If you have always dreamed of flying then paragliding is the sport for you. The restricted license course is the most popular but you can also try a Tandem or a fun day or 2 with friends, where you learn the basic controls starting at the bottom of the hill having small solo flights which are extended higher as confidence and ability grow. Tandem flights allows you to fly with an instructor who will let you feel the thrill of flight with someone experienced at the controls. Paragliding is very easy to learn but takes time to master.
Paragliding is very weather dependent and it needs to be dry and the wind less than 15 miles an hour. You work through a series of exercises which teach you how to fly but everybody learns at a different pace. Equipment is provided for the training though most pilots purchase their own paraglider during the training so they can get used to flying it in a school environment. Once qualified we highly recommend you join your local club to fly with more experienced pilots.
Toowoomba has many beautiful flying sites and there are good clubs across Australia where experienced pilots meet up and fly together. Toowoomba is ideal for learning but as with any place the weather can sometimes keep our feet on the ground. So be prepared to enjoy doing other things - but when the conditions are right, Toowoomba and districts are a beautiful place to fly.
Pilots normally wear tough warm clothes, in case they get very high in a thermal (up to 10,000ft is legal), and a helmet in case they stumble on landing or takeoff. Most also wear gloves and sunnies. Standard outdoor boots, jeans and a sweatshirt will get you started. In terms of equipment, all schools will supply suitable training canopies, harnesses, radios and helmets. Once you have your licence, you will probably want to buy your own gear, which you will be able to choose much better once you have finished your course. After you start flying regularly, you will also need a radio and a willing and helpful driver to fetch you after you have broken that long distance flying record
Paragliding is a kind of flying, but instead of a wing made of metal, wood, fabric or plastic, it uses nylon or polyester fabric instead - the kind of thing windsurfer sails are made out of. Paragliders fly the same as any non-powered aircraft, and can glide quite a long way if you simply jump off a hill (for the technical, glide ratios of up to 9 or 10:1 are quite possible). The wing itself is made of two layers of fabric that form a wing-shaped bag with openings along the front. As the glider starts to move forward off a hill, the openings allow the wing to fill with air, pressurising it and making a standard aerofoil shape. The wing (often referred to as a canopy) is attached to a harness by a series of up to 30 thin but very strong lines, much like a parachute. The harness is where the pilot sits - and you'll be glad to hear it's much more comfortable than a parachute harness. You can even take sandwiches in them, as they have pockets for food, radios, water ballast or a camera, and anything else you want to take flying.
Steering is the simplest thing possible. The pilot holds a special line (called a brake line) in each hand, and if he/she wants to go left, they pull down on the left one. To turn right - pull on the right brake line. Pulling both slows the canopy to land, and most paragliders have an extra, speed-up control worked by their feet. That's it. Very simple, very controllable and yet capable of flying over 300km on a good day. But still small and light enough to be packed up and fitted in under the back seat of the car after you have landed.
Like driving a car and deep sea diving, paragliding is as safe as the person doing it. The big advantage is that it is probably the slowest form of aviation, so at least if you do crash you will hit the ground more gently than a fixed-wing aircraft! And remember that the canopy normally sits right above the pilot, so that when you are learning, all you need to do is put both brake lines up and you will immediately start flying normally - because the paraglider is probably the most inherently stable aircraft there is. In some circumstances the air can get squeezed out from between the two fabric layers, which stops it flying like a wing, but then it simply reverts to being a parachute until the pilot starts it flying again. High speed dives are virtually impossible in a paraglider. So unless the pilot does something to make it unsafe, a paraglider is extremely safe.
The minimum requirement is for seven days instruction at several different flying sites. Once you have your licence, you can buy your own equipment - canopies start at about $3500 new, harnesses $600 new. We can also help you with second hand equipment. Other equipment usually extends to a UHF radio, a reserve parachute, a full face helmet, and a variometer (to tell you if you are in rising air when thermalling).
There is no upper age limit as long as your instructor or safety officer deems you capable of piloting an aircraft, but the youngest anybody can fly a paraglider is 14.