How to launch a paraglider?

How to launch a paraglider?

There are many ways to launch a paraglider, and the best option will vary depending on the conditions and type of equipment being used. In this article, we’ll take a look at the most common methods for launching a paraglider – the forward launch, reverse launch, and towed launch.

Hooking in

With the wing and lines laid out, you will need to attach the lines to your harness.
  1. Bring the risers together, “A’s” facing up. If you launch to the right, twist the risers 90 degrees to the right facing down.
  2. Without moving the riser position, clip into your harness. If you launch to the left twist the risers 90 degrees to the left facing down. Modern gliders have a color coded system to that the green riser matches the green on the carabiner, and the red riser matches the red on the carabineer.
  3. If you are looking at the risers, you should have completed a formation where the “X” shape appears the risers with the “A’s” on top and the “C’s” on the bottom. Remember, “X, A, C”. Look for the “X”, or the overlapped risers, then check the “A’s” are on top, and then check that the “C’s” are on the bottom.
  4. Follow the brake lines out from the carabiners to the pulleys, they should be on top of the risers, if so, grab the break handles.

Building a wall

The first step is to make sure that your wing is laid out correctly.
  1. The leading edge of the wing should be facing into the wind. The leading edge has the open cells. Layout your lines so the wind is at your back.
  2. The cells should begin to inflate. This should clean up your lines and any tangles. Once you can see all your lines, look for the “A’s” (typically in red).
  3. Make sure these are on the top of all the other lines. Make sure your brake lines are at the bottom of your line set.
  4. You can tell they are brake lines because they attach to the trailing edge of the glider. The trailing edge has the closed cells.

How to do a forward launch

The forward launch is one the first launch techniques you will learn. Essentially, you are facing away from the glider, looking down the slope, and inflating the wing with your own foot speed. It’s also used widely in the Alps, as many take offs are from the mid-slope of the mountain and in a open green pasture. In the US, the forward launch is typically used on training hills and in ground handling. If you have light winds, a long run ahead of you, pick the forward launch. To perform a forward launch, simply follow these steps to take off:
  1. Layout the wing downhill and into the wind.
  2. Clean up your lines and bring the risers to harness. (There will be no twist in the risers for this launch).
  3. Face the harness downhill, connect the carabiners to the risers. Do a canopy check.
  4. Make sure all your lines are in the right position – “A’s” on top, brakes on the bottom.
  5. Buckle yourself into the harness. Put the risers and lines over your biceps and add the brakes to each hand.
  6. Put your arms straight out from your sides. Tension the lines without disturbing your setup. Make sure you are centered on the glider and feel an evenness in the lines.
At this point, if the winds a low, you may ask for assistance in holding up the center cells of the glider. The idea is to inflate the center section of the canopy first, as the air inside, will push towards the wing tips as internal pressure is created. Do one last look back at your glider.
  1. Lean forward with bent knees, and in one continuous forward movement, leaning forward, begin to run. You will have to feel the pressure in your chest because you cannot see the canopy inflating.
  2. Apply brake pressure as the canopy comes over your head.
  3. Keep a constant running speed, changing your footwork, and adding inputs to the brakes to keep the wing overhead.
  4. Once you are in a straight line leaning forward, add more forward speed gradually. Do not sit down until to feel the harness lift off the ground.

How to do a reverse launch?

Reverse launching, or a reverse inflation, is an important technique that can be used in specific circumstances. First, you must consider the wind speed. You will need between 4-6 mph of wind to build a wall to properly inflate the glider. A reverse launch is useful when there is sufficient wind, as it allows you to stay facing the glider and to observe the glider overhead before committing to your flight. A reverse rotation is the preferred technique by most paraglider pilots. Starting from the reverse position is a great option for launching in tight spaces or when there is no suitable launch area available. It is the most deflation resistant configuration, because you can pull up the wing and feel the air pressure in the wing before committing to flight. To perform a reverse launch, simply follow these steps to take off:
  1. Place the paraglider on the ground in front of you, with the leading edge facing into the wind. You are now in the reverse position.
  2. Get low and get athletic. Start moving slowly backwards to tension the lines. Bending forward with your knees, rock back in forth. Lift the center “A’s” upwards as you rock backwards. (Do not pull the glider towards you with just your arms. It will likely drag on the ground).
  3. Walk or run towards the glider to manage the surge. Make minor corrections to the brake pressure if necessary.
  4. If the glider fully loaded and wants to lift you, add your a portion of your body weight to the seat (without sitting down).
  5. Once the canopy is above you, give light brake inputs to stabilize the wing.
  6. Once stabilized, turn toward to slope, pilot stands stationary to check for traffic, then gradually lean forward.
  7. Pilot then adds forward speed gently, accelerate gradually, bending at the waist, getting lower into the torpedo position (or the forward lean – head down, arms behind, brakes high) to launch directly into the wind.
  8. The pilot is now in the forward position, put your breaks in the hands up position, check your ground clearance, feel the rising air, and you have completed the take off phase.
The reverse launch needs constant practice. In another blog we discuss ground handling or kiting. Ground handling training is key to launching and the hardest part of the sport. It is the primary responsibility of pilot to practice this on his or hers own time. Pilots assume mastery of this aspect of the sport, but practicing launching is the least emphasized aspect of the sport, as turbulent or thermic air create unequal loading, and wing tips can drop slightly. Without proper training

Towed launch

There are a few ways to tow launch a paraglider. The most common is using a winch, payout line, and line release. Winches can be stationary, mounted on a car, truck, or boat. The winch pulls the paraglider into the air. The payout line keeps the paraglider from getting too close to the winch, and the line release allows the pilot to release from the towline when they’re ready to fly on their own. The towed launch allows the pilot to take off if there is no wind, or there are no mountains in nearby. If you want to try towing you will need to be trained under an Instructor’s supervision. After 10 flights you can earn your towing endorsement on your USHPA rating. To perform a towed launch, simply follow these steps to take off:
  1. The pilot sets up about 50′ downwind.
  2. As the vehicle begins driving/moving, the pilots waits for that first ‘tension’ signal to inflate his/her glider.
  3. As the glider comes over the pilots head, the line tension is then further increased to a point where the pilot is lifted off the ground.
The winch system is designed to pull the glider just a little faster than it wants to fly, while the glider compensates for this extra speed by climbing up and into the sky. As the tow continues, the truck/boat and pilot get farther and farther apart as the pilot climbs out.
  1. Eventually the pilot will reach the maximum available altitude and will release from the line.

  2. Up to this point, the whole operation looks very similar to Parasailing, but once the pilot releases from the towline, he/she is free to fly off in any direction he chooses

  3. The tow operator then reels the extended line back to the truck or boat, (typically before it ever touches the ground or water), and then returns for the next pilot.

    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.