LEARNING TO FLY IN THE SOUTHERN LAKES AREA
I used to run a school based on Mount Iron behind Wanaka until houses covered the landing field so these days I only fly Tandem flights, but I do recommend you check out the schools based in Queenstown at the Flight Park on Malaghans Road.
It takes over 15 days to get the 40 logged flights that are required for an unrestricted paraglider rating (PG2).You can try out the sport with an introduction day or three day course to a restricted rating. You must join the NZHGPA this costs an additional $130 and if you are going overseas an FAI equivalency card known as a ParaPro will come in handy.
Glider, Harness and Reserve plus a Altimetre Vario can cost new between $5000-7000. Paragliders are sized for your total flying weight and rated for ease of use. You’re first glider should have a DHV 1 or CEN A class. Don’t be tempted to buy even a slightly higher classed wing or older model, Your first 300 flights should be on the safest possible equipment.
Once you know PG is what you really want to do you could commit and buy equipment. If you do it at the beginning and learn on your own gear the school doesn't have to provide gear and of course can make a profit on the sale so the course can be negotiated. Don’t turn up with something you bought off Trade Me and expect a professional instructor to teach you though, they should only teach on equipment that they are totally familiar as the the reactions of the glider and harness must be predictable to reduce risk.Anyhow once you have your rating you will need equipment of your own. Second hand equipment can be good value but personally I will only fly on new equipment because the latest stuff is better performing, easier to handle and safer through all the classes and I know the history of the materials.
KITING, AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH.
A self generated way to learn heaps and become self reliant.
Kiting or ground handling as it is also called is playing around with an old glider in a light wind(5-15 kph steady wind) on a open piece of flat ground like a park or beach, there should me no hazards you could be pulled on to and a helmet and gloves are a very good idea..
There are many sets of older equipment sitting in peoples spare rooms so pay nothing for them if you possibly can, they are worthless to anyone else except someone like you.You can kite gliders of any class but DHV 2 and up can require more skills.A smaller sized glider is best as you won't be so likely to be overpowered in stronger breezes, but for safety set a 15kph (about 10 knot) limit at first then progressively go to a max of 25 kph but not gusty. Although later gusts will teach you a lot about how the wing will behave in turbulence.
You can discover a lot by yourself as long as you have the self discipline not to try and fly or go out in strong wind you are relatively safe. After a good amount of practise, about ten one hour sessions over a month at a minimum you will have a good feel for the glider and it won't have cost you a cent.
Important! You are not going to try and fly by yourself so stay on very shallow slopes or flat ground.
To begin try and sort lines out and figure how to play with the wing like a kite keeping it overhead for as long as possible, 2 or 3 seconds is hard at first and it may take you five sessions before you can make a minute.
Kiting will give you skill and confidence but it is not easy and you will often struggle to progress. Your learning will come from within and when you go on to a school your learning ability will be enhanced. Control of the glider on the ground translates directly to the instinctive weight shifts and brake pressure that is required in flight.