy to help!