Flight Training Syllabus for Paraglider Pilots

Second Edition

By J.C. Brown USHPA Advanced Paragliding Instructor





                                           Table of Contents








Ground Handling



Training Hill Ground School



Training Hill Flights



Higher Flight Ground School



Reserve Parachute Training



Higher Flights



High Flight/Soaring Flight Ground School



The Art of Kiting



High/Soaring Flights



FAA, FAR’s and Self-Regulation





WARNING: This syllabus is an outline and is only one component of a complete paragliding training course that includes classroom sessions and in-flight training. Learning paragliding without a qualified instructor will result in serious injury and death. Even in ideal weather conditions, using the best gear, and under the direct supervision of a qualified instructor, paragliding is a dangerous activity that can result in serious injury or death. 



photo by peter gray


Ø      1.Weather

Ø      Lesson Goal: To create the basis of a continuing study of Macro and Micro weather. This is taught at the beginning of (and throughout) every flying session. Students are encouraged to do their own weather research and to participate in weather briefings.

v     Today’s Macro Weather

v     Today’s Micro Weather

v     Today’s Plans and Goals


Ø      2.Gear

Ø      Lesson Goal: To provide an overview of paragliding gear and nomenclature.

v     The Paraglider: A clever arrangement of thread and imagination.

Ø      Wing.

Ø      Lines.

Ø      Risers.

Ø      DHV certification.

v     The Harness: Air Chair

Ø      Hooking in reversed.

Ø      Turning around.

Ø      Posture and the single word posture commands.

§         Launch: Head up, look where you are going. Lean forward, weight on the chest strap. Hands back and up. This is called the “TORPEDO” posture.

§         In Flight: Head up, look where you are going. Lean back. Weight on the shoulder straps, keep your head 6 –8 inches behind the risers. Feet under your butt with your ankles crossed. This is called the “RELAX” posture.

§         Landing: Head up, look where you are going. Lean forward, weight on the leg straps. Feet under you, ready to run or PLF. This is called the “BAD KITTY” posture.

v     Reserve Parachute.

v     Passive Safety Gear.

Ø      Helmet.

Ø      Back Protector

Ø      Boots, gloves, eye protection, etc.

v     Instruments: Less is more.

Ø      Variometer.

Ø      Altimeter.

Ø      ASI.

Ø      GPS.

Ø      Flight Computers.

Ø      Radios and mobile telephones. USHGA PA sign-off.

v     Gear packing and maintenance.


v     3.Ground Handling

v     Lesson Goal: Practice forward and reverse inflations and other basic ground handling techniques.

v     Check the wind and weather.

v     Horseshoe layout and Preflight Inspection.

v     Hooking in reverse.

v     Inflation Techniques.

Ø      Forward.

Ø      Reverse. Building a wall.

v     Controlling the paraglider on the ground.

§         Pitch, roll, and yaw.

§         Keep the glider overhead.

Ø      You go where you look.

Ø      Stable vs. Unstable pendulum: moving under the glider to maintain roll and pitch control.

Ø      Brakes for Pitch.

Ø      Weight shift for Roll.

Ø      Brakes for Roll.

Ø      Brakes for landing the pilot. Flare to land

Ø      Brakes for landing the glider.

v     4.Training Hill Ground School

v     Lesson Goal: Preflight briefing, and flight simulations in preparation for flights under 200’ AGL.

v     Flight planning. Mental image of the flight.

v     Pitch, roll, and yaw.

v     Airspeed, windspeed, and groundspeed.

v     Airspeed control. Active flying – hang the weight of your arms on the brake lines.

v     Turn Control.

Ø      Look: First, look where you want to go; you go where you look.

Ø      Weight Shift: Next, shift your weight in the same direction.

Ø      Brake Input: Finally, pull just enough brake to finish the turn.

Ø      Back to Neutral: Return all controls to neutral before starting the next maneuver.

v     Pitch Control: Brakes for airspeed and glide path control.

v     Recognizing wind speed and direction at launch and landing. They might be different!

v     Ground Track Control (crabbing). You go where you look.

v     Landing.

·        The LZ.

·        Approach path.

·        Approach speed.

·        Flare to land.

·        Land the glider.

·        Side hill landings.

v     PLF Training.


v     5.Training Hill Flights

v     Lesson Goal: Gliding flights under 200’ AGL in smooth conditions.

v     Check the wind and weather.

v     Flight Plan and mental image of the flight.

v     Launch.

v     Airspeed Control.

v     Straight Flight.

