Educational by Chapter of the Powered Paragliding Bible

I: First Flight

01 Training Process

02 Gearing Up

03 Handling the Wing

04 Prep For 1st Flight

05 The Flight

06 Flying With Wheels 

II: Spreading Wings

07 Weather Basics

08 The Law

09 Airspace   

10 Flying Anywhere

11 Controlled Airports

12 Setup & Mx

13 Flying Cross Country

14 Flying With Others

III: Mastery

15 Adv Ground Handling

16 Precision Flying

17 Challenging Sites

18 Advanced Maneuvers

19 Risk Management

20 Competition

21 Free Flight Transition

IV: Theory

22 Aerodynamics

23 Motor & Propeller

24 Weather & Wind

25 Roots: Our History

V: Choosing Gear

26 The Wing

27 The Motor Unit

28 Accessories

29 Home Building

VI: Getting the Most

30 Other Uses

31 Traveling With Gear

32 Photography

--- Not in book ---

33 Organizing Fly-Ins

34 Places To Fly

35 Preserving the Sport

36 Tandem

The Perfect Beginner Wing

Wanna Learn Powered Paragliding Safely? Get a wing that won't kill you.

After analyzing some student accidents, including one fatality, I've changed the way I look at beginner wings. I don't do reviews of them typically because I'm not very interested in flying them personally but have noticed something about training: the wing can kill you.

Knowing what I know now, about student accidents and fatalities, I wouldn't THINK about starting on anything but a bona fide "school" wing.

Even as beginners, many of us fancy ourselves as "good pilots" with good instinct. The problem is that paragliding is unique in that instinctive reactions are opposite to what we feel. I refer to the left-right pendulum that bedevils new pilots and even some experienced pilots. 

Instinctive reaction to upset is opposite to what we feel. Relying on such instinct during early training can be fatally wrong.

As the wing rolls right, where does your body go? Yup: left (see below). So the new pilot feels his body go left and instinctively pulls right brake--exactly the wrong input. He'll aggravate the bank and then, as he starts to swing back the other way, will do it again, aggravating matters even worse into a potentially catastrophic wingover. This is why instructors must make sure their students are willing to go hands up when commanded to because that may be the only input that stops them from subconsciously making matters worse.

What to do?

The single best action a new pilot can do is start on a very benign-handling wing. Resist the temptation to start on a hotter wing known for better handling. That might be OK after your PPG2 rating but, until then, your survival odds will be dramatically improved with a benign wing. It should be easy to inflate only because that will improve your success. Ideally it will come up easily in no wind and not tend to front tuck. But more than anything it should have VERY forgiving handling such that pulling a LOT of brake will not likely cause a spin and will barely turn.

The Apco Prima and Axis Stardust are two examples I've flown that exhibit great behaviors for a safe beginner wing. There are others, no doubt, but I simply haven't tested them. The Power Atlas would be a good choice if it inflated easier. It's not, don't go anywhere near this wing! Of course, if you can launch a Power Atlas in no wind, you can launch anything. These are sometimes called school wings because they are so forgiving; even if you pull the wrong brake they won't let you go too far. Of course the trade off is that you won't won't turn much, either, so your training area must be plenty big.

So if you're thinking about training, besides finding a reputable, USPPA certified school, see about training on a "school" wing that has very benign handling. You may indeed have good reflexes but they won't do you any good, and may even do you harm if you rely on them in this situation. Insist on a very benign beginner wing, it may mean surviving training.

I wondered why students were struggling so hard to get this wing overhead. Looking at this picture, you would assume, as I did, that he's pulling too much A's. True, he *IS* pulling a lot, and yes, the leading edige is curled up.

So I tried it. What I found was that the only way this wing would even come up is to pull that much A's. It comes up slower than it should which isn't surprising given the deformation.

Letting the trimmers out helps but that makes it particularly susceptible to front tucking.

Pick a beginner wing that has very benign handling but that ALSO inflates reasonably easy. Nothing will matter if you can't inflate it.

© 2016 Jeff Goin & Tim Kaiser   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!