Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is paragliding the same as parasailing, parachuting, or BASE jumping?

A: Not even close! Parasailing is what you do out on the ocean behind a boat. This requires no skill at all, and you’re at the mercy of the boat operator. He drags you up and down and you've probably had too much to drink if you’re on vacation. This is definitely not paragliding! Parachutes are designed to be deployed during a free-fall from an airplane and to then descend to the ground. We don't deploy our paragliders. We inflate them like a kite, and ease them overhead. Base jumping is a form of paragliding for those crazy souls who like lots and lots of risk for a rush that lasts a few seconds. These lunatics jump from cliffs, bridges, buildings, or any other high altitude platform. Our gliders don't endure the stress that parachutes do. We launch from gentle sloping hillsides with our gliders already inflated overhead ready to fly. We can check the glider and abort before we launch if we see something we don’t like. Launching is never rushed. We can pull the glider overhead and stay there kiting it until we decide to launch. Paragliders are much lighter and more aerodynamic, designed to go up rather than down.

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Q: How is paragliding different from hangliding?

A: Paragliding and hang gliding are very similiar in terms of the pure joy of flight. The sensation of flying either craft is very birdlike. Many pilots enjoy both sports equally, you should consider learning both. There are aspects that make each a little easier in some situations and more difficult in others. A paraglider is a bit faster to set up and put away, it folds up into a 30 lbs. backpack in about five minutes and can be easily transported in the trunk of a car, whereas a hang glider requires a roof rack for transport and takes at least twice as long to set up and take down, they generally weigh twice as much as a paraglider. Pilots commonly carry their paragliders to the tops of peaks in the Cascades, Alps, Andes, and Himalayas, this would be difficult with a hang glider. It's also easier to check the paraglider as luggage with the airlines or bus, or even just to hitch a ride back to launch. Paragliding launches are not as "committing"; if you want to stop your launch, you just stop running and the canopy floats down behind you. BUT, a hangglider can be launched from smaller spaces, i.e. narrow openings in a treed ridge line, and more easily in higher winds. Because hang gliders fly slightly faster, they can cover greater distances more easily and can fly up-wind more easily. But paragliders, which have advanced rapidly over the last few years, can now cover distances almost as great and, due to their tighter turning radius, can often stay aloft in light lift when hang gliders can't. Both paragliders and hang gliders can be towed into the air by winches and can use auxillary motors to launch. Hang gliders, due to their slightly higher speed range have the unique advantage that they can be towed by motorized ultralights thousands of feet above the ground where they can then release to fly freely, just like a sailplane, this is very fun. Paragliders can more easily be landed back on top of a mountain or the side of a hill and use much smaller landing areas, This makes cross country flying less stressful. A hang glider is controlled through weight shift and the feeling of carving turns is similiar to riding a roller-coaster head first. A paraglider is controlled through weight shift and application of brakes which deform the back edge of the glider, there is a similiar feeling of carving turns, but there's not as much speed and you're upright in a sitting position. They both have similiar safety records.

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Q: What can I do with a paraglider?

A: Paragliders are designed to soar. The flight duration record is over 11 hours, and the distance record is 300 kilometers. In training, your first flights will be off a gentle 200 ft. slope. As you progress and become more skilled and confident we will take you to the mountains. This is where the paraglider is used for its designed purpose--SOARING! Average recreational pilots, utilizing thermal and ridge lift, routinely stay aloft three hours or more. Pilots soar to altitudes of 18000 ft. and travel cross country for great distances. Paragliders can be carried in a backpack and launched off most mountains. Paragliders have been flown of almost every major peak in the United States and Europe. Once you become an advanced pilot you can pioneer launches in areas never flown before.

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Q: Is paragliding scary?

