sunset flight

A pilot describes his first flight...

What an amazing dream! I thought to myself.

I was wide awake now with my feet firmly planted on the ground, but I kept looking up at the sky where I had been just moments before. It all seemed so surreal. I knew I had been somewhere extraordinary and was trying desperately to hold on to the fragments of the rapidly fading memory of this first flight.

I could still remember - but only vaguely - running off a mountain with only a nylon canopy above my head and a light harness on my back. And then, suddenly, there was the sensation of being suspended in the warm summer sky with nothing but 5000 feet of air beneath me. A gentle wind was lapping at my face and whispering through my ears. For thirty minutes I was suspended in disbelief, absorbing the spectacular view of the Fraser Valley with its quilted pastures and snow capped mountains glowing in the fading light of the setting sun.

Then I landed, and - as if from a dream - woke up to the reality of people rushing over to where I was now standing staring up at the sky.


What is paragliding?
What equipment is needed?
How do I get started?
Is paragliding safe?
How is paragliding different from hang gliding or parasailing?


What is paragliding?

Paragliding is the most fun you can have with two feet in the air. Unlike a parachute, which simply slows one's descent, a paraglider is a proper airfoil. It works on the same physical principle as an airplane wing and glides. That means one can control precisely the flight path and use upward moving currents of air (thermals or ridge lift) to fly for hours and even go cross-country. The world distance record on a paraglider is over 400 kilometers. 

What equipment is needed?

"Free flight" means just that, being as free as a bird. There are no motors, no heavy equipment, no need for large tracts of land or airports, and no regulations except to stay out of controlled airspace. All that one requires is a wing made of two layers of rip-stop nylon, a harness, which includes a back protector and reserve parachute, and a helmet. The entire package weighs approximately fifteen kilograms and easily fits in a back pack so you can combine hiking and flying. 

How do I get started?

The best way to get started is to come out and join us at the training hill and see what paragliding is all about. You will see first hand how incredibly easy it is to learn (perhaps the easiest of all forms of aviation). On the training hill you will spend some time "ground handling" and kiting the glider to get a feel for how to launch the wing. In just a few hours you will be able to get your first mini-flight off of the training hill. After a number of successful flights from the training hill you will get a chance to go for your first solo high flight. There you will be assisted by two instructors who will be in constant radio contact with you. One will help you launch and the other will be in the landing zone to help you land. After 30 solo high flights and the successful passing of a written exam (with unlimited attempts) you will obtain your novice certification which will enable you to fly on your own.

Alternatively, you can try a tandem flight with an instructor to see if you this is the sport for you. You only need to bring some warm cloths, long pants, glasses and a good pair of boots. Your instructor will provide everything else including helmet and harness. It takes only minutes to get airborne and you could be thermaling and soaring right away. 

Is paragliding safe?

Paragliding is as safe as you make it. It is critical to get proper training from a reputable instructor and fly with properly certified equipment. Your instructor will help you pick out the equipment that suits your weight and skill level. It is also important to progress in a step wise fashion and always fly within your limitations. That means initially you should fly in the mornings and late afternoons when thermal activity is limited, or at novice sites. As your skills develop, your window of opportunity to fly will widen to include the times of the day or at sites where thermal activity is stronger and you can stay up and soar for hours. 

How is paragliding different from hang gliding or parasailing?

Paragliding is quite different from both hang gliding and parasailing in several important ways.

First of all, parasailing is when you are hooked to a parachute-like canopy and attached to a motorboat by a rope. You have absolutely no control and are limited in both the height and the direction you can go by the operator of the boat. It is like being attached to the end of a kite and the operator of the boat is pulling you. In paragliding, you - the pilot - are in control and by using natural air currents (both ridge lift and thermals) can decide how high and how far you want to go.

Paragliding is also different from hang gliding in a number of ways. Although we share many of the same sites as hang gliders and often belong to the same club and use many of the same principals of thermaling and soaring, paragliders are an inflatable airfoil (where the act of flying actually inflates the wing) and hang gliders are a rigid airfoil. That means paragliders collapse into a much smaller package and are much easier to transport and much quicker to set up and take down. Paragliders are also much easier to learn to fly and can land in smaller fields. On the other hand, hang gliders fly faster and farther, but like sail planes need a larger area to land in.

If you require any other answers, please don't hesitate to e-mail us at the link below.


Blue Thermal Paragliding, Vancouver & Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA
Email: info@bluethermal.com

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