Best Weather Conditions for Paragliding
Paragliding is a highly weather dependent form of flight. It’s critical for beginner pilots to learn what the best weather conditions are for paragliding and make sure they are fully aware of what weather conditions are too dangerous to fly in.
This is what dangerous weather conditions can mean for paragliding pilots:
- Failure to achieve and retain sufficient lift
- Lose of control
- Unable to fly in the planned direction
- Unable to land in the planned landing zone, or unable to land safely anywhere
Here are some key weather conditions to look out for before and during your paragliding flight. This article will give you an overview of the key areas to look out for and consider. Enjoy and safe paragliding to you all!
Paragliding & Clouds
Excellent paragliding weather conditions don’t need to be sunny, soaring sites will work in cloudy days – air is forced above and pilots use this updraft. If it’s clear sky, cloudy or overcast you can still paraglide. In overcast skies there will be less thermals but you can still paraglide safely.
Thermic conditions are created when the sun heats the air and creates cumulus cloud.
If you plan on going cross country paragliding, your ideal weather conditions are lots of white, puffy, cumulus clouds. This means that a cold front has just passed, approximately about 12 hours prior.
Cumulus clouds form at the top of thermals. Think of these as columns of rising air, with clouds sitting at the top of the columns. Ideally you want to use these thermals to circle your way up to the top.
Because of the colder weather, thermals are less common during winter. You may find it more difficult to achieve high altitudes or paraglide cross country. However don’t let this put you off any form of paragliding. Many people paraglide in places such as the Tirol region in Austria in winter, where the mountains are covered in snow. Just watch out for wind and don’t actually paraglide in snow – this is dangerous and will reduce your control of your wing.
Paragliding Wind Speed & How It Affects You
Ideal wind between 2 and 15mph, wind speed above 18mph (29km/h) isn’t suitable for paragliding. If you have beginner/intermediate experience you may wish to avoid winds exceeding 12mph (20km/h). While wind can be helpful, it is possible to launch a paraglider without wind. The speed the pilot generates by running combined with the pilot’s weight and the paraglider wing is sufficient.
Wind speed and strength is tested by an anemometer, make sure you fly with one of these. It’s a good idea to test wind strength before paragliding This will help you to determine how to approach launching and landing, and if you should postpone your flight.
- 1 m/s or 3.6 km/h – Very calm conditions, you’ll need a forward launch with lots of running and effort on your part to launch
- 1 – 3 m/s or 3.6 – 10.8 km/h – Forward and reverse launch possible, a decent amount of running or good reverse launch skills needed
- 4 – 6 m/s or 14.4 – 21.6 km/h – Moderate wind strength, reverse launch or a front launch with a small amount of running
- 7 – 10 m/s or 25.2 – 36 km/h – Wind strength is getting strong. Only very experienced pilots should consider launching. Reverse launch is the best option. Highly susceptible to turbulence and being blown backwards after launching.
It’s also important to monitor if wind is constant or changing. You don’t want to launch in decent conditions, only to find that the wind strength has increased and now it’s difficult to land safely. Test wind speed across a two minute period. If wind speed changes more than 2 m/s in this two minute period, it’s gusty. You risk the possibility of being flown backwards, turbulence and difficulty in landing.
Wind gradient is the change in wind strength and direction with height, and is another dimension pilots must consider before launching. This hazard occurs when low moving air is slowed by friction with the ground, causing pilots to notice an increase of wind as they reach height. This can cause pilots to be blown backwards as they begin to increase in height not long after launch. Wind gradient can also suprise pilots by causing an increase of ground speed just before they land.
In good flying conditions, the airflow is isolated and moves slowly within its layer. This is known as laminar flow. When airflow speed increases to a certain point, airflow can become turbulent. Turbulence is when air particles move in chaotic, random directions. Winds above 5-6 m/s can often be turbulent.
Only experienced pilots should paraglide in light turbulence and no-one should paraglide in moderate to heavy turbulence. Paragliding in turbulence is hazardous because without the smooth laminar airflow, the wing can easily stall, spin, collapse or suddenly drop or sink. Imagine trying to land safely with this going on!
Turbulence can also be caused by large solid objects, this is known as mechanical turbulence. Large objects which block wind can create a turbulent zone. Fortunately this type of turbulence is often easier to predict and avoid.
Weather Conditions Where You Shouldn’t Paraglide
Strong Winds – as mentioned earlier, if wind speeds are above 18mph (29km/h), or above a level that you’re comfortable flying in, or if the wind speed is increasing towards this speed, it’s a good idea to to avoid paragliding.
Orographic Cloud – can form around a hillside and create an area with no visibility, which could result in you flying into objects. Ideally pilots should always fly when they’ve got full visual meteorological conditions. Orographic clouds can also cause rain.
