Can I paraglide anywhere?
The short answer is you have the right to fly a paraglider, but there are limitations to where you can launch, fly, and land a paraglider.
You just need to find the right location.
For example, you cannot paraglide in a public park, if it is not designated for that activity. You cannot paraglide or on private land without the landowners permission or over a congested area. You cannot paraglide in a National Park. You cannot paraglide in certain restricted airspace classes as set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Where can I paraglide?
There are designated flying sites all over the world that are specifically set up for paragliding. So whether you’re looking for a place to paraglide on your own or with a group, there are plenty of options available, if you are willing to travel.
A designated paragliding site is usually a public park or other open area where paragliders are allowed to fly. Some designated paragliding sites may have restrictions on takeoff and landing areas, as well as on flying during certain hours of the day.
Designated paragliding and hang gliding sites offer a number of benefits. For starters, they are often located in beautiful, scenic areas. They also usually have well-maintained launch and landing areas by the local paragliding club. In addition, designated paragliding sites are the home to Instructors and flight schools whom can provide helpful advice and assistance if needed.
What are the rules for ultralight vehicles?
Ultralight vehicles follow the operational rules set forth by the FAA in FAR 103. This applies to paragliding pilots, powered paragliders, hang gliding pilots, quad paramotor, paramotor pilots, or other aircraft.
First, there are no hazardous operations. No pilot may operate any ultralight vehicle in a manner that creates a hazard to other persons or property. No pilot may allow an object to be dropped from an ultralight vehicle if such action creates a hazard to other persons or property.
Pilots must operate in daylight conditions. No person may operate an ultralight vehicle except between the hours of sunrise and sunset. And, 30 minutes before and after sunset if you have an anti-collision light that is visible for 3 miles.
All operations that are conducted in uncontrolled airspace following standard right-of-way rules. Each person operating an ultralight vehicle shall maintain vigilance so as to see and avoid aircraft and shall yield the right-of-way to all aircraft. No person may operate an ultralight vehicle in a manner that creates a collision hazard with respect to any aircraft. Powered ultralights shall yield the right-of-way to unpowered ultralights (paragliders and hang gliders).
You should not fly your paraglider over a congested area. No person may operate an ultralight vehicle over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons.
Limit your flying to certain airspaces. No person may fly an ultralight vehicle within Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D air space or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airs pace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from the ATC facility having jurisdiction over that airspace.
Operations in prohibited or restricted areas. No person may operate an ultralight vehicle in prohibited or restricted areas unless that person has permission from the using or controlling agency, as appropriate.
Visual flight rules apply to you and you need to see the ground. No person may fly an ultralight vehicle except by visual reference with the ground. Instrument flight rules do not apply to ultralights.
Flight visibility and cloud clearance requirements. No person may fly an ultralight vehicle when the flight visibility or distance from clouds is less than that in the table found below. All operations in Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D airspace or Class E airspace designated for an airport must receive prior ATC authorization.
What is controlled airspace?
Airspace is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Controlled airspace is governed by air traffic control (ATC). The purpose of controlled airspace is to provide a safe environment for aircraft to fly in or near airports.
Paragliders are prohibited from entering certain fly zones: Class A, Class B, Class C and Class D airspace with exception an for certain altitudes. Class A airspace is the most restrictive and covers the highest altitudes. Class E airspace is the less restrictive airspace. Class C airspace is the least restrictive and generally covers smaller airports.
What are the uncontrolled airspace classes?
Class E, Class F, and Class G airspace is considered uncontrolled airspace. The sky is a big place. Uncontrolled airspace does not require guidance from air traffic control. You do not need to file a flight plan or need to contact a control tower.
You are however must maintain visual contact and limit your altitude to 15,000 feet above sea level. Cloud flying is illegal and very dangerous. High altitude flying is dangerous unless you have supplemental oxygen.
Are you allowed to paraglide in a National Park?
You are not allowed to launch or land on National Park land, but you are allowed to fly over it. Access to these prime flying sites has been a point of contention between pilots and the National Park Service and US Forest Service for many years. The rules have only gotten stricter, even for non-extreme sports. The Park Service has taken away motorcycling, bicycling, electric bikes, and walking activities (except for walking on marked trails).
The regulations change slightly for parks regulated at the State level. There are some legacy flying sites, with strong safety records that allow the continuance of flying. These vary by state and specific location. Remember to check first as the regulations in place are punishable by confiscation of your equipment, fines, or imprisonment.
This is confusing. Is there a paragliding course?
Yes, for non-pilots, paragliding is not a DYI sport. You will need formal instruction and proper training to safely fly. A typical pilot’s skill level is based on years of ground training, sled runs, learning weather patterns, wind factors, accessible locations, and flight rules.
