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Elementary Pilot
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SoaringThere are three courses currently on offer - a 'taster' day course, leading to Elementary Pilot and then Club Pilot Novice ratings - see below and links on the left. In addition Tandem Instructional introductory flights are also offered from time to time - CURRENTLY NOT AVAILABLE FOR NEW BOOKINGS DUE TO WAITING LIST AND OTHER TRAINING COMMITMENTS.

Being such a weather dependent sport, its impossible to say how long it would take to reach BHPA Club Pilot Novice (CPN) level which, for safety reasons, has to be done in a school. The way I work is to charge for the course on a "as long as it takes" basis, as the main concern is to turn out competent and safe pilots - not rush people through a course with inadequate practice and in so short a timescale that the lessons haven't sunk in or been fully understood. In theory, 10-15 consecutive days of ideal weather will get most people to CPN stage.

In practice the weather here never co-operates and, to be realistic, it can, and usually does, take months. Whilst this can be frustrating, the end result is that you are a  competent pilot, able to relax and enjoy your flying, confident that you have the knowledge and skills to make your own decisions and be safe. This is because by the time you have achieved Club Pilot Novice rating, you will have experienced a number of flying sites in the varying weather conditions that we get in Northern Ireland and will be comfortable flying with other members of the club here. Training is no longer confined to weekends.

The first step on the BHPA Pilot Rating system is Elementary Pilot Certificate (EPC),followed by Club Pilot Novice Certificate (CPN). CPN is the stage at which you are cleared to fly without Instructor supervision.After that you can go on to Pilot Certificate and Advanced Pilot Certificate if you wish. These (PC & APC) can be achieved within a school or in a BHPA Club under their coaching scheme. Coaches are also BHPA trained but the arrangement for progression is usually more informal than in a school. The Ulster Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club is the only BHPA club in Northern Ireland at present catering for foot launch hang gliding and paragliding and they have a number of BHPA trained and registered coaches. Coaches are not allowed or insured to deal with people below Club Pilot Novice level or to charge for their services, but are qualified to take you through to PC and APC within the Club arrangements. 

Elementary Pilot Certificate (

Given suitable weather conditions, the EPC course should be completed in 4 or 5 days on the hill.  There is a written exam (multiple choice questions), which you will pass with ease when the time comes. In the unlikely event of more than 5 days being needed to get you to EPC level, extra days will be included. First Flight considers it more important that you become a safe pilot than be restricted to a set number of days’ training. Theory aspects are covered during the course.

Club Pilot Novice (CPN)Course

After completing your EPC course successfully, progression through to Club Pilot (Novice) level should normally take another 4 or 5 days on the hill. More advanced manoeuvers are taught and practised and the theoretical side is covered in more depth so that as well as gaining the skills you need, you will understand what is going on. By the end of the CPN course you should be competent to assess sites and conditions and to fly safely without supervision. Notice that I didn't say `on your own'. It is very foolish for anybody at whatever level to be out alone flying a paraglider, as a relatively simple thing like a twisted ankle, if it happens on a cold mountain-top miles from anywhere, could be potentially fatal.

A CPN course includes the necessary theory and a comprehensive manual is supplied. Towards the end of your course you will want to get your own equipment. Having been involved in hang gliding and paragliding for over 40 years, First Flight can supply the full range of equipment new or second hand or advise on suitability and safety of any equipment you may be offered outside the school. The canopy will be one that is suitable for your weight and experience and will have been test flown beforehand. There is a wide choice available from a range of reputable manufacturers, with credit facilities available in some cases if required.

The more serious bit.

You will notice that one of the items to be `passed' at every pilot rating is`attitude and airmanship'. Attitude is very, very important. Although relatively safe compared to some other adventure sports, paragliding is still a dangerous sport. If you are inclined to be impatient or reckless; to think you know all about it after reading a book or having a few successful flights in controlled conditions; won't listen to your instructor; want to do it your way regardless; blame equipment/the wind/others etc for your own mistakes, then paragliding is not really for you. At best you will be a `pain in the neck' and a potential danger and bad example to others on the hill, and you will be unlikely to really enjoy your flights. At worst you are more than likely to injure or kill yourself and/or somebody else. Airmanship is closely related to attitude and concerns mainly competence and consideration in all aspects of paragliding activity, especially in relation to flying with other aircraft.


Some of this may sound a bit `heavy', but it is important to be realistic about the sport. Unreliable weather is the main problem and you can never guarantee that conditions will be, or will become, or remain, suitable on any day, even if  the forecast looks promising.

However, by the time you read this you will have hopefully been totally`hooked' on taking up this marvelous sport and I hope that you will take up training with First Flight.

I will need to know that you can commit yourself to being available (including Saturdays and Sundays) for up to 4 weeks ahead to give time to plan things, allowing for bad weather and other obligations. We need to be flexible because of the unreliable weather, but without the commitment on both sides we will get nowhere. I should also mention that ideally you should weigh between 7 and 16stone to be within the weight range of the current sizes of paragliders on the market.

What now?

All you have to do, after studying the information on this site, is to send me an e-mail to say you are interested and you are on your way into one of the most enjoyable sports there is.

Optional personal accident insurance is recommended and is available online, not only for paragliding training, but also for a wide range of other sports and recreational activities, using this link.