Lenticular Clouds and Foehn Winds – occurs when air goes up a hill and drops down the other side, heating it. This causes some areas to be windy while others are calm
Rain – Paragliding in the rain is extremely dangerous. Rain is one of the most common and easy to predict paragliding hazards. Older paraglider wings are not waterproof and will absorb the rain. This makes the wing heavier and difficult to manoeuvre. Newer wings won’t absorb the wind however rain will still affect the ability of air to smoothly travel across the surface of the wing. You’ll probably get away with a few raindrops, but any proper rain will make paragliding extremely dangerous.
Cumulonimbus (Storm Clouds) – can cause very strong updrafts and downdrafts of up to 200mph. Even planes go well out of their way to avoid them! These clouds often combine other dangers such as heavy rain, strong winds, sudden powerful lifts and lightning
We hope this has helped you to identify the best weather for paragliding and avoid some nasty situations. Read the following article if you’d like to learn more on paragliding safety. Enjoy!
How to land a paraglider perfectly
Thinking about trying paragliding but you still have your doubts? Are you wondering whether you should go on and try it? Before jumping right into it, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. In Overfly we want you to feel as comfortable as possible when you try paragliding for the first time (or maybe after some time). Because of this, in this post we are going to explain to you how to land a paraglider perfectly.
In Overfly we believe that paragliding is an experience that you should try at least once in your life. You will get that feeling in your stomach, the lightness of your feet and the sensation that the clouds are getting closer. And on the background, you can appreciate the Canary landscape that our island, Tenerife, has to offer.
Sightseeing is nothing compared to this. To fully comprehend why we love our island so much, you need to see it from the clouds. It does not matter whether you have experience or not, whether you are afraid of heights or not. Can you imagine seeing the Atlantic Ocean while you fly like a bird? And, what about the Teide? The limit is the sky and you will see as much as the horizon allows you!
But before we start to show you how to land a paraglider, we recommend you that if this is your first time trying paragliding, you should read these posts. We are sure you will find them very interesting and they will tell you everything you need to know about paragliding!
How to land a paraglider: techniques
So then, how to land a paraglider? We have to confess that it is not as difficult as it seems. Yeah, it is easy (kind of) to start flying. If the wind is favourable once you start running a little, you will be able to start paragliding. However, how do you land a paraglider? What do you have to do to stop it from flying and finally touch the ground? Keep reading and discover how!
Find your place: do not stop trying
To find the perfect place to land is key when you are learning how to land a paraglider. This is a constant process of trial and error where you will have to fight to finally find the best spot. It does not matter how many times you have to try, or how much time you have to spend looking for it.
It is important because sometimes some places might seem perfect to land on but the wind will not be in your favour, or maybe they might be too small for landing once you get closer. This is why you should try as many times as possible, so you get comfortable with it and you can make sure that you found your place.
The slopes and steeps are a sure bet
Slopes will make it easier for you to land. You will avoid landing vertically, which is a bit more difficult. In addition, you will not land directly on the ground, but rather slowly getting closer to in until you are finally on the ground.
When you are trying to learn how to land a paraglider, you should also take into consideration the wind. Going down a slope will change the inclination of your paraglide and therefore help you to have a favourable position against the wind.
Take your time, take it slow
It is a common mistake from beginners to rush into things and not taking their time at landing. However, this is crucial when learning how to land a paraglider. Even though we have mentioned before, you should not stress over finding the best spot the fastest as possible. Good things take time, and so does paragliding.
So, go slowly and patiently. It does not matter how much time it takes to find the best place to land, keep looking. Take into consideration how big is the space where you are planning to land, the wind, whether there are obstacles or not. Think beforehand and then, start descending and landing.
How to land a paraglider: tips and advices
You should know how to land a paraglider already, or at least have an idea on how to start. Still, there are some things we would like to remind you when you are paragliding for the first time and that will be also useful for you to make landing more comfortable.
Check out the weather
Do you check the weather before going on a hike or going to the beach? Of course, and so should you do if you are paragliding. It is not the same if the wind is strong, or if it is sunny. Every single detail could affect you flight and turn a wonderful experience into a bad memory.
First, wind always helps. If you are lucky, the ideal velocity for the wind would be around 15 km/h. For you to start flying, it has to come towards you so it pushes the paraglide towards the sky. It is also possible to do paragliding if there is no wind, but you will have to make a short run in order to achieve it.
Then, it is better if is cloudy rather than sunny because the sun can be annoying sometimes and take some of your visibility. It could be like driving east in the morning, the sun on your eyes and having difficulties to stare at the road in front of you. It is cloudy it does not matter whether you are heading east or west or the time of the day, the sun will not bother you anymore.
How should you sit on the paragliding harness
When you are learning how to land a paraglider, the way you put your legs is kind of important. We want to remind you that the position you take on the paragliding harness (the place where you will be seated) will also affect the way you will land and fly. It is all about aerodynamics!
So, if you are flying with an instructor, it is important that at the start you help him at the take-off and that you start running with him. However, during the landing process, it is not necessary that you use your legs. The monitor will take care of that and while they are doing it, you will have to blend your legs to make it easier for them to land.
