There are different types and methods of instruction offered, and most instructors use several different methods in combination. We’ll give a brief outline of some of the most common here.
Tandem instruction is when you fly with an instructor in a special glider built to carry two people. Since the instructor is always there with you, this is the easiest, and most comfortable way to get a taste of what it’s like to fly. For your first lesson, the instructor will do the take off, and landing, and will take the controls whenever it’s necessary, but you can usually fly the glider yourself for a good portion of the flight. It’s a great way to see just how easy it is. On more advanced lessons, you’ll learn techniques for turning the glider, controlling your speed, and setting up a landing approach.
Solo Flight On The Training Hill
This is where you launch yourself, by running down a small, very gently sloping hill. You will not be more than a few feet above the ground on your first flights, and an instructor will be right there by your side. By choosing the right glider, the right hill, and the right wind conditions, your instructor can ensure that your first flights are not scary or intimidating, but rather fun and exhilarating. The first time your feet leave the ground on a flight that you launched all by yourself is an experience you will never forget.
Solo Flight From Higher Hills
After you’ve mastered the basic skills of launching, landing, and control of speed and direction, your instructor will move you up to a higher hill from which you’ll get a longer flight. Here you’ll refine your flying skills, and learn how to set up an approach to the landing field. Your instructor may use a radio to guide you through new maneuvers. Always the emphasis will be on taking small steps into new experiences, so that your safety and comfort level are maintained.
Scooter Towing is the use of a motor scooter as a stationary winch to tow a hang glider or paraglider into the air. Towing, as a launch method, has been around since the beginning of hang gliding. The idea of using a scooter as a powered stationary tow winch has also been around for a number of years. In the last few years, however, a number of developments in equipment and technique have brought scooter towing to a highly refined state of development and made it an exceptionally useful tool for training. Read more about scooter towing here.
Some instructors use flight simulators to help their students get a feel for controlling the glider. The newest simulators use computer generated graphics to provide a very realistic flight experience.
Once you start flying, you’ll want to learn more about the wind, the weather, and how the wing works. One of the great things about flying is that you can understand the basics of how it all works pretty quickly, and yet you can spend a lifetime learning about it and never run out of new discoveries. Your instructor will get you started, and then there are books, your fellow pilots, and your own experience to be sources of lifelong learning.
Launch Methods – Foot Launching and Towing
In areas where there are hills and mountains, the most common way to launch a hang glider or paraglider is to run down a hill until the wing lifts you away from the ground. (We usually don’t “jump off a cliff.” It can be done, but it’s an advanced skill, and in most places, it’s not at all necessary!) In the flatlands, where there are no suitable hills, people launch by being towed aloft. You can tow up behind an ultralight airplane, or behind a boat or a car, or by being pulled by a stationary winch. Each method has its own specific techniques – worked out from years of experience to ensure the highest level of safety. In many hang gliding tow launch methods it’s possible to launch without any need to run – the glider is mounted on wheels, and you simply roll into the air. With some types of gliders, you can land the same way – on the wheels.
The most important first step in your flying career is to find a good instructor. Wills Wing strongly supports professional, safety conscious instructors. Click on Schools from the “Learn to Fly” menu to find a flight school in your area.