A few thoughts

life philosophy, beliefs

the existential stuff has been moved here

choosing your first wing

from seemingly endless conversations with Luke 🙂

  • don’t try and buy a wing that will last your whole lifetime. just get an old dhv1, fly it until you are bored, then get a 1-2 when you know what you want
  • dhv1 you grow out of dhv1-2 you grow into. Neither are totally safe
  • think about what type of flying you want to do, how long to own it for etc. If you buy a new wing you will probably want to keep it more than 6 months.
  • you want to fly your wing 100%. Maybe being comfortable doing stalls (SIV training, don’t just try this!) is unrealistic but for sure you should be totally comfortable doing 180degree wingovers up to horizontal
  • performance doesn’t matter that much if you are just boating around mountains. Matters if you want to XC, fly into wind, race, or light or tricky conditions say on the coast. But being light helps heaps for light conditions
  • If you are a little under the weight range, things will happen a little slower – I don’t think it’s an issue to be a little light flying in the mountains in GY (New Zealand). For example the bolero+, flew it for 2 years all over the world, I weigh 80-85kg naked and it is 95-120kg I think.
    • Also I’ve flown my tandem (105-180kg) solo a number of times, including off Ansted to cascade saddle, and when it was quite windy on launch and landing at ben lomond station, thermalled up to 2500m or so too…
    • If you’re over the weight range, things will be faster and more dynamic, so piloting becomes more important

is flying dangerous?

YES. But…

The already obsessive Australian attitude to safety is made ever more paranoid in the paragliding community by fragile tenure of flying sites, ie the scarcity of hills and the hostility of landowners, which is generally related to a flat country, trees, and a legal system out of control. Given I had crazy ideas of flying in the mountains by myself, it was difficult to convince other pilots than I wasn’t insane, and as a result there was a good deal of pressure on me from time to time that hindered my confidence and in fact, held back my flying, I think.

I found that what was suicidal for my comp wing flying mentors was inconsequential for my choice of wing (which was so safe I actually developed bad habits on it), and that flying in the leeside is perfectly acceptable – as long as the mountain is big enough (and your instructor isn’t watching). Having said that you should always make your own judgements about the truth or applicability of anyone’s advice. And I am insane.

Lone Manuka, Precipice hill (my first take off in NZ)

As adapted from my motorbike learn to ride course, there are three aspects to safe flying:

  1. Know your glider
  2. Mental skills (understanding the air and identifying hazards)
  3. Self control (making good judgements)

Accidents are caused by the pilots making bad decisions about where, when, and what to fly.

know your glider

These days the wings themselves are very safe. Or at least, you choose your level of passive safety from beginner (DHV 1 / EN:A), fun (DHV 1-2 / EN:B), sports (DHV 2 / EN:C), and serial (DHV 2-3 / EN:D), or competition (unrated). Paragliders are really parachutes that glide – they want to fly, and in the lower rated gliders, basically anything can happen to the canopy and it will fix itself, if the pilot would only just relax and let it fly. You are trained to treat the wings with respect but after some experience, I shouldn’t say it, but it is really surprising what you can get away with in a low end glider, given you have enough height for recovery.

backflying video (photo Steve S)

I spent a lot of time ground handling, which is excellent practice and a lot of fun. I am now confident enough with my wing that I often play with it on launch.

I flew my bolero+ (DHV1) for 200 hours, much longer than I was a “beginner”, but it was justified by doing more adventurous flying (eg mid summer vol biv in the Alps).

I’ve always wanted to be an “all rounder” pilot, as I believe there is more to flying than clocking up k’s. I love the feeling of launching, the freedom of landing anywhere, and the sensation of being in control of your wing on the ground and in the air.

mental skills

Understanding the air is really important and is a key aspect of the sport for many cross country pilots. I have always enjoyed physics and been interested in weather so I have a technical understanding, while others develop their own rules or feel, which may be scientifically incorrect but work for them.

self control

Overconfidence is of course a dangerous thing. Old pilots, bold pilots, but no old bold pilots, so they say. But under-confidence is just as bad. It means you cannot focus on the task at hand. Flying is an engaging and stimulating activity, you need to have the confidence to make good judgements without being distracted by doubt.


I now have my confidence, and each opportunity to push a little further, without incident, helps “knowledge dispel fear”. You always carefully seek to minimise the risks of anything new, but realise you cannot eliminate the risk.

I can’t help thinking these lyrics are about flying:

I’m reaching up and reaching out,
I’m reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
And following our will and wind we may just go where no one’s been.
We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s