Prepare to Fly

Paragliding Tips I Wish I'd Learned Sooner


"very, very good indeed and ridiculously cheap"
"Not just recommended... essential!"

Skywings magazine, October 2012.


Check out my NEW BOOK, Flying the Wainwrights!The BHPA:Start here, especially if you’re not yet CP rated. Cross Country Magazine:Beautiful glossy magazine with a more international outlook than the rather parochial BHPA mag. XC Weather: Extremely simple to understand live weather map,very good for getting the bigger picture quickly. RASP : xcweather on steroids. Harder to use, but once you start thinking of going XC, this will become one of your go-to sites. The other RASP : Same data, different server than the above. Can sometimes be faster or more reliable. Try both.

How to interpret Blipmaps: RASP isn't self-explanatory. This might help

XC Planner : MASSIVELY useful tool for planning XC flights, and in particular for viewing airspace boundaries for various levels on your PC screen. Not all of the boundaries are necessarily correct, however, so check them against another source (Garmin airspace maps or the paper equivalents).

XC League for the UK: upload your flights here, and see how yours compare to your mates’ scores. Then analyse their flights and those of the experts to see how you can improve.

XC Flight Browser : Hugely useful filter allowing you to analyse the historical data from the UK XC League results. See what's been achieved, and how.

Stirrup fitting: the book recommends the use of a stirrup to help your flying position and improve the convenience of getting to your speed system. This Woody Valley manual gives very clear instructions on how to properly set up a stirrup (or "Relax Bar" as they call it) to achieve this, and can easily be applied to other such systems. SAT24 : Realtime satellite imagery giving an excellent impression of the current weather pattern. Animated wind map : Beautiful way to get the big picture in an instant. Draggable and zoomable anywhere on earth. Vimeo : an alternative to Youtube, if you want or need it. A good source of instruction on how to make better videos. Paragliding forum : Hints, tips, news, discussions, jokes, rumours, arguments, advice, classified ads, reviews. Paragliding Earth : crazy-comprehensive attempt at a paragliding site guide for the entire planet complete with live weather reports showing whether it’s flyable at your site of choice right now. Paragliding Map : smartphone app that puts paragliding earth in your pocket. WGS84 calculator: a free, tiny app for your PC that will allow you to measure the distance between any two points on the globe. Google Latitude : recommended in the book, this app has now been "retired" by Google, so you can't use it any more. There is an excellent alternative, however: Glympse : better than Latitude was, works on all platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.) and doesn't need you to maintain a friends list within it. OneTouchLocation is even better. Whereas Glympse requires a solid data connection to work, OTL just sends a text message, so you only need sketchy coverage to get an "I'm here" message to your retrieve driver. Better still, if they've cached maps on their phone, they only need enough coverage to receive the text, and you're sorted. OS Grid converter : an iOS app that converts in either direction between British OSGrid references (used on the maps and by some, but not all, GPSs) and WGS84 Lat/Long coordinates (used by all GPSs). Very useful to have at a comp briefing. Can also give your current position in both sets of coordinate systems. XCTrack - the first edition book said there are no phone apps that are any use in flight. Since it was written, that has changed. This Android app will help you navigate round waypoints in competitions, even optimising your route, help you refind thermals, and do a whole bunch of other stuff. It will, obviously, run on a wide range of devices with different screens and battery life expectations. Flyskyhy : another amazingly good in-flight app, this time just for iPhone. In particular, it can be linked via Bluetooth to a pressure-based vario, meaning your phone can become a properly accurate flying instrument. The only issues I can see with this are battery life (fixable with an external pack) and the small, touch-screen control. But this is getting close to the ideal instrument... Expanding Knowledge : a mine of information, not all of it entirely up-to-date but still very good, especially the tips page GPS Dump : the simplest, most comprehensive bit of software for getting your flights off your GPS and onto your PC. Free. LK8000 : a free open source flight computer for certain car satnavs and various other GPS enabled pocket computers. Intimidatingly comprehensive, almost unbelievably useful, and will run on devices you can get off eBay for less than fifty quid. The cheapest way to get GPS into the air. Devices you can actually read in sunlight come a little more expensive, however... XCSoar: a free open source flight computer for PocketPCs, Android and Linux. This one is especially interesting because it will run on a Kobo Mini e-reader. Some basic DIY soldering and a cheap GPS chipset off ebay and you can have a fully functional airspace map on a 6" highly readable black-and-white e-ink screen that will run all day without an external power supply... for less than £50. My personal experience of this device setup is not good, however, but for such a low price it was worth a punt. GPS Babel : Program for translating between the various GPS file formats available. Useful if someone's sent you waypoints in GPX format and you want them in CUP format for LK8000, say. IGC player: an excellent program that will take the IGC file generated by your instrument and replay the flight for you in Google earth. You can also download the IGC files of experts' XC flights and replay those to pick up tips like where they thermalled and for how long, and to spot landmarks visible from the air such as forests and lakes. UK Garmin Airspace : free airspace maps compatible with Garmin mapping GPS units. Skyads : Free classified advertising service for paragliders, hang-gliders and other free-flyers. Pilot Notes : A blog offering notes to help you get through the BHPA Pilot Rating written exam. Pilot PDFs : three PDFs of crib notes for the Pilot exam that you can print out and read in the bath. Airspace map shops :somewhere to buy airspace maps from. A few magazine and online articles about thermalling and similar…(note: the availability of these sites cannot be guaranteed) Judith Mole has a whole bunch of excellent resources for paragliders, including: - Podcasts. Fascinating and educational interviews with top pilots on all sorts of subjects. Stick them on your mp3 player and listen to them on the way to a site, or on the walk up. - Webcasts. Like the podcasts, but with video! - XC tips. And hey look, the first one is "Prepare before the flight". Sounds familiar... - Resources. Yes, this is a link to another set of links. It's like "Inception".... Thermalling tips - really good collection of links to thermalling articles, should be reasonably reliably live. Thermal flying Finding the core Thermalling, part one of three BPCup comp rules,  but good advice for thermalling generally.An oldie but goodie