|Written by: Michal Procházka
Flying on a parachute glider – paragliding – is an “extreme sport” that’s gaining popularity worldwide. It’s not necessarily a dangerous entertainment, but you’ll definitely get an adrenaline rush.
TRUE, PARAGLIDING LOOKS simple, but that doesn’t mean that you climb a hill (or get a lift from an airplane), push off, and just let the air carry you. The thing that keeps you in the air is more closely related to a glider than a parachute. In order to fly, you have to control it – like with a Rogallo or a sail-plane. Before soaring over open countryside, you should gain enough knowledge to avoid a rough landing.
Take a course
Most beginners start at a paragliding school (see sidebar). If you’re lacking in resolve, you can first try a tandem parachute jump, for which you need only suitable clothing (see below). There are also short, usually two-day, “orientation courses”, but you don’t get a pilot’s certificate at the end. For that you have to go through an intensive, one-week training course, followed by a continuation, so-called flying course. The training costs about CZK 6,000, but you should know that:
- The school doesn’t promise you’ll get a pilot’s license, it just offers training. Licenses are issued only after the completion of the entire course and 2 to 3 hours of flying – i.e, about 60 flights.
- The course takes at least five full days.
- The school recommends or arranges injury insurance.
- The instructors must be able to demonstrate what they want their students to do.
- Specialized lectures on meteorology, aerodynamics, air traffic rules (a paraglider is officially an airplane!), emergency situation solutions, and parachute construction are required.
Paragliding schools also offer individual plans, but most students opt out of these. If the two parties cannot arrange time frames, you have to learn the same thing twice. Such courses also cost twice as much.
You don’t have to have your own special equipment before taking the course – the price usually covers renting the glider and other equipment. If you want your own, you should know that a new glider costs about CZK 60,000, and used gliders cost roughly CZK 20,000. Other recommended equipment includes:
- boots with ankle support (some schools require them),
- sports clothing that protects your entire body in the field,
- thin gloves.
Where and when to start?
Well-known flying sites are Raná near Louny and Kozákov near Turnov. The sport has slowly spread to the Beskydy and Krkonoše mountains. But first you definitely have to contact a paragliding school. Today you needn’t take the entire course in the hills, because flying from a winch (similar to a glider) can be done from level ground as well. You can start anytime during the season, from April to September.
Anyone who is at least 15 (up to 18 a legal guardian’s permission is required) and demonstrates the required state of health (2nd class) can go paragliding. A health exam must be undertaken every two years, and in Prague alone there are nearly 30 doctors who can issue these certificates. It’s best to go to the Institution of Aviation Health in Prague 6, where there are several of these doctors.
Unlike the health certificate, a pilot’s license has no expiration date and is valid internationally. Once you have one, the world’s skies are your domain.
Ústav leteckého zdravotnictví, Generála Píky 1, Praha 6, tel.: 973 212 455, fax: 224 311 934, www.ulv.cz
Mistral paragliding, J. Grulich, M. Pospíšil, Skleník, Raná u Loun 146, tel.: 608 311 883, 608 318 157, www.pgmistral.cz
Kladenská škola paraglidingu, P. Dvořák, Polská 2555, Kladno, tel.: 608 308 884, www.flying.cz
Chorche paragliding, J. Šrámek, Na Ptákách 723, Jaroměř, tel.: 777 803 093, www.chorche.com
Pegas 2000, Švábky 2, Praha 8, 266 310 495, www.pegas2000.cz
Paragliding school – Miroslav Fejt, Dolní Kalná 4, Dolní Kalná, tel.: 499 448 259, www.pgschool.net
head of presales, Enterprise Networks, SiemensWould you recommend paragliding to your friends? Why?
” Paragliding is a nice drug for rising above one’s daily problems, looking at the world from above, and experiencing peaceful flights around the thermal convections. I already convinced a few friends to try it out. Many people test it as an adrenaline experience, but some of them fall for paragliding and keep flying.”
Can you compare the experience with anything else?
” It’s hard to compare; it’s flying in 3D space. Unlike with other flying sports, paragliders are the closest to natural flight in free space. It is a beautiful feeling when you fly somewhere above a nice landscape. It is complete freedom and relaxation.”