British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association
BHPA Registered Schools are monitored for safety, the quality of the training they offer, and the equipment they use, and their instructors are licensed by the Association.
Hang Gliding and Powered Hang Gliding
Hang gliders are unpowered wings that can be launched from hills or winches, or launched by being towed aloft behind a microlight aircraft.
A hang glider can be turned into a powered hang glider by using a specially designed hang glider harness fitted with lightweight 2-stroke engine.
Paragliding and Paramotoring
Paragliders are unpowered wings that can be launched from hills or winches.
A paramotor or powered paraglider (PPG) consists of a small motor driving a propeller, worn like a backpack under a paraglider wing.
Parascending pilots fly canopies that are towed into the air by a Land Rover or winch before gliding back down to land.
Speed flying is a sport based on the principles of paragliding, but using a specially designed wing to fly fast hill descents.
A powered hang glider consists of a light weight motor driving a propeller that is fitted to a specially designed hang glider harness, in which the pilot is suspended under a hang gliding wing.
A paramotor or powered paraglider (PPG) consists of a small motor driving a propeller, worn like a backpack under a paraglider wing.
It is also possible to use human power to take off from level ground and fly specially constructed ultra light weight aircraft.
Powered Hang Glider
Human Powered Wings
BHPA Documents and Forms
British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association
Welcome to the British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (BHPA) website.
From its head office in Leicester the BHPA supports a country-wide network of recreational clubs and registered schools, and provides the infrastructure within which hang gliding and paragliding in the United Kingdom (UK) thrive.
The BHPA oversees pilot and instructor training standards, and provides technical support such as airworthiness standards, and coaching courses for qualified hang gliding and paragliding pilots.
Initial hang gliding or paragliding training must be undertaken at a BHPA registered school.
Most schools offer training in a wide range of flying disciplines, so it’s important to understand the differences between the disciplines before choosing a school.
The Learn to Fly section of this web site explains the relative merits of each discipline, the types of flying involved, and provides an insight into the training methods used.
As you near the end of your initial training with one of our registered schools, it’s important to start looking for suitable recreational club to join. Obtaining your Club Pilot rating marks the end of your formal instruction and qualifies you to leave the school and fly within a BHPA recreational club.
The BHPA supports a network of UK hang gliding and paragliding recreational clubs who are able to offer the supportive flying and social environment vital to the safe development of your flying skills, as you join other recreational flyers on the hill, and continue your progression through the BHPA Pilot Rating Scheme (PRS).
As your accumulated airtime increases and your flying skills improve, you will probably start to think about your long term goals and aspirations, and working towards your Pilot Rating, the next rung on the PRS ladder. Club coaches can offer advice and support with the flying tasks that need to be completed, and the theory exam you will need to sit.
An online BHPA Mock Pilot Rating Exam is also available. This will allow you to test your current knowledge and help you to understand the subject areas you will need to revise before sitting the real exam.
When you first leave your school and join a club, you may choose to spend your first few hours’ flying with no specific aim other than to safely accumulate airtime. However, it is well known that pilots make safer more efficient progress when they are given particular tasks to undertake.
With that in mind, a panel of experienced BHPA coaches have devised a new pathway to learning, the BHPA Pilot Development Structure. This offers an alternative to the more formal Pilot Rating System, and for newly qualified pilots aims to:
- encourage interaction between new pilots, their club and its coaches
- provide a structured way to progress, acquire knowledge and build skills through attainable goals
- reduce flying related incidents and promote safe flying
The BHPA also has a disability initiative called Flyability. This reports directly to the BHPA’s Executive Council on disability related matters within the sport.
Flyability doesn’t simply take people with disabilities flying, it strives to motivate people with disabilities to become involved in the sport of hang gliding and paragliding and to train as pilots.
Much of Flyability’s work in the sport, focuses around changing peoples perception of disability and their attitudes toward people with disabilities. Disability awareness, education and advice play key roles in Flyability’s aims and objectives, as does the development of specialist equipment, training and flying techniques.
The BHPA also publishes Skywings, the only magazine dedicated to free flying in the United Kingdom. This glossy full colour magazine is distributed by mail to around 6,500 BHPA members each month as part of their membership package.
Skywings magazine is also read by countless more hang gliding and paragliding pilots and organisations around the world who have purchased an International Skywings magazine subscription from our on-line shop.