A: Paragliding is the simplest and most serene way to fulfill man's oldest dream -- free flight! The pilot jogs down a gentle slope and glides away from the mountain. Most people are afraid of heights. Fear is somewhat an apprehension of the unknown. Your fear will fade as your confidence in your ability to operate in a reasonable manner grows. Your instructor will help you identify your capabilities and limitations. You'll learn that altitude is usually your friend. There is no free falling or jumping off cliffs. The launches and landings are slow and gentle. Once in the air, most people are surprised by how quiet and peaceful the experience is. If the idea of watching the sunset from a comfortable seat in the air, supported by the buoyant evening air, with perhaps an eagle or hawk joining you off your wing tip appeals to you, then paragliding is for you.

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Q: How much does a paraglider cost and last?

A: A new paraglider & harness will cost somewhere between $2,800 and $3,800. Students often start out with cheaper used equipment. After four years of fairly active usage and exposure to UV light from the sun, a paraglider is generally in need of replacement. This of course varies with how you care for your equipment. It’s easy to test your lines and sailcloth for strength and thus determine the need to replace your paraglider long before it becomes unsafe. The harness and reserve parachute should last indefinitely with good care. More experienced pilots generally purchase a two-way radio and a variometer (which tells you how fast you are going up or down). Radios run about $250, and variometers run from $300 to $850. Good used equipment is often available for half the price though it will have a shorter life-span. In addition, because the sport is evolving rapidly, newer paragliders can have significantly better performance and behavior than older ones.

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Q: What do you need to know when purchasing your first glider?

A: First, you need to know how to fly. No would-be pilot should purchase a wing before learning at least the basics of paragliding. It is the Instructor’s job to help you select your first wing. Different paragliders have different characteristics and require different skill levels; instructors will match the glider to your particular interests, strengths, weaknesses, and skill level.

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Q: How do I get started?

A: One way to start is to schedule a tandem flight. When you ride along for a flight with an experienced pilot you go places and see things that wouldn't be available until you had been in the sport for a while. We can show you the dynamics and the philosophy of making decisions in the air. We also show you how relaxing it can be when you sit back and enjoy the view after climbing out. After the tandem flight we can sign you up for the novice package.

Some people who watch us launch in the mountains or teach students at the training hill don't need a tandem to make the decision that this is for them. We encourage you to come and watch us train or fly to get an idea of how this sport works.


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Q: How long does it take to learn?

A: You will be flying solo your first day of paragliding instruction, which is one of the advantages of the sport. However, in order to acquire the basic skills necessary to fly on your own without instructor supervision, you need to complete the course and get your P2 rating. Some schools will spit you out in five days, but our instructors at Mountain Flyers will work with your ability and schedule. Whether you complete your training in consecutive days or spread out over several months is up to you, although the more concentrated the training the better.

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Q: How does it work?

A: Paragliding is the simplest form of human flight, and fastest growing type of foot-launched flying. and A paraglider is a non-motorized, foot-launched inflatable wing. It is easy to transport, launch, and land. Paragliders are an advanced evolutionary aircraft that can go places and do things unlike any other vehicle. The wing itself is constructed of rip-stop nylon from which the pilot is suspended by strong kevlar lines. These high-performance fabrics coupled with a growing comprehension of our micro-meteorology have permitted the development of our incredible sport. The pilot is buckled into a harness and finds the sitting position which provides the most comfort. You actually fly like a bird, soaring upwards on currents of air. Paragliders operate in unprecedented harmony with the natural elements. Our slow flying speeds (about 15 to 25 mph) enables us to climb in small thermals and soar with the local birds.

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Q: What does it take to be a pilot?

A: Paragliding is about finesse and serenity, not strength and adrenaline. As in rock climbing, women often do much better than men because they don't try to muscle the paraglider around. In Europe the sport is immensely popular -- their paraglider pilots are like our Michael Jordans. Pilots are as young as 10 and as old as 80. You will want to be in good shape as there may be some hiking involved. Being physically and mentally alert and prepared is more important than physical conditioning. To be a successful paragliding student and pilot you need to be able to think clearly and listen well.

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Paragliding School • Albuquerque, New Mexico • (505) 228-2667