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Your paragliding holiday questions answered

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What exactly is a Paraglider?

A paraglider may look vaguely like a parachute or commonly confused with a parasail or parasailing because this is where it has evolved. Paragliding is now at a very exciting stage in its development, from being just a fun method of decent from hills, paragliding now offers the pilot the sensation of true free flight for hours upon hours. Using modern high strength materials a canopy only weighs about 7kg and packs neatly into a rucksack. This makes this "aeroplane in a bag" totally portable and can complement other sports such as skiing and mountaineering.

The paraglider wing is an inflatable structure. It consists of a row of tubes open at the front and closed at the back joined together side by side. The wing moving through the air keeps these tubes (or cells, to give their correct name) inflated. The air goes in the front but can't get out the back. These cells are cut into the same cross sectional shape as an aeroplane wing and it is this "aerofoil" section that provides the lift to our wings. The pilot is supported underneath the wing from a web of lines, each one with the strength to support the pilot alone. These lines are then attached to risers, a strap like device that is then itself attached to the pilots harness.

The harnesses we use for training are very simple but the ones used by the experienced pilots can look like a bucket seat taken from a racing car. These incredibly comfortable harnesses can come with airbag back protection systems to protect the pilot from unplanned hard landings, built in reserve parachute systems and all sorts of electronic instrumentation ranging from digital altimeters to global positioning systems. Cross-country flyers can look more like astronauts than paraglider pilots! The pilot holds a control handle on each side to steer the glider into turns. The control lines run to the rear of the canopy from these handles and by pulling smoothly down on one line at a time, one side of the wing slows down there-by turning the glider. With these controls you can perform anything from a gentle turn, to a screaming spiral dive, slow the wing down for landing and damp out turbulent air.

What can you do with a Paraglider?

Paragliding is predominantly seasonal in Britain, the best of the season is from April/May to September. There have been exceptional years and if you are persistent there are occasional windows over winter when you can get some really lovely crisp soarable days. We don't fly in rain and need a maximum wind speed on the hill of at most 15mph for training. We also fly in no wind at all as we can provide our own inertia to inflate the canopy simply by running. For those pilots looking to fly a little more over then they tend to head south to Spain or the Canaries.

You can do many different things with a paraglider. You can hike up a large mountain and use the paraglider to fly back down again but soaring ridges is the most common form of paragliding in Britain and the rest of the world. When the wind blows directly onto a ridge or hill, the air is diverted over the top creating a "wave" of lift. We can soar or surf this "wave" to stay airborne for hours. After your flight you simply land back on the top of the hill where you took off from. Flight times can be anything between 5 minutes and how long one can hold their bladder!

Flying is a tremendously personal thing, for some soaring around on a beautiful coastal site while abroad on holiday with the family or a green British hillside is divine, others like to thermal with the birds and see how high they can get before the sun sets. The ultimate challenge for some pilots is to fly cross- country using rising thermals of hot air to climb to "cloud base" covering great distances. The current world record is over 400km and in Britain, just over 180k from North Wales to Luton…avoiding the airport!

How many people fly... in Britain and Europe?

Don't think for a minute that paragliding is a specialist Sport. Britain has a comparatively small number of flyers, around 7- 8,000, of which Paragliding pilots make up 4- 5,000 the rest are hang glider pilots. However between the French and Germans alone there are around 60,000 pilots, the Swiss boast another 20,000. These figures are based on registered flyers. It’s difficult to say precisely how many Americans, Canadians. Kiwi’s and Australian pilots there are plus the Japanese…. Basically you can fly virtually everywhere in the world. The simple fact is that massive amounts of people are and have tuned into one of the most pleasurable experiences you can do…that is free flight!

What is thermalling?

Thermalling is flying around in circles to stay in the areas of best lift exactly the same way as the birds, like kites & buzzards or Griffin Vultures (which you see in this country all year round). Average good climb rates in Britain during the summer are around 400 feet per minute although 900 to 1000 feet per minute is not unheard off.

There is nothing to compare to the buzz you get from banking a glider onto it's wing tip and rising skywards in a strong, smooth thermal, ground features getting smaller with every turn. One student on his first trip abroad said to me following his first thermic flight "I am so glad that I’ve not gone through my entire life without experiencing that incredible flight". All this and more is open to you in the world of paragliding and it is one of the few adventure sports where women can compete on equal terms with men as physical strength or body weight is not an issue.

Are paragliders safe?

