How do you start? It is essential that you gain professional paragliding lessons. Paragliding is classed as an extreme sport and you will be putting your life in danger if you were to take to the sky without the proper instruction, exams and licence.
In the UK the BHPA (British Hangliding and Paragliding Association) is the governing body for Paragliding. You must undertake training and sit two exams before you become what is know as a “Club Pilot”. Once you gain this level you will gain the licence to be able to fly on your own.
Gaining your CP license can be a relatively simple process. Below sets out the series of steps that you would need to take to gain your license:
Step 1: Gain your EP rating (Elementary Pilot)
EP level is the level required prior to gaining your CP rating. So first off, you will need to see where you can get your paragliding lessons. This instruction must come from a licensed BHPA paragliding school, of which there are many across the UK. Once you have made contact with your chosen school, you will need around seven full days of instruction to complete the required tasks for your instructor to sign you off, whilst also sitting a theory exam.
Step 2: Gain your CP rating (Club Pilot)
Once you have your EP rating, you will need to attend further training with your paragliding school instructor. Again this can take around seven full days of paragliding lessons, with a final exam before you can gain your CP rating.
So does this mean it takes only 14 days of training to get a license to fly on my own?
Not exactly. The reason for this is that at it’s core, paragliding is a weather dependent sport. To be able to go paragliding the weather must be in a very specific state. Not only must you have a day without rain, but most importantly, the wind must be at just the right speed, in just the right direction for paragliding to work.
Due to this, your EP and CP could take a year or so to complete, purely down to ensuring that the weather is in the correct state. Paragliding at it’s heart, is a sport for patient people, who have the time to spend waiting for the right weather conditions.
But the UK has terrible weather?
The UK has very unsettled weather. This is not actually such a bad thing for paragliding. In fact the UK can generate some excellent weather for paragliding. It just may take a little longer to gain your CP rating due to it’s unsettled weather.
There are options for achieving your paragliding license faster however, by gaining your CP rating through a BHPA registered school located in another country with more settled weather. With a more stable weather system it is possible for these schools to offer up a two week course to gain your CP rating.
Where can I fly once I get my CP rating?
In the UK there are many paraglding clubs that can be joined at a very low cost per year. Your local club members will be able to guide you in the set locations the club has for flying, and offer up further advice.
You will also be able to fly abroad in fantastic mountain locations however it may be best to have a guide to get you to the mountain and brief you on locations each day. There are many companies that offer week trips that are equivalent to the price of a skiing holiday.
How much is equipment?
Paragliding is one of the lowest cost ways you can enjoy the experience of flying. Usually, when you begin your instruction all equipment is provided for. Once you pass your CP rating you will need to purchase your equipment. Usually your school will be able to offer you good deals and guide you in what would be the appropriate equipment for your level. For cost you can get an idea here, but usually you should be able to get everything you need for under £5000. Have a look at the online shops in the UK here to get an idea of prices.