Freely available electronic copies of Skywings magazine are also published each month on our Skywings page. These can be viewed online as a flipbook magazine, or downloaded as a pdf document. When viewing the magazine online on a device with a small screen, we recommend that you select the single page option in the menu at the top of each issue.
Back issues of Skywings magazine can also be purchased from our on-line shop.
The BHPA provides automatic £5 million 3rd-party insurance for its members. But if you require personal or travel insurance, this should be obtained from an independent insurance broker.
We hope that when you’ve found a school appropriate to your needs, made contact and begun training, you’ll discover for yourself the excitement and challenge that makes free flying such a great pastime.
If you do, you’ll also find that the level of support and camaraderie amongst pilots is one of the many great strengths of the sport.
You’ll make friends, go places and achieve things that you may have only dreamed about in the past.
It’s a fantastic sport, so why don’t you join the BHPA, and never look back.
Visiting Overseas Hang Gliding & Paragliding Pilots please read this.
Whilst Skywings magazine frequently includes lively and thought provoking articles and letters about our sport, there are also numerous alternative sources of advice, information and debate on the internet. The following are just a small selection of those available. These are independent forum and facebook pages and are not connected in any way to the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. The views expressed in them are therefore not necessarily those of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association.
For information about how and when hang gliding started in the UK, please visit the British Hang Gliding History website.
Originally created by Terry Aspinall, the British Hang Gliding History website provides a fascinating insight into the early days of our sport, and contains an extensive archive of hang gliding articles, photos and videos from the 1970s and 80s.
Find a School
Enter the first part of your postcode to find your nearest BHPA registered school
eg. enter CF44 if your post code is CF44 1BS
Latest Skywings News
Out of respect for the late Queen, the BHPA Office will be closed on Monday 19 September 2022. We will reopen as usual at 8.30 on Tuesday.
Posted: 13 September 2022
By: Paul Dancey
As a member Association of the Royal Aero Club, we join with the RAeC, in expressing our sadness at the loss of a great monarch.
Posted: 8 September 2022
By: Paul Dancey
A pioneering Afghan female paraglider pilot, currently in hiding, needs help to escape the country.
Posted: 5 September 2022
By: J. Schofield
The DHV has issued a safety notice to highlight a potential deployment issue for paraglider harnesses with zip rescue container.
Whether you have ambitions of soaring solo or you just want to learn about paragliding with somebody else “at the wheel”, a tandem instructional flight is an ideal place to start. We fly tandems in the mountains of Vermont and Massachusetts and also on the sand dunes of Cape Cod. If you go on to enroll in our Novice Package, the fee for your tandem flight will be applied towards your the Novice Package cost. Also, the flight time and flight number will count towards of the requirements of a P2 rating.
Paragliding is completely weather dependent. Passengers can reserve dates and select a desired location, but please understand that we can not confirm flight reservation and location until a few days in advance when the weather forecast is more accurate.
All paragliding tandem flights in the USA are conducted under USHPA Excemption 4721 to Federal Aviation Regulation Part 103. This exception allows 2 person flight on our ultra-light aircraft for INSTRUCTIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. This means we give tandem flight lessons, not joyrides.
Intro Lesson: $250*
You’re welcome to do the first day of the Novice Package before you commit to the entire program. During this 2-4 hour lesson you will learn basic equipment terminology and function, safety protocols, fundamentals of inflating and launching a glider, and techniques for proper ground handling. If you go on to enroll in the Novice Package, the cost of the intro lesson will be deducted from the Novice Package cost. If you’re just looking for an “experience”, we recommend a tandem flight as students are not likely to fly on the first day. We only offer the intro lesson to folks who are interested and appropriate for the Novice Package, please read below and fill out the Novice Package Application .
Novice Package: $2,750*
Earn your wings with your United States Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (USHPA) P2 rating. Appropriate for folks who have never touched a paraglider, our Novice Package is the gateway to a lifetime of airborne adventure. In this intensive course you will learn about the dynamics of free flight and become proficient at launching, flying, and landing a paraglider. At first, expect to spend lots of time ground handling or “kiting” a wing. You’ll then progress to training hill flights and tow flights. Meanwhile, you’ll be studying classroom topics at home and engaging in dialog with fellow students and instructors. In addition to internalizing physical skills, you will learn about weather assessment, decision making strategies, and the secrets of risk mitigation that enable a long, safe, successful paragliding career.
