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Hang Gliding Schools

Please note that the NZHGPA issues instructor certificates and administers the training standards but does not endorse any particular business listed here.

About learning to fly hang gliders

You cannot teach yourself to fly safely but a club instructor or commercial school with modern equipment can teach you quickly and safely. 

Initial training is usually from flat ground to low slopes, followed by higher flights as your ability and confidence allows. Training to a stage that allows pilots to fly unsupervised can take from 7 days to a couple of months or more depending on available time and weather conditions. As well as the practical skills needed to fly the hang glider, schools teach meteorology, flight theory, piloting skills and air law.

The NZHGPA has 4 solo pilot ratings:
  • Beginner (Hang 1) is a student pilot rating that allows student pilots to fly at Beginner and Novice rated flying sites under the supervision of an instructor.
  • Novice (Hang 2) allows pilots to fly at Beginner and Novice rated sites unsupervised and Intermediate rated sites under the supervision of an instructor.
  • Intermediate (Hang 3) allows pilots to fly at Beginner, Novice and Intermediate rated sites unsupervised and Advanced rated sites under the supervision of an instructor.
  • Advanced (Hang 4) allows pilots to make their own judgement of site and weather suitability.
More information about paragliding can be found on Wikipedia.

Frequently asked questions about hang gliding:

When did hang gliding begin? 

In the late 1800’s, aviation pioneers flew foot launched gliders. In 1947, Francis Rogallo, a NASA engineer, developed a controllable, wing-like kite. Man-carrying versions were made of bamboo and plastic sheeting, evolving into our modern aluminium and dacron flying wings.

How is a hang glider controlled? 

The pilot is suspended in a harness from the glider at it’s center of gravity. Move your body back and the glider climbs. Move forward and it descends. Shift your weight to the side and the glider banks and turns. It’s that simple.

What does it feel like to fly? 

It’s a combination of adrenalin rush and a stress-relieving sense of freedom from being earthbound. Hang gliding is a three dimensional sport which gives it an extra kick. Like wind-surfing or skiing, there is a rewarding sense of focus and control. You are aware of your surroundings in a new and profound way.

Do you need wind to fly? 

It is the motion of the glider, moving through the air, that supports you, not the wind. Pilots with the proper skills take advantage of wind or thermals (upward rising air) to turn a gliding flight into a soaring flight that can last for hours.

Is hang gliding safe? 

All action sports contain elements of risk. Good risk management is the key to safe participation. Hang gliding risk is reduced by the use of good equipment, proper instruction, practiced skills, and good judgment.

How can I learn to fly?

Instruction from a NZHGPA certified hang glider instructor is essential. You will learn the right skills faster from a qualified instructor. Students begin flying their first day off gently-sloped bunny hills. Most people need about 10 lessons to master the necessary basic flying skills.

Can I fly anywhere I want to? 

Not every hill has the proper terrain. Pilots must also be careful to obtain permission from landowners. Most flying sites are managed by a local hang gliding club to assure that pilots who fly them have the necessary skills.

Am I built to be a hang glider pilot? 

Pilots come in all sizes and all levels of athletic ability and fitness. Gliders come in sizes to match your weight, from 50 kg to 120 kg. It is not difficult to learn how to fly. All you need is the desire and the ability to run down a gently sloped training hill.

Where can I buy a hang glider? 

Your local hang gliding shop is the best sourse for advice and quality equipment. Free Flight NZ Ltd and New Zealand Hang Gliding & Paragliding Supplies offer a range of gliders both used and new, to properly match your skill, experience, and pocketbook. All gliders are extensively checked over before delivery.

Are Gliders heavy? 

Gliders range from 20 to 35 kilograms. Training gliders are the lightest. They seem awkward at first, but you will soon learn to use the wind to make the glider float over your head, light as a feather. On the training hill, we use wheels to move them from the landing area back to the take-off.

What if I’m afraid of heights? 

A remarkable number of advanced pilots say they are afraid of heights! Thanks to careful, progressive steps learning to fly, and the security of a good glider and harness, pilots take to the air without any of that feeling you get on the edge!

Can I build a glider myself? 

Modern gliders have evolved a long way from the simple Rogallo Wings of the past. Manufacturers used sophisticated CAD design and automated workshops to produce precision airfoils. Glider designs undergo extensive “wind tunnel” and flight testing. Like any aircraft, home building is not a simple or quick solution for the inexperienced engineer. There are no “kits” available at this time.

How big is a glider? 

The typical glider has a 10 m wing span and a 3.6 m keel when set up. The sail is about 2.1 m nose to tail. It weights 25 to 35 kgs. When folder, it fills a bag 30 cm diameter and 6 m long.

How do you store and carry something that big? 

Pilots are an ingenious lot. They manage to get wings into upstairs apartments, into hallways, even into converted PVC irrigation/drain pipes installed under the eves of their house, if they don’t have a garage. Shops often offer storage for those who really don’t have a spot. Rack systems have been created for almost every vehicle you can thing of.

How much does it cost? 

A basic outfit includes a glider, harness, helmet, and parachute. New, gliders range from $3800 to $6000. Accessories will add another $1000 to $1500. Good used equipment is available starting at about half the price of new.

Can I rent equipment? 

Except for a few special locations, equipment is not available to rent. As a pilot you will own your own glider.

Do I need a license to fly? 

Yes. The NZ Civil Aviation Rule Part 106 requires that each pilot of a hang glider or paraglider shall:
  1. be a bona fide member of a hang gliding organisation; and 
  2. hold an appropriate hang glider pilot certificate; and 
  3. comply with the privileges and limitations of their certificate and any applicable ratings; and 
  4. comply with the operational standards and procedures of the hang gliding organisation. 
The NZHGPA issues flight certificates, including instructor certificates, under the delegation granted by the Director, NZ Civil Aviation Authority.

I am a power pilot. Does that help? 

Previous flying experience is less useful than pilots expect. “The skills necessary to control a hang glider are very different from other aircraft. It is similar to moving to, say, a helicopter from an airplane. Previous flying experienced will contribute to your understanding of aerodynamics, control theory, flight planning, and the skill of three dimensional awareness. You will need almost as many lessons as the new pilot to master the physical skills.

I bike/windsurf/skydive/ski… will that help? 

All sports that teach you situational awareness and balance will make it easier to learn hang glider control skills. These will give you a head start, but anyone with desire can learn these basic physical skills.