Habits can be hard to break – especially bad paragliding habits. But riding epic thermals and pushing maximum speeds comes with a price, and sometimes checking your ego can be just as important as checking your gear. Hence why we put together this guide of our favorite paragliding takeoff practices to help you take to the air the safe way.

 

Weather-Forecast

Weather-Forecast

1. Know your Forecast

Showing off like a paragliding rock star doesn’t count if the only people there to see it are the paramedics. But you can avoid many serious pitfalls by checking the weather forecast ahead of time and studying the actual wind conditions on your planned route. Plotting your flight based on real-time data of precipitation and barometric pressure can not only eliminate surprises, it can help you make tough decisions about when and how long to fly. Remember: good safety habits and paragliding equipment inspection can only go so far against erratic wind gusts and dangerous thermals.

Ozium-Size

Ozium-Size

2. Double-Check the Harness

It may be easy to relax in a supine position on a couch at home, but doing so while vaulting through the air is a different story entirely. In fact, many accidents happen due to the pilot’s inability to fully enter the paragliding harness during takeoff. Juggling between the brake and the harness seat can sometimes send your glider into a stall, spin, or – on rare occasions – a full-on collapse. Instead, try leaning back with your knees bent towards your chest as you squirm into the seat – avoiding sudden death or, worse, an uncomfortable groin position.

Ozone-Paragliding-Test-Inflation

Ozone-Paragliding-Test-Inflation

3. Try a Test Inflation

Whether you’re a Red Bull X-Alps champion or launching for the first time, one thing is certain: overconfidence kills. One fail-safe way to prepare a launch is to do a test inflation – lifting the wing without launching fully in order to test the air and turbulence. Even paragliding pros have a hard time decoding wind conditions, and doing a test inflation can help you get a real-time feel of what you’re likely to experience in the air.

Paragliding-Safety-Equipment

Paragliding-Safety-Equipment

4. Test your Reserve

When paragliding in thermals go wrong, a good paragliding reserve can mean all the difference. One good tip is to test your reserve handle before you even get in the harness. That means peeling off and resetting the handle so that the Velcro binding is ready to release when you pull it. This is especially useful after long drives, which can cause the Velcro around the handle to become off-set by the vibrations of the car. Be sure and double-check the pins also, to double-check that they are fully inserted and ready to release when pulled.

Paragliding-Flight-Plan

Paragliding-Flight-Plan

5. Devise an Exit Plan

Launching is optional, but landing is mandatory. In other words: after you’ve taken off, the only option is to land somewhere – whether it’s a landing zone or in some stranger’s backyard. That is, unless you have an exit plan. If conditions don’t feel absolutely right for takeoff, have a Plan B for aborting your launch. That means studying the landscape around your launch point and memorizing the best places to make a sudden landing, i.e. spots with minimal structure and maximum clearance. Knowing when to call it a day, and how to do it, can not only let you live to fly another day – it will make you a better pilot.

 

Stephan Kruger
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Stephan Kruger

Owner & Founder of Fly Cape Town Paragliding at Fly Cape Town Paragliding
Stephan is the owner of Fly Cape Town Paragliding. He is an avid tandem, competition and aerobatics paragliding pilot He loves to share the joy of paragliding flight with anyone who is keen...He is also a qualified paragliding instructor and a paragliding endurance athlete.
Stephan Kruger
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