5-10 kiting lessons
7-10 flight lessons
35 flights minimum, likely many more
USHPA P1 & P2 tests
1 instructional tandem flight in the mountains
Earning your P2 can take as little as 3 weeks and as much as 12 months. How fast you progress depends on the weather, your aptitude, and how much time and effort you spend practicing and studying between lessons. Course tuition is valid for 12 months from receipt of initial deposit.
PGNE owns a fleet of top-notch gliders, harnesses, reserve parachutes, helmets and radios that you may use during instruction. PGNE also uses industry-leading tow mechanisms for creating a safe and controlled flying environment. During your training, we will help you select, purchase, set up, and transition to your own appropriate equipment, so that when you graduate you’re immediately ready to start your soaring career. There are many considerations when it comes to buying equipment, and PGNE will assist you in making informed decisions. Expect to spend between $3,000 and $6,000 on modern paragliding gear before graduation. We ask that you buy from us or at least consult with us before purchasing to ensure you make appropriate choices. Without guidance, students are prone to finding “deals” on gear which may not be a good price, fit, design, or age. Inappropriate gear may not only be unsafe, but also make learning much more difficult. Novice package students receive the following discounts:
$200 off new wing
$50 off new harness
$200 off a future international PG trip
Paragliding is highly weather dependent and lesson timing can be unpredictable. We fly and teach year-round, with 90% of training between May and October. We try to give notice several days out, but we often schedule or cancel lessons with several hours notice as the weather conforms to or diverges from the forecast. Furthermore, many of the lessons take place in agricultural fields, the availability of which changes with the dryness of the ground, the height of the grass or presence of snow, and any other concurrent use by landowners. When the weather cooperates (appropriate wind speed and direction, no precipitation, etc…) we primarily teach new pilots from Monday to Friday, 3pm-sunset. This is when the air is appropriately calm for novice instruction. Weekends are generally reserved for intermediate instruction at mountain sites, which you’ll be encouraged to observe and join with a tandem flight.
PGNE teaches ground handling and training hill flights at several sites scattered throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. However, all tow flights and gear loans originate at our HQ in Westford, Vermont. For this reason, we encourage you to consider your driving time to Westford before enrolling in our course.
Let’s be real: not everybody is a good fit for this life-changing undertaking, and some people may not be willing or able to complete the rigorous requirements of novice training. Appropriate students are:
Between 14 and 65 years old
Fit enough to take a couple hundred running steps and walk up and down a small hill for several hours
Willing to make a significant investment of time and energy in this immersive training experience
There is a lot to learn, and the process only works if lessons, practice, and corresponding classroom study are done regularly. The longer you go between lessons or practice sessions, the more you forget and must relearn, and the more lessons and effort it takes to graduate. If you can only attend lessons once a month, you’re likely never to attain the skills necessary to graduate unless you can be remarkably diligent and self-motivated to practice at home. Successful students are typically willing to schedule “life” around paragliding to be available 2-3 times per week.
What are you getting yourself into?
Paragliding can truly change your life. Not only will you get to experience the magic of flight with no engine, but you will gain access to a global community of kind, smart, helpful pilots and free-flight enthusiasts who will join you on adventures you can’t imagine. Paragliding is also one of the most serious and dangerous undertakings you can choose, and the risks should definitely not be taken lightly. If you’re not willing or able to make it a fairly large part of your day-to-day existence, please wait to begin your novice training until you are. If you are ready to commit, we’ll do everything we can to guide your transition from a “groundling” to a “soaring buddy” as safely, efficiently, and joyfully as possible.
You will pay a $500 deposit before your first lesson and the remainder in $500 increments as lessons are taken. Each lesson is valued at $250. The USHPA P2 rating requires a minimum of 7 lessons, and most students complete the course in 15-20 lessons. We are happy to charge less than $2750 for the rare talented and diligent students who can complete the requirements in under 11 lessons. Once you have paid the total package price of $2750, lessons are free until graduation (P2 rating) or 12 months.
Soaring instruction: $100- $2,000*
Congratulations, you’ve earned your USHPA P2 pilot rating! No doubt you worked really hard to build a significant knowledge base and corresponding skill-set. As you transition to soaring sites that yield higher and longer flights, your education and experience will really accelerate. However, as a new P2, you have yet to even glimpse the countless nuances, risks, and potentially fatal errors specific to paragliding. It’s essential that you go into this next phase with eyes wide open, as you only have 10-15% of what it takes to be a safe, autonomous soaring pilot.