§         “Relax” posture. Look around. See your hands, the glider, the wind indicators, the LZ; recognize where you are.

§         Look ahead. See the horizon. You go where you look. Look where you want to go.

v     Turns up to 180 degrees.

v     Linked turns.

·        Rear riser and one-handed turns.

v     Ground track control.

v     Approach and landing.

·        The LZ.

·        Side hill landings.


v     6. Higher Flight Ground School

Ø      Lesson goal: Pre Flight Briefing for flights up to 1,000’ AGL in mild conditions.

v     Basic Aerodynamics.

Ø      Lift, drag, L/D, glide ratio and best L/D speed.

Ø      Minimum sink and best sink speed.

Ø      Stalls: Stall recognition and stall avoidance and prevention. Hands up before the stall develops. Using the speed system or “tweaking the A’s” to unstall or “restart” the glider.

§         Deep stall.

§         Full stall.

§         Spins.

·        The difference between spins and spirals.

Ø      Air speed, wind speed, and ground speed.

Ø      Density Altitude.

v     Turbulence and Active Flying.

Ø      Collapses.

Ø      Prevention.

Ø      Correction.

v     Landings.

v     Walking the LZ.

Ø      Approach visualization and obstacle avoidance. The correct way to cross power lines and other obstacles.

Ø      DBF approaches.

Ø      S-Turn approaches.

Ø      Wind gradient, wind shadow, and mechanical turbulence.

Ø      Traffic in the pattern.

§         See and be seen.

§         Fly friendly.

§         Low glider lands first.

Ø      How and why to play the “LZ Game”.

Ø      Safety before accuracy or convenience.

Ø      Accuracy. Pick a target every flight.

Ø      Other kinds of landings.

§         Trees.

§         Water.

§         Power lines.

v     The logbook as a learning tool. Flying friends as learning tools.






v     7. Reserve Parachute Training

Ø      Lesson goal: Reserve parachute briefing and practice.

v     Reserve types and mounting options.

v     When to use your reserve. The emergency isn’t over when you deploy your reserve. Any reserve deployment is an emergency in and of itself.

§         Deployment Altitude Threshold (DAT).

Ø      Above DAT: Troubleshooting and problem solving.

Ø      Below DAT: Deploy the reserve.

Ø      DAT can change during a flight and needs to be continuously reevaluated.

v     Stable spiral.

v     Deep stall that won’t restart.

v     “When in doubt…”

v     Deployment sequence: LOOK, grab, LOOK, throw.

§         LOOK and SEE the reserve deployment handle.

§         Grab the handle.

§         LOOK and SEE clear air.

§         Throw the reserve UP into clear air and IN to a spin or spiral.

§         Tug on the reserve bridle. Confirm deployment/initiate redeployment.

§         If the deployment fails, immediately redeploy the reserve. Keep trying.

§         If you have a good deployment – B-stall the paraglider.

§         Prepare to PLF

§         PLF

§         Disconnect-don’t drag!

v     Downplane and B-stall

v     Deployment scenarios and simulations.

§         Accidental deployments

·        On the ground

·        In the air

v     Repacking your reserve


v     8. Higher Flights

v     Lesson goal: To learn the basics of paragliding by flying up to 1,000’ AGL in mild conditions.

v     Check the wind and weather.

v     Flight plan. Imagine the flight.

v     Launch

§         Exploring winds up to 15 mph.

§         Crosswinds up 30 degrees from straight in.

v     Airspeed control and active flying.

v     Turns up to 270

v     Linked turns

v     Intro to 360’s

v     Ground track control

v     Rear riser turns

v     One handed turns

v     Stabilo pulls

v     Tweaking the A’s

v     Reserve parachute location practice. Deliberately look at the handle. Say “see the handle” out loud – every flight.

v     Accurate approaches and landings.


v     9. High Flight/Soaring Ground School


v     Lesson Goal: Pre Flight Briefing for flights above 1,000agl’ and/or in soarable conditions.

v     Appropriate operating conditions and Good Judgment.

§         The ‘go-no go” decision. “Let’s take off before it gets worse”.

§         The “when to land” decision. “It’s better to be on the ground…”

§         Pilots that have a lot of bad luck usually just have bad judgment.

§         Don’t scare yourself.

v     Introduction to soaring. How to go up fast and come down slow.

§         Ridge lift.

·        Why and how to use it.

·        Fast and slow beat.

·        Turn in lift.

§         Thermals.

¨      Why and how to use them.

¨      S-turns and circles.

¨      Drifting. Stay in position.              

§         Traffic rules and considerations.

·        Fly friendly.

