Airplay Paragliding School

Airplay has merged with Eagle Paragliding. Please visit the Eagle Paragliding Website for current news, information and products.

If you want to paraglide, and you want excellence in instruction, then you want Airplay! Airplay is based in sunny Santa Barbara, California and enjoys teachable, flyable and fun weather year ‘round for paragliding. If a school isn’t available in your area, please consider coming out for the time of your life in a beautiful environment that is fun for the whole family! Founded by the late Dixon White (the first USHPA Instructor of the Year award recipient), the school continues its tradition of excellence. Instructor of the Year Rob Sporrer, along with the rest of our USHPA certified instructors, will lead you through a carefully designed syllabus combining complete academic and athletic progression from beginner through your tandem and instructor levels. Airplay programs have become the standards in the paragliding industry and the basis for the leading training manual, "The Art of Paragliding" and the paraglider video/DVD training series, "Starting Paragliding", "Weather to Fly", "The Art of Kiting", "Paraglider Towing" and "Lifting Air".

Our training hill is wonderful! You can start out on level ground, and be kiting and flying solo from over 200’ often on your first day! Our students love the easy rides up the hill making multiple training flights daily.

Great new and used paragliders, specializing in Airwave, UP, and Windtech

With hundreds of letters of recommendation you can be assured the very best education in paragliding.

Airplay serves as an apprenticing center for new and re-certifying instructors and you'll enjoy meeting the variety of top notch pilots/teachers who regularly join Airplay classes.

We invite you to research other schools, call the United States Hang Gliding Association, or Contact Us for referrals. You will appreciate the concern for safety and the focus on developing paragliding fundamentals that will help provide you a more secure future in the sport.

All About Paragliding

Paragliding is the newest and fastest growing form of foot-launched flying. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about Paragliding. Contact us if you have any other questions.

Q. What is it like to paraglide, what is a paraglider?
Q. Is paragliding the same as parasailing, parachuting, or BASE-jumping?
Q. How is paragliding different from hang gliding?
Q. What can I do with a paraglider?
Q. Is it safe to paragliding?
Q. Is it scary to paraglide?
Q. Who can do paragliding?
Q. How much does a paraglider cost? How long does a paraglider last?
Q. What do I need to know when purchasing my first paraglider?
Q. How do I get started?
Q. Do I need a license to fly?
Q. How long does it take to learn to fly?
Q. What should I look for when signing up for a lesson?
Q. What is motorized paragliding or powered paragliding?

Q. What is it like to paraglide, what is a paraglider?
A. Paragliding is the simplest form of human flight. A paraglider is a non-motorized, foot-launched inflatable wing. It is easy to transport, easy to launch, and easy to land. The paraglider itself is constructed of rip-stop nylon from which the pilot is suspended by sturdy kevlar lines. The pilot is clipped into a harness and oriented in a sitting position for maximum comfort. With a paraglider, you actually fly like a bird, soaring upwards on currents of air. Paraglider pilots routinely stay aloft for 3 hours or more, climb to elevations of 15,000 feet, and go cross-country for vast distances.

Q. Is paragliding the same as parasailing or parachuting?
A. "No", "No", and "No". Parasailing is what you do at a beach, in a modified parachute tied to a boat, often in Mexico after you've had one too many cocktails. You get dragged around the harbor like a sack of potatoes, not like a pilot. (If you want to offend a paragliding pilot, refer to their sport as "parasailing".) Parachutes are designed to be deployed during free-fall from an airplane and to then descend to the ground. By contrast, paraglider pilots launch from gentle hillsides with their gliders already opened for flight; if the glider isn't flying properly, the launch can be aborted before leaving the ground. Since paragliders do not have to withstand the stresses of free-fall deployment, they are much lighter and aerodynamic and are designed to go up rather than down.

Q. How is paragliding different from hang gliding?
A. Paragliding and hang gliding are very similar 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 auxiliary 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 similar 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 similar feeling of carving turns, but there's not as much speed and you're upright in a sitting position. They both have similar safety records.