As with any transport, paragliding is a safe as you chose to make it:

Sadly no flying machine can offer complete impassive security. Whether it is a charter flight, balloon, jet fighter, latest aeronautical invention, there is a perceived and appreciable risk with everything you do. Paragliders and hang gliders are not power driven so there is no risk from engine fire or malfunction. If you maintain what little equipment one carries there should never be any reason for structural failure. However, you must be aware that there are potentially inherent dangers in Paragliding. By nature of it being a semi-rigid structure, flying the glider in rough or turbulent conditions beyond ones experience can lead to canopy instability. Paragliding can be as safe as you make it, fly in marginal or rough thermic conditions beyond your experience or on high performance gliders beyond your own perceived ability and you redefine the margin of safe and risk taking.

A good pilot is not just someone who has learnt the basics of flying in a progressive manner but still continues to practice and pursue their flying with a cautious and open mind. Current regular flyers make safe and confident flyers, glider control courses are aimed to build confidence and a certain amount of predictability of the glider’s behaviour. Only fly if you are comfortable to do so, remember paragliding should be a pleasure not a competition with ones nerve or pride. Strive to do the basics well and confidently and you can fly late into life incident free.

A word or two about Safety

Safety is paramount to the sport of paragliding. It is important to understand that paragliding can be a dangerous sport, its about you the pilot making decisions about whether to fly or not, if you are thorough about your approach then you can enjoy years of fabulous free flight. However both Instructors and current paragliding pilots alike already appreciate the importance of sensible and progressive pace setting in tuition, tasks and future improvement. Paragliding can be and generally is as safe as you choose to make it. Like the car driver who takes a corner in wet or icy conditions at high speed, the statistics favour the driver to drives to the conditions of the road.

In paragliding the pilot who flies in an environment that they are comfortable and familiar with will have a long and fulfilled life of flying. Instructors here at Fly Spain do not wish to see any injury or pain to students, so every care is taken that tuition is undertaken in the appropriate weather conditions and tasks are set according to the students current level of proficiency.

Paragliding is a decision making sport, from the moment you are on launch the decision to take-off is ultimately yours. At Fly Spain we endeavor to teach confident and sensible piloting skills with a healthy attitude to the environment they chose to fly in. If at any point prior to launch one is not happy with either the task, personal fitness or confident in the flight plan then it is solely the responsibility of the pilot/student in charge to stand down and rectify this indecision.

What about Personal Fitness?

Paragliders come in all sizes catering for both light and heavy weights a piece. Thankfully for most of the instructors I know, you don't need to be an athlete. Generally as long as you can put one foot in front of another and break into a gentle jog you can safely learn how to fly. Early in your course you will be expected to walk up a few gentle slopes but for the remainder you will be driven. We aim to teach you at your own pace, but if you have any queries concerning some aspect of your health do speak to us regarding them.

Are there any exams?

Yes there will be two multiple-choice papers. You don’t need to know any rocket science to learn to fly a paraglider but there is a need to know and have a basic comprehension of how gliders fly and the rules of the road. Knowledge of the weather is part and parcel of making good safe flying decisions and getting the best out of your flying. Lectures will be given on all aspects of the exam and more.

Some basic background reading can be very useful, for good and easily comprehensible literature that would ease you into the sport try any of these titles;

BHPA Pilot Handbook by Mark Dale: a superb book, very readable and highly informative.

Touching Cloudbase by Ian Currer: Bit of a paragliding bible, not as gripping to read but guides you from the very basics to novice pilot level in a nice logical order.

Understanding the Sky - Dennis Pagen; Brilliant book on the weather, really easy to absorb and understand, not too fiendishly technical.

All these books are available from us just email us info@flyspain.co.uk


What qualifications will I receive?

We are primarily a BHPA registered school, on successful completion of the course you will receive a full British Club Pilot Rating. 

If you are a pilot from another country it is possible to convert your qualification to an IPPI Para Pro 3 award (British Club Pilot Equivalent) and a signed British Logbook demonstrating your level of achievement if you wished to be assessed in another country.

We are the most experienced paraglidng school  in Europe offering paragliding lessons and courses abroad all year round. No other school in Spain can offer a BHPA qualification without an extra conversion course.

What if we get really bad weather?

In the very unlikely event of loosing a whole week’s flying we will give you credit towards another course in the future. Any half days during the week lost to bad weather will be used for either lectures or exams. We always try and ensure you get the very most from the week and return for more!

Can I bring a non-flying partners…

All are welcome, we will happily pick them up from airport when you both arrive, our house is lovely and relaxed with terraces to sit and read and wind down. We can't gurantee a place in the bus to watch you fly, if we can we will  of course buyt pilots come first.