·        See and let yourself be seen.

·        “Having” the right of way vs. “Yielding” the right of way

§         Picking launch cycles.

§         How to “Fly Like The Air”.

v     360 Turns-the basis of advanced flight.

·        Ascending.

·        Descending.

·        Stable Spiral.

v     Turbulence: an acquired taste. Airflow visualization is the key.

·        Convective.

·        Mechanical.

·        Wake.

·        Other types of turbulence.

v     Collapses and reinflations.

·        Asymmetric.

·        Symmetric.

·        Cascade of events.

·        Active flying.

¨      Air speed control.

¨      Preventing collapses.

v     Assisted high wind launches are usually a bad idea.

§         Pilot.

§         Assistant.

§         Unintentional tandem.

v     Landing in higher winds.

§         Top landings.

§         Side hill landings.

§         Going backwards.

v     Missing the LZ and landing out. The LZ Game for real.

v     Introduction to the FAR’s and the importance of the USHPA and self-regulation.

v     Cross-country.

§         Preparation: Crewing is the best way to learn the basics.

¨      Communication.

¨      Gear.

¨      Physical and mental readiness.

¨      The Crew?

§         Leaving: When and How.

§         Basic strategy and tactics of distance flying.

§         Navigation, route planning and using the GPS.

§         Intentional out landing. The LZ Game on purpose.


v     10. The Art of Kiting

v     Lesson goal: Achieve perfect control of the glider on the ground, which leads to better launching and active flying skills.

v     Check the wind and weather.

v     Launch practice.

§         Forward.

§         Reverse.

¨      Strong wind – light pull. Light wind – strong pull.

¨      Practice wall building.

¨      No hands pull-ups.

v     Extended duration kiting.

§         Forward.

§         Reverse.

§         Without looking at the glider.

v     Getting “drug” and “drag” avoidance and prevention.         

v     Maneuvers.

§         Move with the glider.

§         Turns. Look, lean, and brake.

§         No brake. Look and lean only.

§         Collapses. Big ears, asymmetric, and frontals.

§         Stalls and spins.

§         Rear riser and/or C riser stalls.

§         B riser stalls.

§         Stabilo pulls.

§         Mitsos technique.

v     Landing the glider behind you every time.

v     Tricks and Games.

§         Kite up the hill.

§         Follow the leader.

§         Kite wars.

§         EZ glider cleaning method.

§         Circle of Death.



v     11. High Flights and Soaring

v     Lesson goal: Staying aloft – airtime.

v     Check the wind and weather.

v     Flight plan. Use Good Judgment.

v     Launch.

v     Air speed control.

v     360’s.

v     Active flying and collapses.

v     Descent techniques.

§         Big Ears.

§         Speed.

§         Big Ears, then Speed.

§         B stalls. Speed on recovery.

v     Soaring in appropriate conditions for your skill and experience. Don’t scare yourself.

v     Landings.

§         Accuracy. Out landings.


v     12. FAR’s and Self-Regulation

v     Lesson goal: FAR 103 and the importance of self-regulation.

v     FAR Review.

v     How to read Sectional Aeronautical Charts.

v     Planning routes.


photo by mitch mcaleerÓ2003


And finally some things to think about the next time you are waiting for the wind to pick up, die down, or switch directions.


If you haven’t made a decision in the last 30 seconds, you probably aren’t paying enough attention.

If bad luck seems to haunt you in certain situations, it’s more likely that you have bad judgment.

Fly your own flight.

 Fly for yourself, not against others.

Don’t show off.

Watch birds and clouds every chance you get.


When things go bad: Fly the glider.

Don’t crash.

Hike to fly.

If you don’t know, ask a more experienced pilot.

Assist less experienced pilots.

Land to render aid.

Fly like the air.

Turn your vario off.

Live to fly another day.

Play the LZ Game.

Fly it before you buy it.

It’s better to be on the ground, wishing you were in the air…

Altitude is your friend.

Yield the right of way.

Crashing on the bull’s eye is still just crashing.

Minimize radio use. Shut up and fly.

Go back to the training hill and practice the basics.

Try flying in a national meet. Do it for fun, and you’ll be surprised how much you learn.

Don’t be in a hurry to land in a “hot” LZ.

The most important flying skill is patience.

The best Variometer is another glider.

Flight for flight’s sake.

If you want to make distance, go for duration.

Take care of your gear and it will take care of you.

Visualize the air.

It’s the pilot, not the glider.

There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots…

Preflight your friend’s gear.




photo by mitch mcaleerÓ2003