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Progression P1
Posted 2/19/2020

Mitch Riley is writing an article for USHPA about things to be aware of and think about when entering the sport.  The target audience is prospective pilots who are thinking about getting into the sport.  Mitch asked Logan Walters and Andrew Byron for their input which is archived below.  This archive might be updated if and when Mitch's article  is published by USHPA

P1 Progression Comments by: [Logan]  [Andrew]  [Mitch]

Comments by: Logan Walters (initially circulated on 2/3/2020 with minor edits and clarification added to this 2/19/2020 version)

There is so much to unpack for prospective pilots because they come from all walks of life.  Paragliding can be done as a somewhat casual activity but that is only once you have not only learned but become proficient at the basics (launching, landing, piloting, weather).  It takes dedication just to get to that point and I think it needs to be communicated that the most dangerous time in paragliding is probably your first 50 hours.  Those hours should be completed as quickly as possible to gain currency and knowledge but knowing when to drive down and who to listen to is paramount.  We should not be launching into the unknown and blaming luck for things to work out.

Stay on the training hill.  Even once students start thermalling in the mountains they should be visiting the training hill as much as possible to continue to work on the basics.

Don't be rushed to launch.  A lot of pilots seem to want to prove themselves when they first start flying and some try to show that by setting up and launching ASAP.  Instead get to launch, observe the conditions, visualize the flight plan and discuss the day with more knowledgeable pilots.

Get in the air.  The opposite of those rushed to launch are those to timid to leave the ground.  The only way to get better is to fly and practice.  If the mountains aren't right for you yet go back to the hill and find people that are stoked to fly.  Or even better is to hire a coach.  Someone that will dedicate time on helping you get through the first 50 hours as safely as possible.

Flying is amazing and just about anyone can learn, that being said it's not meant for everyone and only you can decide if it's for you.

When looking at schools chose one that has instructors that align with your goals.  If you want to ridge soar find a school in a ridge soaring spot.  Thermal flying?  Find a school that has expert XC (Cross Country) pilots.

Sign up for a SIV clinic (Simulated Incident in Flight / English or Simulation d'Incident en Vol / French)  Part of the cost of getting your P2 should also be the cost of your first SIV.  A brand new P2 often does better in SIV than a 200 hour pilot because there are no buggy men in the closet.

Be ready to learn.  The best pilot is the one that learns the most.  Being humble and listening to those with more knowledge does not come naturally to everyone and only you know your learning style.

The paragliding community is really inclusive in most places.  You don't have to know anyone who flies to join in the fun.  Once you start flying you will find like minded individuals, share your thoughts and ideas about flying with them and hopefully they will help you learn more.

Don't just have one mentor.  While learning to fly helicopters I had many instructors and I learned different things from all of them.  Some of that information was contradictory and I was then able to asses their opinions to make my own.  Same for paragliding.

Travel.  Go to different sites and fly with others.  Even as a brand new student there are tons of locations around the USA and the world to check out.

Plot of the story is that flying takes dedication.  If someone wants to learn to fly this is the most pure form of flight and something you can learn at any age with no prior knowledge.  But you can't be wishy-washy, some commitment is necessary.

These are my brief two cents.  And no one knows if they are right.

P1 Progression Comments by: [Logan]  [Andrew]  [Mitch]

Comment by Andrew Byron (initially circulated on 2/3/2020 with minor edits and clarification added to this 2/19/2020 version)

Great points Logan, thanks for sharing.  Here are my thoughts I'd like to add:

Understand your equipment and how to use it.
We operate in an invisible medium.  In such a fluid and ever-changing environment, our gliders, harnesses, and instruments are the connection we have to interpret what we feel around us.  It is in our best interest to know everything we can about our equipment.  What is your take off weight?  What is the weight range on your glider?  How does your glider feel when light vs. heavy?  What adjustments are available on your harness?  How does weight shift-ability feel when you are upright vs. reclined in your harness?  Do you understand the available glide ratio, ground speed, and altitude settings on your vario?  These are all things a new pilot should strive to learn as quickly as possible and will open so many doors.

Take care of your gear.
Learn to pack and unpack your entire kit efficiently.  Have a process.  Staying organized and efficient with your gear will make you a better pilot… you’ll spend less time looking for your gloves, sunscreen, and radio, and more time observing the environment and evolving conditions.  Charge your radio, SOS, and external battery.  These are easy victories that go lost because of laziness and disorganization.  Additionally, I’ve found that having a lightweight groundsheet to be extremely helpful with managing my gear.  I use an old piece of Tyvek HomeWrap.  It’s cheap, light, waterproof, about 4 feet by 6 feet, and white so I can see everything that’s laid on it quickly.  It also doubles as rain protection and a vapor barrier when folded up between my back and the backpack so my glider doesn’t get wet from perspiration when going for a hike-n-fly.

Take care of your body.
At first glance, this sport can seem not very physically demanding, even lazy… we’re just floating around in a glorified armchair enjoying the view right?  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Skilled ground handling requires balance, coordination, and agility.  As flights get longer and as we get more in tune with our gliders, our shoulders and core can fatigue in ways we’ve never felt.  Landings can be tricky and a safe one can depend on one’s ability to move quickly.  Take care of your body, like you take care of your gear.  Warm up your joints before a tricky launch or a strong kiting session.  You pack your glider the same way every time right?  Ok, so make sure you have enough calories to think straight, enough water to be hydrated, and enough strength to handle your gear… every time too.  This is stuff you have control over.

Write it down.
Keep a log.  There are several free web-based spreadsheets that you can use to log your hours, the conditions you flew in, and any notable lessons or memories from the flight.

SOS Beacon.
Invest in a Garmin InReach satellite tracker and have a community that knows how to track your location and what to do in an emergency.  Use it every time you fly.

Take ownership for your decisions.  You're going to mess up, make a bad decision, and maybe do something reckless… own it.  We’ve all been there.  Don’t let the ego make excuses or start blaming.  Own them, learn from them, and share the lessons with others.  Additionally, if you make an excellent decision, own that too!  But be humble and open with both the victory and defeat.  This lifestyle demands confidence without arrogance.  You are in charge of where your flying takes you and where it doesn’t.

Respect the sport, respect the day, and respect those that have come before and those that will come after you.

Read ‘Understanding the Sky”
Then read it again… and again.  Talk about it with your friends.  Then read it again.

Ground handling
Go kite your wing.  Kite when it’s strong.  Kite when it’s weak.  Kite when it’s OTB.  Kite with your eyes closed.  Do tricks when you kite.  Walk your dog while you kite.  Just go kite your wing.  I like to think of it as flying my wing on the ground.  Or “ground-flying”.  Glider-reaction-time, coordination, and fluid-situational-awareness are all important skills that we can work on while kiting that are DIRECTLY applicable to when we’re in the air... so go fly your wing, on the ground.

Also, writing this reminded me of an article I think you guys would enjoy.  Find it here:

Looking forward to getting in the air with you guys soon.

P1 Progression Comments by: [Logan]  [Andrew]  [Mitch]


Awesome guys, thanks!  My favorite from that article is "Embrace the suck" I've been saying give yourself permission to suck, but embracing it is much better.

The article is coming along nicely, thanks for you suggestions, gold.


P1 Progression Comments by: [Logan]  [Andrew]  [Mitch]



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