Q. What can I do with a paraglider?
A. Paragliders are designed to soar. The duration record is over 11 hours and the distance record is 300 kilometers. In training you will start out just skimming the ground. As you progress and become more skilled and confident you will probably want to go higher and use the wing for its designed purpose -- soaring! Average recreational pilots, utilizing thermal and ridge lift, routinely stay aloft for 3 hours or more, soar to altitudes of 15,000' and travel cross-country for great distances. In addition, paragliders can be easily carried and launched off of most mountains. Paragliders have been flown off of almost every major peak in the United States and Europe as well as off of Mt. Everest.

Q. Is it safe to paraglide?
A. You can make paragliding, like most adventure sports, as safe or dangerous as you want. It is of course crucial that you receive instruction from a certified professional and use safe equipment -- professional schools will create as controlled a learning environment as possible. But paragliding is still an outdoor sport and Mother Nature is unpredictable -- the primary safety factors are personal judgment and attitude. You must be willing to learn gradually and to think with your head not with your ego. If you don't, then you can get injured or killed; if you do, then you can paraglide until you're 90.

Q. Is it scary to paraglide?
A. Paragliding is the simplest and most serene way to fulfill humankind's oldest dream -- free flight! The pilot runs down a gentle slope and glides away from the mountain. There is no free-falling or jumping off of cliffs. The launches and landings are slow and gentle and, once in the air, most people are surprised by how quiet and peaceful the experience is. Even a fear of heights is rarely a factor, as there is no sensation of falling. The solo lesson requires more effort (physical and mental) than the tandem lesson, but it lays the basic groundwork necessary to become your own pilot.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.

Q. Who can do paragliding?
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, where the sport is immensely popular, you will see pilots as young as 10 and as old as 80. If you choose to hike to launch then you'll want to be in good physical condition, but you can also drive to most popular flying sites. More important than physical conditioning, is being physically and mentally alert and prepared. To be a successful paragliding student and pilot, you need to be able to think clearly and to listen well.

Q. How much does a paraglider cost? How long does a paraglider last?
A. A new paraglider, harness and reserve will cost somewhere between $4,500 and $5,500. 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 wing. It's easy to test your lines and sailcloth for strength and thus determine your need to replace your paraglider long before it becomes unsafe. Harnesses and reserves should last indefinitely with good care. Most pilots who get into the sport also purchase a two-way radio and a variometer (which tells you whether and how fast you are going up or down) for an additional $500 altogether. Good used equipment is often available for half as much 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.

Q. What do I need to know when purchasing my first paraglider?
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 your instructor's job to help you select your first wing. Different paragliders have different characteristics and require different skill levels; your instructor will match the glider to your particular interests, strengths, weaknesses, and skill level. Develop a solid relationship with an instructor you trust before purchasing equipment. "Good deals" generally end up costing the naive new pilot a great deal of money. Most instructors rely on referrals and repeat business so they are very determined to help you make the right decisions. See our advice on buying paragliding equipment for more information.

Q. How do I get started?
A. The best way to start is with an Introductory Course designed to give you a taste of real flying. Under radio supervision, you will fly solo from the training hill and progress to higher flights, all in two days. The basic techniques of paragliding -- launching, turning, landing -- are fairly easy to learn. The length of the course is designed to compensate for weather constraints and different learning curves. If after your introductory flights, you want to continue with paragliding, the next step is to enroll in a Novice (Para 2) Certification Course which will teach you about micrometeorology, different launch and flying techniques, safety procedures, etc. You should try and complete the Novice Course in a concentrated period of time.

Q. Do I need a license to fly?
A. Paragliders are regulated under the Federal Aviation Regulations Section 103 and therefore a license is not required to paraglide. In essence, paragliding is a self-regulated sport under the auspices of the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA) To keep it self-regulated, pilots and instructors alike adhere to the policies and guidelines of the USHGA. Local flying regulations may require the pilot to have certain USHGA certified ratings, such as Novice (Para 2) or Intermediate (Para 3) in order to fly a particular site. When purchasing equipment, a responsible dealer will always require some proof of certified rating.