Of course there will be an accommodation supplement for partners and children(depending on age). The Non flyer supplement is 200 euros per week.

Algodonales is a stunningly beautiful area. There are massive amounts to keep everyone busy while you are flying. Stacks of history, horse riding to kitesurfing. Picnics & canoeing on the lake, stunning restaurants, charming bars and beautiful white hillside villages of Andalucia, everything is out there to do and explore. Here are some general links to activities in and around the area . For more ideas have a look at our "what other activities can i do in Spain..."

What do I do about equipment during the course or if I want my own?

If you are on a paragliding course with us all our paragliding equipment will be provided from a safety helmet to glider and  harness within the course price. We also use Radios on bigger hill flights for certain tasks like soaring and Big Ears manoeuvres.

The gliders you fly on in the later half of your course and when you leave the school tend to be a little different from the training gliders you first go out on.

Some students prefer to buy their own equipment from the outset & learn to fly using that. Others choose to buy new or used equipment half way through the course so that by the end of the course they are au fait and comfortable with their new kit in the company and familiar surroundings of their instructors.

Our recommendation is to try and hold off buying equipment until you have completed two or three days of the course, by then you will be familiar with what is on the market and what you might like. The choice is huge and depending on what your intentions, not all equipment is suitable. If climbing and paragliding is an ambition then you will want very specialist light weight equipment, like wise, if you commute with your business a lot and you need something more portable. It just allows you a chance to look around and see what gliders and harnesses are available, we have a good selection of demos paraglider wings and harnesses for you to try. Regardless if you are on the inclusive glider-training package and have bought your kit new, there won’t be any pressure on you to select the first thing that’s put in front of you.

Where can I fly in Britain ?

Potentially anywhere there is a hill or mountain. Britain is quite exceptional in that it has a very sociable and positive community of flyers, regional clubs and schools. The BHPA (Governing Organisation) will happily give you a list of local clubs in and around Britain. Most local clubs encourage new or visiting pilots to make contact and join as members for a very acceptable amount of cash. In exchange you meet club coaches and receive a site map of the area showing a local contact for the sites, access, and subtleties and sensitivities of each hill or mountain. If you are flying abroad for the first time then the safest way is with a local guide or school who know the area and conditions well. The BHPA may be able to help here but generally look in the Association magazines or on the net and find what you are looking for.

When are courses run?

Learn to fly courses are run from January to July and September through to December so as to coincide with the most ideal conditions in which to teach. July is hot but we break the days with time near the pool! Late summer conditions in Algodonales tend to favour the more experienced pilot looking for more thermic and cross country flying. Pilot thermalling and Holidays run from February through to late December.

What clothes do I need to bring?

Well, seeing as you are on holiday, whatever you need, although you can generally buy anything you are missing in the village at very reasonable prices.

The season is super hot from end of April to End of September, It begins cooling doen from october to February and begins to warm up from Mid Feb to end of April.

Clothes for two weeks including any fleece type layers for higher altitude flights. It can be cooler at the top of a mountain, even when it is very warm in the valley.

We provied towels

Bring a swimming costume, as there is a beautiful freshwater reservoir that you can canoe or swim in at the end of a day’s flying. Sun block is essential even over winter.

The Eagles Nest does have a washing machine so if you get too muddy then there always an option  to wash your clothes.

Stout boots, ideally walking boots or similar like Timberlands, or our shop has a selection of the best Gortex paragliding boots on offer.


What is the currency and where should I get it from?

Euros. There are cash machines everywhere, which are very useful and only charge, a nominal amount for transactions.

If you need to change large amounts the do shop around, the post office is possibly on eof the worst places to convert sterling to euros. Thomas cook centres offer great rates and a very clever currency card whihch you can charge up with currency and draw out from any bank machine abroad

Where do I fly to?

If you want to make the most of our free airport transfer then you need to fly into Malaga before one pm and return post 2.30 on the saturday.

Ideally you need to fly into the main Airport in Malaga, it is the largest and busiest airport in the south of Spain therefore offering many flights at extremely reasonable prices. There are many companies offering very low cost flights over the Internet, these are the most popular ones; Easy Jet, Travel Jungle, Flight Line. A good new site is Kayak.

Malaga to Algodonales takes approx. one and a half hours and gives you the opportunity to see some of the stunning sights of Andalucia. Alternatively, you can fly to either Jerez or Cadiz, approximately an hour and a half from Algodonales but there will be a more limited offer on flight times. Companies offering flights to these destinations include Cheap Flights and BMI Baby.

