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The Weather-Please Read This!

Paragliding is a fantastic sport and very rewarding, but the biggest obstacle to learning paragliding in the UK is the fact that a lot of days are not suitable because of the weather; rain, fog, and particularly strong, gusty or changeable winds, can make a day unsuitable or unsafe to fly.

We require light winds that do not exceed about 14 miles per hour at the point of launch, as the launch points are located on hills facing into the breeze, it is often too windy to fly even though at ground level or away from the hills it may seem like a perfect day.In Britain this effectively means a maximum of perhaps 90 or so good training days per year. In this respect we are much better off than some other sports like ballooning or parachuting, but it is a significant obstacle! There are perhaps only about 10-15 good days in the period December to March and these days can be cold requiring specialist clothing. As well as this of course. it gets dark very early. So for these reasons we do not attempt to teach during this period in the UK.This leaves about 75 days in the remaining 8 months, or about 9 days per month on average. Therefore the chances of any specific day being flyable is slightly less than 30%.If you are only available at the weekend, you can expect to have to ring in at least twice to get a good day, If you are only available on one specific day like a Saturday, that will probably means 4 calls... Some people are lucky and get flying on their first attempt, but of course the law of averages dictates that some may call many more times than others before they get a good day. And we want you to have a GOOD day!

Dealing with this.

We have a very sophisticated weather forecasting system using several sources including a dedicated weather station sited on one of our main flying sites. This is very helpful in helping us identify which days will be good, and avoiding calling people out when it is poor. It is inevitable that occasionally we will miss a day that is OK, or call out students then find it has deteriorated and we cannot fly safely.

The bottom line is that to learn paragliding in the UK you do need to have patience and make yourself available regularly to take advantage of any good weather when it is available. To get an Elementary Pilot qualification usually takes 4 good flying days and we allow an extra day for theory and the exam and to sort out any areas that need revisiting. So it can easily require 10 to 15 days of availability to complete. If you can only do weekends that may mean setting aside as many as 8 weekends.

If you have only one day per week it is quite possible for it to take all summer!

Training abroad.

If you do not have a lot of time to devote to learning how to paraglide your best bet is to try one of our training holidays abroad.
Sunsoar offer beginners training courses in early summer at the Dune De Pyla in South West France and in the Swiss Alps so if you want to complete your EP qualification in one week, this as close as you can get to a sure thing. So far with several hundred students embarking on their Elementary Piolt Course at the Dune since 1998 we have only had one week where it wasn't possible to get the course finished and that was because of freak weather! .

Since starting at the Dune we have trained beginner classes there on about 60 weeks, and only one of those has been a wash-out with storms all week. On every other week we have managed to get enough flying to finish the course and very often a start on the soaring tasks necessary for the Club Pilot Course. It is quite normal at the Dune to have good flying weather every single day.

Once you get your Elementary Pilot certificate either in Britain or abroad the next step is to do a Club Pilot course and become a qualified pilot. Doing this requires good weather for a further 6- 8 days, and therefore doing a CP in the UK can be a protracted process. We would strongly advise that you consider a training holiday either in the sunshine of Morocco in the early Spring or late Autumn, or a trip to the Alps in available at various times through the Season.

The success rate of these trips is very good and although we cannot guarantee the weather, even at these locations, the chances of finishing your course or at least getting close to completion is extremely good. (We recommend a 10 day trip for the best chance of completing a CP).The good news is that once you are qualified with your own kit you become a lot more flexible than the school and the number of days when you can fly increases significantly. Many pilots manage to fly over 100 days per year. The main reason for this is that independent pilots can manage stronger conditions than students, they can choose to start early, or more usually go flying after work on summer evenings when the wind calms down later in the day. You can chose to fly at the coast to avoid strong convection or travel to another area where the wind conditions may be better.

Of course many qualified pilots still choose to join is on our Alpine thermalling trips where they know they will get expert guidance, advice, a good social atmosphere and get those all important lifts up and down the mountain and cross-country retrieves!

The Sunsoar Team.

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