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Ascending High: The Exciting Journey of a New Pilot - Progression in paragliding

The journey of a student/new pilot is a thrilling progression through various stages of flying expertise, from mastering basic maneuvers to embarking on grand aerial adventures. Here’s how a new pilot transitions from the basics to the breathtaking.

1. Mastering Launch and Landing

The first goal for any student pilot is to perfect the art of launching and landing. Under the watchful eyes of a Flight Instructor, students practice these essential skills repeatedly. Once they achieve unassisted launches and landings consistently, they’re ready for the next exciting phase: high glides from prominent launch sites like Tamborine or Hinches.

2. Advancing to High Glides

High glides are a student’s introduction to handling their paraglider from significant elevations. An AFI remains on hand at the landing area, to offer guidance as needed. This phase is crucial as it builds confidence and skill in managing greater heights and more complex landing zones.

3. Exploring Soaring Flights

Once students are comfortable with high glides, they progress to soaring flights, which can be coastal or inland depending on wind conditions. Ridge soaring becomes a key skill here, teaching pilots to perform efficient weight shift turns and stay aloft in lifting air. This phase not only enhances a pilot’s ability to manage sustained flights but also prepares them for the more challenging thermic flights. Once you are at this stage, congratulations, you are a PG2 pilot!

4. Mastering Thermic Flights

Thermic flights introduce new pilots to thermal lifting techniques, essential for long-duration flights. On a good day, staying airborne for over an hour becomes a feasible and exhilarating goal. Pilots learn the nuances of thermaling etiquette, how to remain in lift, and the use of a speed bar to navigate out of sinking air, ensuring they can return to a safe landing area smoothly.

5. Taking on Cross-Country Flying

With solid thermaling skills, pilots move on to cross-country flying. This stage involves leaving the familiar perimeters of regular flying sites to venture distances of 5 km or more, landing in new and unfamiliar terrains. This tests a pilot’s navigation skills, decision-making, and adaptability in varied environments.

6. Embracing the Raw Beef Adventure

For those who master cross-country flying and seek further thrills, the raw beef style offers an adventurous blend of camping and flying. Pilots pack their gear, including tents and essentials, and take off to land on remote mountains or valleys. The next day, they hike up and launch again, experiencing the wilderness in a unique blend of adventure that combines flying and the great outdoors. While more common in places like Europe or India, opportunities in Australia and New Zealand also provide beautiful settings for these adventures.

7. Aiming for High-Altitude Flights

The ultimate challenge for seasoned pilots is high-altitude flying in majestic settings like the Himalayas. Obtaining an oxygen endorsement allows pilots to soar above snow-capped peaks, offering a whole new level of adventure and spectacular views.

A Sky Full of Possibilities

The progression from a beginner handling the basics of launch and landing to an advanced pilot soaring across mountain ranges illustrates the rich and varied experiences paragliding offers. Each stage builds on the last, providing increasing challenges and rewards.

Every pilot eventually develops a type of flying that aligns with their interests or lifestyle. For instance, someone with a 9-5 job who enjoys exercise and smooth sunrise flights might get into Hike & Fly racing. A person living near the coast may become a coastal pilot, honing their proximity flying skills. Those residing near larger mountains might be drawn to acro flying, while someone who prefers inland and mountainous regions might pursue competition flying. For new pilots at the Canungra Club, or any aspiring aviator, the sky is not just the limit—it's the playground.

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