Before you start flying or paraglide solo, you’ll need to find a qualified Instructor to help with practicing sport. Strictly speaking, if you follow the rules, your first solo flight will be with an Instructor certified by USHPA.
An USHPA instructor will show you the many accessible locations, introduce you to air called thermals, help you understand the difference between Class G airspace and Class F airspace, maintain safe distance on a ridge or between other pilots.
What are the famous paragliding sites?
First, you must think of mountains. Paragliding sites are usually located near mountains or other natural features that provide updrafts to help keep the paraglider in the air. Some paragliding sites also have facilities for launching and landing, such as a runway or platform. These locations offer some of the best conditions for paragliding, with plenty of open space and good wind conditions.
Experienced paraglider pilots fly where the mountains are: the Rockies, the Alps, the Andes in South America, and the Himalayas in Asia. Paragliders must be careful when choosing a launch site, as some locations can be very dangerous. There are many paraglider launch sites that have been designated by the authorities as safe and suitable for paragliding. These sites usually have good facilities for paragliders, such as parking areas, toilets, and picnic tables.
What are the top 10 paragliding destinations?
There are paragliding sites all over the world, but some stand out above the rest.
Here are the top 10 paragliding destinations, based on beautiful scenery, reliable weather conditions and ample launch and landing options.
1. Valle de Bravo, Mexico
Located 100 miles west of Mexico City, this site offers incredible views of volcanos, craters, mesas, and plenty of opportunities for paragliders to test their skills. There are several launch points for cross country flying, a beach landing site, a vibrant and accepting local community of pilots.
2. Torrey Pines, California
This paragliding site is located just outside of San Diego in one of the most beautiful areas of California. The ocean provides consistent sea breezes and is flyable 250 days a year. There is a dedicated glider port and the views of the pacific coast are simply stunning. There is top landing for experienced pilots and always the beach.
3. Annecy, France
It’s been called the undisputed capital of paragliding in Europe for a reason. It has a beautiful green mountain valley with a lake running down the center. There are large easy launches and almost unlimited landing areas. And, it’s only an hour away from the famous six day free flying event – the Coupe Icare (or Icarus Cup) on the boarder of the Chartreuse Mountains.
4. Interlaken, Switzerland
Interlaken is one of the most popular paragliding sites in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. The views here are simply stunning, and there are plenty of opportunities for paragliders to test their skills. With snow on the Alps and green valleys on either side of of the lake it’s a visual delight. And, Switzerland is a welcoming country of paraglider enthusiasts. A paraglider is even on their national coin.
5. Oludeniz, Turkey
Oludeniz is a popular tourist destination and paragliding site, and it’s easy to see why. Every great flying video was filmed there. This is where all the great acro paraglider pilots fly to test their chops. There is the stunning Blue Lagoon, which is even more beautiful from the air. There are white sandy beaches, and the best SIV instruction in the world. The view is simply breathtaking.
6. Cerro Catedral, Argentina
Cerro Catedral is a world-famous flying site located in the Patagonia Mountains of Argentina. You’ll launch from Bariloche with views of the lake district and be flying with condors. The thermals are great and dependable from December through February. The launch is well groomed and the shuttles are frequent.
7. Point of the Mountain, Utah
Point of the Mountain (POTM) is the epicenter of paragliding in the United States. It has a thriving community of pilots who fly the foot hills of the Wasatch range. It is known for it’s morning flying on the South side and its evening flying on the North site. It’s also the place where you can launch from your front yard and climb up and see the great Salt Lake.
8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it’s also home to some of the best paragliding. The city is boxed in by beautiful mountains and views of the city and Guanabara Bay. Launch from Pedra Bonita, a mountain 30-minutes from Copacabana. With multiple launch sites near the city, you can fly past the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer, or land on the white sands of Ipanema Beach.
9. Bassano, Italy
If you are going to fly in southern Italy, you have to fly in Bassano. It has green grass launches and green grass landing zones. You are surrounded by the spectacular Dolomites Mountains. The views here are simply breathtaking, and there are plenty of opportunities for paragliders to test their skills. Access to the launch is easy, and you get to visit Venice on your trip.
10. Pokhara, Nepal
Pokhara is a beautiful city in Nepal. It lies at the foothills of the Himalaya mountains. This is definitely a bucket list site. If you have the financial means to get there, its a once in lifetime trip. You will fly over Lake Fawa with the backdrop of the snowcapped Himalayan mountains. It sounds remote, but the town is large and there are over ten paragliding course and tour operators to chose from.
About the author.
Damien Mitchell is a USHPA Advanced Instructor, and APPi Trained Instructor. He has over 10,000 flights and has been instructing paragliders for 15-years. He has been flying for almost 25-years. He is originally from Utah.