Will I be collected?

We only provide a free transfer if you can fly into Malaga airport before One O'clock and return late afternoon or later. For Guided/Pilot weeks and Club pilot week's arrival and departure days are Saturdays.

Elementary Beginners courses are an exception as arrival day is Sunday and departure is as normal the following Saturday.

Meet the Fly Spain driver  outside  Departures of the  mainTerminal building

 Alternatives are Car hire (which is reasonably inexpensive, budget between 70 –120 Euros or out of season much less) click here for car hire options

 The Bus which takes about 2.5 hours, which you catch from Malaga central (very easy), it costs at most 10 Euros and will drop you off in either Ronda or preferably Algodonales. Contact us for any further details or bus timetable

Do I need to hire a car?

Transport will be provided to flying sites and for retrieve. If you wish to hire a car for the evenings or to accommodate your flight arrivals or allow non-flyers to independently explore the many beautiful sights of the surrounding area. 

For a special rate on your Spain car hire, please check the special discount up to 10% Sixt can offer your next stay in Spain. Check the prices here.

How do I pay for my course?

Deposits are required to guarantee a place on either tuition or holiday weeks and can be paid by bank transfer to either a Uk or Spanish account - email us for details or click here. The remainder can either be payed the same way prior to the course or in cash on arrival.

Ideally the remainder of monies owed should be paid in Euros drop us a line if  you are unsure what the remainder is. We cannot accept cheques unless they are a euro cheque.

Course bookings are only confirmed upon receipt of transferred deposits.

Cancellations: Deposits are strictly non refundable. Cancellations less than a month before the course or failure to attend a course or holiday  will mean the full payment of the place to be paid. We try and keep our course and holiday numbers sensible so as to achieve the great results that we do, therefore numbers are strictly limited. Please make sure you buy holiday insurance that will cover you for unforseen cancellations or postponements


Car directions and bus timetable from Malaga Airport?

For both directions from the Airport or Bus timetable from Malaga Airport see our Malaga arrivals page.

What Clubs can i join in Wales and the Uk?

Once qualified, the BHPA send out a list of prospective clubs you can join back in the uk, alternatively you could check out their site. There are some great clubs in and around Wales, here is a list:South West soarers is our local club and you could not want for a friendly group of pilots, Mid Wales Club is a very active club with a growing membership and great website, South East Wales club has been very popular club with both pilots locally and as far away as London and the South coast, Malverns, Long Myndd Soaring club. , Welsh Borders club, although the club is fairly inactive and has no school has some fantastic hills to fly.For more information on flying in Wales have a look at the Welsh Free Flight Federation

What other activities are there in Spain for Non-flyers?

What can't you do, there is a raft of things here, many come here just to walk the national parks, wind down in  the local White villages, we wil post a more extensive list when we get the chance,for the minute, if its horse riding then we have local gudies and school that can take you out every and any day, best contact us for a number as few seem to have websites.

For anything to do with Cycling, whether it be Moutnain biking, road cycling or leisure cycling along the via verde with the kids contact  Ashley and Claire At Andalucian Cycling Adventures

If you want to not just sample the local food but learn how to cook it then check out Finca Alta Cocina for cookery courses.

For getting muddy on motorbikes a great company out in Cortes offer daily and week long rides

Following a tour of the Jerez Sherry Houses or a Spanish horse show why not take have a relaxing Hammanm Bath, Scrub and massage at  the Arabic baths iin Jerez.

How about A flight in A Gyro Copter near Medina Sedonia

If golf is your game these guys are fanatastic, they offer be-spoke  Golf tours around the Costa de Luz

Algodonales is right on the edge of the Sierra de Grazelema National park, one of Spain´s Oldest and most beautiful , check out the Grazelema Guide for all that is available withing the park plus books, activities etc

One of the nearest and most interesting 'Pueblos Blancos' [white villages] is Olvera. Here, apart from exploring this fascinating town, you can find Artesanía del Prado a country workshop specialising in the production of hand thrown pottery and hand made glass. Link www.artesaniadelprado.es

Need some Holistic restive treatment or massage then email Lynda Pudney

Want some more detailed information about life and everything in Andalucia then try the informative online guide


Can I get a single person supplement?

Yes you can, we charge 150 person but these rooms are limited so it's very much first come first served. When you book direct via the site it's important to follow through the booking confirmation online to add your single person supplement.