Q. How long does it take to learn to fly?
A. You'll be flying solo during 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 take a Novice (Para 2) Certification Course, which generally takes a total of 7 to 10 days and a minimum of 25 flights. During such a course, you will complete the USHGA-mandated amount of ground-school time, flights, and flying days, and will learn about high altitude flight, advanced maneuvers and reserve parachute deployment. Whether you complete your training in consecutive days or spread out over several months is up to you, although the more concentrated your training, the better.

Q. What should I look for when signing up for a lesson?
A. When selecting a school for paragliding instruction, first make sure that the instructors are certified by the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA). Things to look for include: What USHGA ratings do the instructors have? (The highest rating is called Advanced Tandem Instructor.) How many instructors are at each class, what is the student to instructor ratio? Are the flights radio supervised? Will the training proceed gradually up progressively higher hills? Does the school have hills to accommodate more than one wind direction and thus more flying days? What is the safety record of the school and of the instructors? How many students has the school taught, how many of its students receive certification each year? Does the school operate full-time to fit your schedule? You may call the United State Hang Gliding Association at 719-632-8300 for the names of instructors you may want to interview.

Q. What is motorized paragliding or powered paragliding?
A. With a gas-fueled motor unit attached to the pilot's back by means of a special harness, it is possible to paraglide in areas where, and at times when, flying sites or conditions are limited or non-existent. With thorough training a backpack motor pilot can use the motor to launch and then spend the rest of the day ridge soaring or thermaling, using the motor only when necessary to keep from landing. All of the same general considerations discussed about paragliders apply to motor units.

Since the pilot will be launching and landing with 45 lbs. to 100 lbs. of additional weight, it is extremely important that the pilot be competent in evaluating the conditions and have the appropriate skills. There has been a serious problem at this end of paragliding with the distribution of inferior equipment by individuals with little or no formal training. These companies prey on the naive and are a threat to the longevity of our sport in the United States due to the number of accidents and airspace and other legal violations. This sport is far more complicated than a "sports catalogue" will lead you to believe. You should secure a USHGA Novice license before using a motor unit. The information and training provided in a Novice course is crucial to your long term success with a motor.

It is our opinion that you want the most lightweight, durable, and powerful motor you can purchase. Electric start is an unnecessary option that only adds weight and the potential for equipment failure. Large fuel tanks are heavy, yet are rarely filled to the brim due to the added weight. Portability is an important consideration. Although you will hear otherwise from some motor distributors, you do not usually need a larger glider than the one you would fly without a motor. We actually want you a little heavy on your glider. The glider you would normally fly without a motor should be fine for motorized flying. Some paragliders are more user friendly than others when combined with motors. Develop a solid relationship with an instructor experienced in motorized paragliding before purchasing equipment. "Good deals" generally end up costing the naive new pilot a great deal of money.

 

In Memory of Dixon White
(14 December 1956 - 30 May 2004)

The 3rd annual Dixon White Memorial Fly-in postponed until 2007. This has been a busy summer and fall. Marty and Carmen welcomed their new baby Mia into the world. Tanner and Laura will be married soon. Joel is supporting his father and the rest of his family with the passing of his mother. Rob will be away working during the dates we had scheduled Dixon’s Memorial fly in. We are going to hold off on running the event until next year.

Check NOTAMs before you fly
The wildfire season, presidential travel plans, sports events and other reasons could cause the FAA to temporarily limit aviation activities where you want to fly. Check for these restrictions at the FAA TFR site.

Lifting Air Towing Paragliders Weather To FlyWeather To Fly2
The new instructional dvd/videos "Lifting Air", "Towing Paragliders" and Weather To Fly 2 are getting GREAT reception. Special offer on "Weather to Fly" & "Weather to Fly 2", but both and get a $10.00 discount ! Click Here to order. We received more and they are ready for shipping. DVD or video. More details in the Store.