What's it all about?
A paraglider is an aircraft which can be folded up and
carried in a rucksack. Imagine being able to walk up a
hill, choose a take off site and unroll your wing. Next clip
into your harness, gently pull on the lines and the canopy
rises above your head, turning from a "bag of washing"
into a high performance glider. Run a few steps and
It all started here in the French Alps in the 1970's when a
few free fall parachutists decided that if they could find a
steep enough hill they could launch their parachutes and
fly down into the valleys below. Soon they were modifying
parachutes and found they could use rising air currents to
stay aloft just like hangliders and sailplanes paragliding
was born. Paragliders have evolved rapidly since those
early days and now modern wings have superb perform-
ance, handling and most importantly safety characteris-
It is now possible to fly for hours at a time and for big
distances. The current world distance record is over
423km and the record distance over a triangular course is
237km. The world record height gain stands at 4526 me-
tres! These are serious aircraft.
Not everyone is going to be a world class cross country
pilot but flying a paraglider is well within most peoples
reach. Paragliders are extremely simple to fly and modern
training methods can get you airborne in a few days
then you start learning more advanced piloting skills and
how to understand the terrain, air and weather. You never
stop learning and never get tired of the thrill. From your
first hops on the beginners slopes, to your first soaring
flight on a local hill or above your favourite beach and
then perhaps climbing to cloud base in the Alps with a
Golden eagle for company....
Why Come To France?
Although you need to spend more time in school to qualify
in France than in England it is often quicker to qualify here
as there are more flyable days i.e. the weather is better.
Many pilots who have started training in the UK get frus-
trated and a trip to the Alps allows you to get some quality
airtime, which is invaluable experience.
We work with "Les Passagers du Vent" one of the top
schools in France who have a great team of professional
English speaking instructors. French instructors are very
highly qualified having worked several years to obtain
their licence and then working full time teaching.
It's extremely easy to get here you can fly to Geneva
from many UK airports very cheaply (see our travel page
for details). It's a 1½ to 2 hour flight then just a 1 hour
transfer to the chalet makes it possible to continue your
training with weekend courses.
What do I need to know
The first thing to understand and accept it that, like most
sports, paragliding has an element of risk, in fact as with
most aerial activities it is classed as a `high risk sport' by
most insurance companies etc. It is therefore vital to ob-
tain proper professional instruction to minimise these
Modern paragliding courses will teach you everything you
need to know to get started, including:
How a paraglider flies
How to handle the glider on the ground and
How to control the glider in flight
How to land (this is quite important!)
What can go wrong and how to avoid it
Understanding weather both on a large and small
Air law, and in particular where we are allowed to fly
Once you have qualified to fly solo you will normally join a
club and fly with more experienced pilots who will help you to
progress and share their knowledge, and then it is important to
continue with further courses to improve your skills and get
more out of flying - safely.
Where can I learn?
In the UK paragliding and hangliding training is managed by
the British Hangliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA).
There are BHPA registered schools in most parts of the UK and
a complete list can be found on the BHPA website www.bhpa.
co.uk . We strongly recommend that for UK based training you
only train with a BHPA registered school.
Here in France training is organised by the Federation Fran-
caise de Vol Libre (FFVL) who like the BHPA have a number of
registered schools. A complete list can be found on the web at
www.ffvl.fr. At the Last Resort we work with Les Passagers du
Vent who have long been regarded as one of the best schools
Learning to Paraglide in France
Below we explain the differences between the French and the
UK paraglider training systems and how you can use experi-
ence gained under the French system to help you qualify as a
paraglider pilot in the UK.
Most national flying organisations such as the BHPA and FFVL
are members of the Federation Aeronautique International
(FAI). The FAI have created the International Pilot Proficiency
Identification (IPPI) scheme to enable qualifications obtained in
one country to be recognised in another. In general the train-
ing schemes in both the UK and France follow the guidelines
set down by IPPI so the exercises completed under one system
should be accepted by the other. The table below shows the
IPPI levels and the equivalent qualifications in the UK and
BHPA Novice (Club) Pilot (IPPI 3)
This qualification allows you to join a UK club and fly on their
sites. It is the basic pilot level for autonomous flying. It typically
takes 10 to 12 days of training to reach this level with a UK
school. Once you have qualified as a Novice pilot you can fly
at club sites, normally with a club coach present at first and
then on your own. Ideally you would then try to obtain your
"Pilot" rating to become a truly autonomous flyer and to allow
you to fly cross country. Normally under the French system
students are signed off to free fly after about 15 days training,
when they have achieved the equivalent of the UK Novice pilot
and can practice on their own. At this stage you can be issued
with an IPPI level 3 card by the FFVL.
Para Pro Stage 2
Para Pro Stage 3
Para Pro Stage 4
Pilot & Advanced
Brevet de Pilot Niveau
Para Pro Stage 5
Advanced Pilot + Brevet de Pilot Confirme