The term “Intermediate Syndrome” is a condition where novice/intermediate pilots are especially keen to fly but largely unprepared to recognize and avoid hazards or deal with the consequences of mistakes. Intermediate Syndrome often results in new pilots getting in over their heads and facing tragic consequences. Why does this keep happening? Novices and intermediates regularly overestimate their skills and underestimate the challenges because “you don’t know what you don’t know.” It takes expertise at a given topic to be able to evaluate expertise, a phenomenon described by the Dunning-Kruger Effect . In the long run, it’s especially dangerous when the unrecognized mistakes of unsupervised young pilots pass without consequence and form bad habits.
To mitigate the risks of P2s making unsupervised decisions, USHPA flying sites have rating requirements that are typically at least P2 w/ Observer. An “Observer” could be a Site Director, rated Instructor, or a USHPA-certified Observer. It can’t just be your flying buddy . Many new P2s are surprised and disappointed to learn this. Not infrequently, P2s find that the volunteer Observers are unavailable or are already inundated with requests for supervision. This limitation, not to mention a short flying season, fickle weather, and long car rides to flying sites, can quickly take a toll on a new pilot’s enthusiasm or confidence.
That’s where our Soaring Instruction comes in. Perhaps you feel anxious about your early mountain flights, or perhaps you just can’t wait to run off of every hill in sight. Wherever you fall in this spectrum, our Soaring Instruction will help you. More than just safety and protocol, it’s about a quick, confident progression to expertise. Our team of expert pilots will help you soar in the mountains most any flyable day. Using an exclusive “Soaring” email list, we identify locations, days, and times that have the best flying potential. On any given flying day we will walk landing zones, provide site intros, and talk through flight plans, lift sources, and unique dangers for each site. Most importantly, we’ll be on the radio to guide you as you safely launch, soar, and land.
With a PGNE instructor’s guidance, you won’t be guessing how to fly in just the right way, in just the right places. This quickly yields compounding benefits. The safest flight plans also happen to help you climb the highest. With more altitude, you have more time to find and work lift. The more lift you find, the more efficient and tactile your active piloting skills become. All of this translates to safer decision making, better confidence, and more flight time. More flight time means more experience and a faster progression. And the best part? All this learning is super silly fun! All you have to do is fly with us, follow directions, and listen to feedback. Our soaring instruction puts you in the “HOV lane” to piloting like a pro.
Our soaring instruction is designed to:
Hypercharge your progression with individualized coaching
Satisfy local rules requiring P2 supervision
Graduate students as USHPA P3 with ability to take unsupervised flights at most sites
Day Rate $100 – $150:
If you’re not sure it’s for you, but want to give it a go, we’re happy to do an introductory day. This is $100 for an AM or PM site introduction and flight coaching, and can be applied towards the Soaring Package price. Subsequent lessons are $150 per half day.
Soaring Package $2000:
Our soaring package includes everything you need to safely and quickly progress to your intermediate P3 rating. We’ll start your mountain flying off with an instructional tandem flight with one of our world-class tandem pilots. Even if you’ve already done a tandem during your P2 training, this flight will further expand your knowledge of soaring strategies and landing approach patterns. Then we’ll help you launch in appropriate flying conditions and provide mountain flying instruction until you’re ready to fly without supervision. Best of all, we include a weekend-long “SIV” clinic because it’s essential for P3 pilots to be practiced at dealing with collapses and be comfortable at getting out of the sky in a hurry. This package is the best way to ensure a smooth transition from novice skills to becoming a confident and independent mountain pilot.
Unlimited local mountain instruction until P3 rating is earned or 24 months. Basically, whenever there’s a PGNE instructor(s) present on a flying day, you’re receive personalized coaching and support.
1 Instructional Tandem Flight
1 over-the-water SIV clinic (see below for details)
(Optional) 3 hours of intermediate classroom discussion
USHPA P3 exam and review
Bring a Friend: Receive $100 off per person
Gear Credit: Take $200 off a new wing and $50 off a new harness.
Travel Discount: Take $200 off a future international PG trip.
We teach soaring lessons on most every flyable weekend day and often on flyable weekdays between April – November. We call lessons via our Soaring email list and then stay in touch via an exclusive WhatsApp group on flying Days.
