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July 1999

Aerial View: High on Paragliding

An intro to paragliding in Germany

Imagine parking your car at a beautiful mountain vantage point on a sparkling summer day. From the trunk you take a suit, boots, helmet and harness, then a backpack containing your paraglider, and join your friends who are preparing to fly. After inspecting your equipment, you don helmet and harness and allow the wind to raise the canopy of your glider and launch you into the sky. Paragliding is a thriving sport, offering a solitary release from daily stress and an immense sense of achievement. Developed from parachuting canopies, modern paragliders can be soared almost effortlessly along windward slopes and across country in good conditions. Alpine conditions are ideal for paragliding and account for the rapid growth of the sport in Europe. The site possibilities are boundless and other mountainous areas offer even greater challenges. A British pilot recently crossed the Himalayas in a paraglider, stopping at villages along the way. The flight knowledge that the hang gliding world has developed over the years was a real advantage to paragliders — pilots experience the same freedom but their aircrafts are more portable and much easier to learn to fly. The paraglider itself is a simple construction made largely of nylon. Manufacturers test them exhaustively for stability and strength; a properly trained pilot with a well-developed sense of caution can fly one in complete safety. Paragliding is not a strenuous sport, requiring only average fitness. Moreover, there’s a much higher proportion of women participating in paragliding than in many other adventure sports. Despite the apparent ease of flying a paraglider, training is essential. Throughout Europe many schools offer comprehensive courses and, once trained, the pilot’s achievements are limited only by ambition and the amount of time devoted to practice. A one- or two-day introductory course is the ideal way to get a feel for the sport and gain necessary flight experience. The first day is focused on paragliding basics. Starting, running, steering, and soon thereafter, getting a comfortable glide through the air. Initially one practices by running down a gentle slope — barely leaving the ground. Once this is mastered, a slightly steeper gradient is used for the first short flight where one learns to negotiate ground handling, air speed and making gentle turns. Safely and gradually the transition to a stronger gradient slope is made. During a two-day class, even beginners have the opportunity to experience a solo flight at a height of 50 meters. The distance of the controlled flight is 200 meters from starting point to landing area. Introductory classes range from DM 100-200. Basic Certification Basic certification (Grundschein) can be earned in a three- to four- day class. Starting, running and landing as well as 20 solo flights with vertical height differences of between 40 and 100 meters provides participants with the experience needed to transition to flights with increased vertical height differences (400-1200 meters). In addition to the practical training, flight theory is also taught. After completing basic certification, the option to continue with a Höhenflugkurs (high-flying class) in order to receive the Ö-Lizenz (Austrian certification) is offered. This license allows pilots to fly only within Austria. The training includes five to 10 Höhenflüge of 400 to 1200 meters as well as classes and a written test. The flights taken will count toward the next certification. Limited German flight license (Beschränkter deutscher Luftfahrer-Schein / Österreichischer Sonderpilotenschein) The prerequisite for the Beschränkter Luftfahrer-Schein is the Ö-Lizenz. The class takes eight to 10 days. The practical training includes 15 flights with heights of 100-400 meters as well as 25 flights of over 400 meters. Holders of the Ö-Lizenz only need 15 flights with a height of over 400 meters. These flights can be regularly amassed through weekend flights. In addition to the practical training, there are 20 hours of instruction including meteorology, safety, aerodynamics and aeronautical law. The tests are conducted by the Deutschen Hängegleiter Verband (DHV). Unlimited flight license (Unbeschränkter Luftfahrer-Schein) This international certification allows for cross-country flights. The prerequisite for this certification is possession of a Beschränkter Luftfahrer-Schein for a period of at least one year. The training consists of three evenings of theory that include meteorology, navigation, flight experiences and aeronautical law. The final exam consists of both practical and theoretical tests. Although they represent one of the least expensive ways to get into the air, paragliders are not cheap. A new paraglider suitable for a recently trained pilot will cost up to around DM 6,000; top-of-the line gliders can cost even more. But secondhand canopies can be obtained for much less. Courses required for certification cost about DM 1,500.

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