Clothes you should wear on paragliding
Choose your outfit wisely when you are flying because the temperature is always lower than on the ground. The higher you are, the colder it gets. Just like when you are going hiking on a mountain, you should bring with you your warmest clothes. This includes long trousers, a long sleeve t-shirt and a coat.
Moreover, since you will be running down a hill sometimes, it is very important that you bring along some sport shoes. In general, wear the most comfortable clothes you have to forget about how cold or how tight your pants are to really enjoy the flight.
How much experience do you need?
You do not need too much experience to start learning how to land a paraglider. From your first flight, you will know how to land thanks to your monitors. They will explain everything to you beforehand so once you are flying you have no doubts about how to land a paraglider.
However, there are some things that require some experience. For example, landing on the top of a hill or flying when the wind is very strong. Take your time during your learning process and do not stress yourself if you feel helpless sometimes. It is normal for everyone to struggle sometimes, you will be alright!
Why flying in a paraglider with Overfly?
Do you know already how to land a paraglider? If you do not, there is nothing to worry. If you book a flight with us, our instructors will take care of you and explain everything you need to know. In Overfly we are always at your disposal to help you have the best experience of your life.
We have many years of experience on paragliding and we are totally in love with it. Once you meet our experts in flying with a paraglider, you will see that there is nothing to worry about. Whether you are an expert or a beginner, we will guide you through the whole process and work hard for you to have fun and enjoy.
If you have any doubts or questions that are still unsolved, contact us and we will solve all of them!
Paragliding safely in strong wind
Strong wind and paragliders don’t play well together (generally best avoided) but at some point you’ll be flying in ‘stronger’ conditions, and knowing how to handle this can improve your safety. We’ve put together some paragliding techniques which we’ve found help us stay safe on our paraglider when the wind picks up.
Firstly, treat strong wind with great respect! Choose what suits your flying skills and equipment, and learn the skills progressively (one step at a time).
Strong wind preparation
If you have access to a beach (or second-best, an open field), it’s a great place to lay the foundation of high-wind kiting skills. It’s absolutely essential that you have complete control of the wing on the ground, because in strong wind, the most relevant hazard is very close – the rocks at the back of the launch site!
Check out how to manage your wing on windy launches
You should have already mastered all the groundhandling exercises in
Launching in stronger winds
I always try to launch down the slope, away from the worst of the Venturi at the crest of the ridge. It also gives me an easier time to lay out the wing, and the steeper slope prevents dragging, and makes the wing pull further ahead during launch.
The first principle is to run towards the wing as you launch, to help your control
If your wing responds well to this technique, you could also use rear riser control
If you have the skills and a suitable area you could try the Cobra launch
For more tips on launching in strong wind, check out our short video focusing on preparation.
Landing when the wind is strong
The other risky phase of the flight in strong wind will be the landing. Here you will be exposed to the turbulence created by obstacles on the ground, and perhaps a sheer layer if the surface has created a pool of slow-moving air in a protected, recessed, or cool area.
Legs down early! This is tricky if you still need speedbar, but you can get half bar with only one foot, and that’s probably enough as you get low. Being on accelerator close to the ground is very risky.
Here’s a basic approach to landing in strong wind:
You’ll also want to have your killswitch technique fully dialled in.
For another example of a windy landing in wilder conditions, check out Wild Wind (from around 5 minutes in):
Flying when it’s breezy
If you’re considering flying in strong wind, make sure you’re completely comfortable with the concepts of windspeed, airspeed and groundspeed.
The class of wing you fly usually determines your top airspeed, more so than any ballast weight you carry (3kg=1km/h) or your position in the weight range. It certainly helps being well loaded on a wing, but the shape of the aerofoil causes drag, which is worst for the ‘safer’ lower-classed wings.
- Every class upgrade gains you (very roughly) 3km/h:
- First wings (EN A) 44 km/h top speed,
- Progression (EN B) 47km/h,
- XC Class (EN B+) 50 km/h
- Sports Class (EN C) 53 km/h
- Performance (EN D) 56 km/h
- Competition (CCC) 62 km/h.
That’s in smooth air in summer at about 1000m altitude using full speedbar (pulley to pulley). But this is unavailable when conditions are rough (and you’re too scared to accelerate, or you get collapses which will slow you down well below trim speed). When it really matters is just after you launch, and that’s when you’re too low to accelerate and often in the most turbulent air. What you can rely on is trim speed, which is around 37 km/h (20 mph), or even as low as 30 at low altitudes in cold conditions.
So when I talk about strong wind here, I’m talking about a base wind of 30km/h+.
It’s probably not what you’d choose to launch in, but you might have misjudged the strength. Where should you fly? What should you watch out for? Well, we’ve made a video about that, just for you.
Paragliding in strong wind: Video
Join Flybubble Paragliding as we compete on the ‘Mini-dragon’ hike and fly race in extreme conditions.
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