Students are expected to have their own paragliding kit (wing, harness with back protection, and reserve) as well as a radio and variometer. Please consult us before purchases as not all gliders are appropriate or capable of flying every site.
How to Learn to Paraglide
If you’re learning to paraglide or would like to learn to paraglide, then good on you! It’s a great hobby/sport/form of flight. It’s adventurous, yet somewhat relaxing and it leads you to spend time in some of the world’s most beautiful locations.
Decide if You Really Want to Paraglide
If you’re deciding whether paragliding is something you want to learn, it’s a good idea to try it in its most non-committal form. This is a tandem paragliding flight. Unless you have some good connections with a highly experienced pilot with a tandem paragliding harness, your first taste at paragliding will probably be tandem paragliding through a tourism operator.
You’ll get a good view of the experience of taking off, being in flight and landing. You won’t have the responsibility of controlling the paraglider and you won’t know the full thought process and decision making a pilot makes. But if you’re not focussed on the amazing view you’ll be able to watch and see what a pilot does. It’s a good opportunity to ask what your pilot is doing and how they fly to the conditions.
Most people enjoy these experiences, but how many act on this enjoyment and take up paragliding? Realistically not many – when most go home they go back to their regular lives. Ask yourself – when you return home do you still have a strong urge to learn to paraglide? Do you wish that on your tandem flight that you were in control and not just a passenger?
If you said “yes” to both of these questions, this is when you should act on this feeling, enroll in a training course and commit to learning to paraglide. Most countries and popular paragliding locations have providers who offer training courses, particularly mountain or coastal locations. In comparison to other forms of human flight such as skydiving, the barriers to entry are low. Some courses can be conducted in as little as 8 days, where you are then free to fly by yourself.
Where not against these quick courses, as long as they’re taken with the intention of them being the first step in learning to paraglide. The advantage is that they teach you the basics and get you up in the air quickly. The downsides is that you are unlikely to experience flight in a number of conditions. Soaring, thermals, flying over water, flying in mountainous regions, flying in wind, flying when there is a lack of thermal activity, the list goes on. There are many conditions which require different skills. You could also experience changing conditions while you’re in the air – you need to know how to use your equipment and knowledge and make smart decisions while in the air.
It’s a good idea after your training to continue flying with some experienced paragliders. They can help recommend places to fly in your local area which are suitable for your ability. They are also good to fly with when flying in new conditions.
Many countries have paragliding clubs and associations where you can meet experienced pilots who are willing to offer advice. These include the USHPA in the United States, SAFA in Australia, and the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association in the United Kingdom.
It’s also a good idea to learn about meteorology. Learn about different clouds and their effects on thermals. Learn to prepare for your flight even before you’ve taken off. A sound knowledge of the best weather for paragliding will enable you to not only enjoy paragliding more, it’ll keep you safe so you actually can paraglide more!
Purchase Your First Paraglider
There are similarities in purchasing your first paraglider and your first car. If your first car was a Ferrari, you’d probably end up in a crash! If you purchase a paraglider wing that’s designed for speed, you’ll probably struggle to control it and be at a high risk of crashing.
There is temptation for those with a bit of money, to purchase a really good wing now and not need to buy again for many years. It’s recommended that beginner pilots start of with an EN Rating A rated paraglider wing. These are easiest to control and to regain control when it’s lost. It can be tempting to purchase a fancy intermediate level wing so you don’t need to upgrade as early, but really you’re putting yourself at risk and reducing your enjoyment.
One area you shouldn’t scrimp on is safety and equipment, make sure you get a radio, sat nav and reserve parachute.
Paragliding Licenses & Memberships
In most countries paragliding is considered a ‘self regulated sport’ with no licence required for solo flying. However, some clubs and associations may ask to see some form of certification stating that you have undertaken training before you can join.
Some paragliding launch areas will request all pilots have national accreditation (e.g. USHPA, SAFA, British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association etc) as well as the local club membership members or purchase a visiting membership. This is to ensure that pilots have adequate levels of skill to fly and manage the hazards at that site and not put themselves or others in danger. There’s no need to feel down about this or not want to take advice from other paraglider pilots, the paragliding community is a friendly and welcoming place. Meet new people, paraglide in new locations, challenge yourself in different conditions and enjoy!
You are also required to abide by the laws in your country regarding restricted airspaces such as flight paths, airports and military bases. Pilots should also avoid flying too low over buildings, roads, powerlines and schools.