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Colombian winter paragliding for low airtime pilots was a huge success

Dust yourself down and saddle up!

Having completed a cracking two weeks Xc flying with a group of ten pilots up and down the Cauca valley Fly Spain chilled by the pool for a few days, ordered fresh horses, and greeted our new group of low airtimers at Cali airport for two weeks  flying.

FlySpain has been running paragliding tours and paragliding holidays abroad from Mexico to Nepal for over 20 years. Although the winter is great in Spain we like the break and a chance to show pilots somewhere new we've discovered.  Colombia for a great winter flying destination with its tropical weather, great steaks and stunning fruit juices.

After having guided pilots around Columbian skies for over 10 years now we know what an amazing spot it is for low airtime pilots to not only clock up heaps of flying hours but to really hone their thermalling skills . Easy launches with flat landing fields are within easy glide,  restaurants, bars and waiting trucks to whisk you back up to take off or back to our hotel.

Our group of six was mostly low airtime, some either having just qualified with us 4 months previously or 2/3 years previous but not current to life & weather conundrums.

Full daily briefings

Following full briefings on launch and landing, orientation flights done we followed up with some discussions about mastering thermaling, turn control, mapping thermals and searching out lift. Of course, this information was dripped again and again over the following days, the group was lucky to have both Aaron, Rob and Dylan there, Dylan fresh from his competition at the British Open.

Our second day was fairly overcast but allowed us to make 4 big flights, not super long but the basis of every flight has a good beginning and a good landing at the end so by the end of two days the group was looking more refreshed and relaxed in their new environment to manage more thermalling.

And the group go up!

Thermnalling anywhere can be frustrating, one day you have a handle on something then the next day you don't and you land early. It's fair to say, we've all been there and you could see the same for our group, one flight saw half up for an hour thermalling and half down in twenty minutes, I'd say by halfway through the course all the group were be dancing around the sky for over an hour some longer still. 

It has been a 'La Nina' year, angry toddler weather, so themic and flyable but late afternoon meltdown and cracking thunderstorms. Despite that by the second week all our group were flying from cloud base to cloudbase and back to our hotel in the valley, by halfway through the second week the gang were popping and making twenty to 40 k flights over 2-3 hrs.

Joining the dots

None of the conditions were particularly challenging but remember the environment was probably a shock to the system, flying with other people meant you had to keep a good lookout for random pilots turning the wrong direction!  Meticulously concentrating on turn control of your paraglider in pitch and roll, every day was a school day but the happiness we saw from the boys day in day out was wonderful. Joining the flying dots like that is a real opportunity to build skills, get in-flight coaching on technique, body posture, trimming your glider, mapping, the whole nine yards. 

Accomodation & food

We stayed in one Hotel for the duration, you could book a single room for only a little extra (or get a suite with a jacuzzi if you wanted a little extra luxury) or bring a partner. The hotel supplied the best breakfast I've ever had in Colombia plus an evening restaurant knocking out fantastic steaks for a cost of a pint and bag of crisps back home.

We generally left for flying about 9.30/10 and were back home by 4 to enjoy an afternoon dip in one of the hotel pools, we'd often try and eat early as everyone was exhausted from flying. My only advice for future pilots wanting to join us is practice a few forward launches before you come(remember those) conditions are light on takeoff as they so often are aborad in thermic sites. apart from that, we shall be running another trip next year to the same location.

Seeing happy pilots achieve so many personal goals and really progressing in their flying is part of the pleasure us instructors get from coaching on progressive course like this. Obviously, we will be running our self-styled Mentor Plus course for low airtime pilots as normal back in Spain from March onwards through to the end of November but if you'd like to get your name down on our next Colombia course see our calendar for dates

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