Out of all the flying sports paragliding is probably the safest of all. That said, unless it’s taken seriously and treated with respect, it can still be highly dangerous.
Training and Flying Within Safe Limits
As a novice to paragliding, the urge to get up in the air is possibly going to be your biggest downfall. Enthusiasm is all well and good but not at the expense of cutting corners.
One of the important things to ensure that your paragliding adventures are safe is to obtain professional training. There is bound to be a club near to where you live and you can find out more by checking out the British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association website. Proper training not only teaches you the basics but will also teach you about risk assessment and awareness which will provide you with the skills and, perhaps more importantly, will help you adopt a mental attitude towards putting safety first.
Think of the Weather
If you are driving a car, your speed will often be dictated by the prevailing weather conditions. For example, you’re hardly going to drive at 70 mph when it’s icy are you? So, just because there’s less traffic in the sky, you should adopt a similar mentality to paragliding. Most paragliders, regardless of how much experience the pilot has, usually have a top speed of 25 miles per hour. Therefore, if the wind speed is greater than 20 mph, you should put off your flying until another day. In the mountains, strong winds have even a greater impact on safety as there will usually be more air turbulence to contend with. Even the most skilled pilots won’t venture out in the mountains if the wind speed is above 15 mph.
A healthy attitude to adopt where the weather’s concerned is that it’s better to be on land wishing you were flying than to be up in the air wishing you were down on the ground. Think of the laws of gravity – going up is always optional, coming down isn’t!
Know Your Limitations
Like any sport or activity, you are always going to be more proficient than some people and less so than others so, just because you see other pilots taking to the skies, it’s important that you know your own specific limitations. Many pilots have come to grief due to going out in bad weather or have tried to practice complicated maneuvers they’re not fully trained to do simply because they’ve seen others do it. Remember, our skill levels are all different.
Feeling vulnerable is a healthy approach to paragliding. Yes, you can still be confident, yet by remaining aware of all the potential risks, you’re more likely to adopt a safer approach to your piloting so lose any ego you might have whilst you’re flying.
Learn About Your Site
If you are flying from a site you haven’t flown from before, do some research on the internet to find out all about it. Learn about potential hazards and things which you should look out for. And, once you’ve arrived at the site, speak to the locals. Tell them about your level of experience and don’t be afraid to ask them for any advice. Firstly, they’ll respect you more and can give you lots of useful tips and information.
Maintaining Your Equipment
Have your equipment checked yearly by a qualified instructor or a knowledgeable shop or distributor. They’ll check the lines for wear and tear, for stretching or shrinkage and the porosity of your wing. Also, remember that you must have your reserve parachute repacked annually.
Keep all Decision Making Black and White
“Maybe”, “probably” and similar words should not form any part of a paragliding pilot’s vocabulary. There is no room for grey areas. So, if you find yourself thinking, “maybe the wind will die down once we’re up there” or “we’ll probably be able to reach the landing area”, that means DON’T fly!