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BEGINNING THROUGH ADVANCED HANG GLIDING LESSONS
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Hang gliding is the best thing I have found to do with my time. I could write pages trying to explain it, but I feel that is unnecessary. Like a religion, the people who need it find their way to it by their own means, for their own reasons. Some consider flying to be their religion.
The most cogent statement I have read on the topic is from one of free-flight's eariliest pioneers: Leonardo Da Vinci. There is much debate as to whether Da Vinci's experimentation ever resulted in his actually taking flight. This quote from his notes might be the best evidence that he did fly:
"Once you have tasted flight your eyes will be turned forever skyward; for there you have been, and there you will always long to return".
Another quote from a later innovator who we know spoke from experience is this one which I first saw on the back cover of a catalog from Eipper-Formance (an early U.S. hang glider manufacturer):
"The indefinable pleasure experienced in soaring high in the air, rocking above sunny slopes without jar or noise, accompanied only by the music issuing from the wires of the apparatus, is well worth the task of becomming an expert".
Otto Lilienthal 1893
Learning to hang glide has its risk. Any activity in which you are in motion where there are objects to run into is hazardous. A hang glider flies at a minimum speed of about 20 miles per hour. It is possible to get injured or killed hang gliding. Otto Lilienthal was fatally injured during his experimentation.
We understand a great deal more about flying and flight safety today than the flyers in the infancy of aviation 110 years ago. The hang gliding teaching methods of today are vastly improved over just 25 years ago largely by result of U.S. Hang Gliding & Paraglidng Association programs.
Of the estimated ten thousand hang glider pilots in the U.S. about ten fatal accidents occur per year.
If you need to learn to fly, call or E-mail to arrange lessons. You can schedule a lesson weeks in advance if you wish, but I usually do not need such advanced notice. One or two days notice usually works for me. I have been known to do a lesson on only hours notice.
I can teach any day of the week. Weekends are fine as well.
A lesson usually takes place during the last 3 hours before sunset so we have smooth air in which to learn. I will carry the glider up the hill for you as many times as I can (my record is 82 in one session), so you can spend your energy doing training flights. Conserving your energy in this way can mean the difference between getting 25 to 35 flights in a lesson rather than 10 flights. I charge one hundred fifty dollars per session.
Learning to fly is work. Expect a physical workout on the training hill. Wear light-weight sports or hiking shoes. Bring a jacket. It will get cool at sunset. You will be tired at the end of the day. We will stop when you are too tired to make strong launch runs, or at any time you so wish. Here is a list of accoutrements you should consider bringing to your lesson sessions.
But don't think of it as hard work. I remember my training hill days as some of the most fun and rewarding of my life. After all, we get to fly!
It is un-natural for a human to fly. Your brain will need to change from two-dimentional thought to three-dimentional thought. Most people who want to do it, can. Some cannot.
It is best to do as many lessons per month as possible. You learn better by frequent repetition of flights. You should try to do a minimum of one lesson per week (or at least one every two weeks) in order to retain what you learn and make meaningful progress. Generally you will need to do 100 or more take-offs and landings on the training hill before progressing to your first higher flight.
Here in Souther California, we can train any time of year.
If you intend to start your training soon, you should get a trianing manual and start reading the first few chapters. I have some of the Peter Cheney training manuals at my shop which I sell for $30. If you buy a manual and later decide you do not wish to continue with lessons, I will buy it back for $25.
Flying is different than any other activity. Once you launch off a mountain, it is entirely up to you to get your craft back on the ground safely. The process of learning this must not be abbreviated. Your life is at stake.
You need to learn what all types of pilots such as airplane and helicopter pilots learn about navigating through the air, about weather and about how moving air affects you as a flyer. We launch and land on our feet, but the flying is the same.
There are four normal ratings available from the USHPA (US freeflight organization). It costs, I believe $149 per year to be a member. You need to be an active member(pay dues each year) to possess a rating. The ratings are described here:
I will give you two tests for the first two ratings after you have a few flights off the mountain.
You can expect to achieve a Hang II rating in about 7 lessons. One could do this in seven consecutive lessons if the weather cooperates and you have unusual physical conditioning. No one has done it yet. Training hill lessons are strenuous. It is best to have at least one rest day in between them. Most need more.
Once you start flying off the mountains, the physical effort is much less. We will still be doing our activities late in the afternoon each day that we go.
Lessons will be during the last three hours of the day. The first lesson starts an hour earlier to accommodate classroom work.
Also, study this video(in stop-frame if your viewer allows) of a student making a nearly perfect training hill flight.
Bob Kuczewski took some photos of a student and I working on his take-offs and landings at the training hill.
My Beginner Hang Gliding Syllabus should answer many of your questions regarding lessons.
If you wish to see what hang gliding is like before getting started, you are welcome to come along (for no charge) on a hang gliding day-trip to the local mountains. Call or e-mail and leave your number. I will call you when I am taking students out. Also, you can come out to the training hill any time to observe.
Music is "Hamar Promenade" by Jorma Kaukonen from his "Quah" album from Grunt Records on RCA.
The following videos were produced by two of my students who are now Hang IV pilots, representing their thoughts on their training experiences.