FAQ's

How dangerous is Hang Gliding?
What happens at your first flight class?
What happens on future classes?
Will I get to fly on the first lesson?
How long are classes?
How long does it take to learn to hang glide?
How much does it cost?
What can I expect if I pursue hang gliding?
Does Silver Wings offer tandem instruction?
Does Silver Wings offer paragliding instruction?
Will I earn a pilot's license?
How long do flights last?
How much does a hang glider weigh?
What type of physical condition do I need to be in?
How often should I take a lesson?
Are there many hang glider pilots in this area?
How often do people hang glide in this area?
How big are hang gliders and how are they transported?
I am afraid of heights, can I still learn to hang glide?
What sort of mountain and training sites are in the area?

How do I get started?

 

How dangerous is Hang Gliding?
Aviation does involve a degree of uncertainty with respect to the weather, and specifically with respect to localized turbulence.  Any activity can be engaged in carelessly, and therefor dangerously, but may also be practiced in such a way as to minimize risk.  Out of the thousands of participants each week in this sport in the U.S., there are very few accidents.  The bottom line is that hang gliding is as safe or as dangerous as you make it.  It's all in how you approach it.

However, to be safe, you must first learn the fundamental skills, the limitations of your equipment, and what constitutes acceptable flying conditions.  And you learn this through proper instruction.  Only then can you begin to assess your relative risk, and, more importantly, your ability to confront it.
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What happens at your first flight class?
Students learn how to assemble and pre-flight a hang glider. Then a harness and helmet are put on and adjusted.  Students then practice doing flight control movements in a simulator.  A big part of the first day is devoted to ground handling where students run on flat ground with the glider.

Then flights start low on the hill where you glide a few feet above the ground for a short distance.  With more experience you work higher up the hill and your flights are higher, last longer, and you glide farther.
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What happens on future classes?
After arriving at a specified training site you will be involved in setting up the hang glider that you will be using and then some practice runs on flat ground.  Then flights start at different levels on the hill depending on your level of experience and the wind conditions.  Students try to hone their flying skills and learn how to perform new controls.  Students commonly get between five and ten flights in a day.  All flights are under the supervision of your instructor.
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Will I get to fly on the first lesson?
Normally students get their first flights during the last 1/3 of their first class.
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How long are classes?
We offer full day lessons with a certified instructor.  After traveling to the training site, the lesson normally starts between 11:30 A.M. - 12:00 and usually ends around 4 - 5:00 P.M.  The number of flights a student may get in a day is dependent on the weather conditions and their energy level!  Students have taken up to 15 flights in a day.
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How long does it take to learn to hang glide?
Hang gliding is the type of activity in which you will always be learning.  Most students in this area take lessons until they have obtained their Hang 2 and completed a few mountain flight classes.  Since each student progresses at his/her own rate, there can be no exact number of lessons to reach a particular rating.  One student with no prior experience took his first mountain flight on his 10th lesson!
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What can I expect if I pursue hang gliding?
There are four primary skill levels in Hang Gliding.  Hang 1 is the Beginner rating attainable usually in four to eight lessons.  Hang 2 is the Novice rating and a student can fly some of our mountain sites with supervision.  Hang 3 is the Intermediate rating and Hang 4 is the Advance rating.

Most students take lessons until they have obtained their Hang 2 level, then will usually do a few mountain classes.
 
Usually by this time they will have bought their own hang gliding equipment and will then continue mountain flying under the supervision of an USHGA Observer.

Pilots flying regularly may expect to have the skill and experience to fly mountain sites in 4 - 12 months though this is very dependent on the pilot's abilities and how often they fly.

A pilot flying the mountains may sometimes be able to soar for hours!
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Does Silver Wings offer tandem instruction?
No we don't.  We only offer foot launch solo instruction.
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Does Silver Wings offer paragliding instruction?
No we don't.  Commonly in this area it is too windy for paragliding but suitable for hang gliding.
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Will I earn a pilot's license?
The FAA, instead of issuing FAA licenses, allows the United States Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association to award Hang Glider Pilot Ratings.  There are four primary skill levels in Hang Gliding.  Hang 1 is the Beginner rating attainable usually in four to eight lessons.  Hang 2 is the Novice rating attainable usally in five to ten additional lessons.  When a student has obtained a Hang 2, they can then fly some of our mountain sites with supervision.  Hang 3 is the Intermediate rating and Hang 4 is the Advanced rating.
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How long do flights last?
Initial training hill flights only last a few seconds and you will only be a few feet above the ground.  Still an exciting experience!  Advanced training hill flights last from 30 seconds to a minute or two with a pilot's altitude reaching 30 - 100 feet above the ground.

Flights from our mountain sites are usually between 3 minutes to several hours in duration with altitudes between 450 feet and 5000 feet above the ground!
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How much does a hang glider weigh?
Most trainer type hang gliders weigh between 40 and 55 pounds depending on the size of the hang glider.  With a little bit of wind they can weigh next to nothing.  There are different size gliders for different size students.  Intermediate and high performance hang gliders generally weigh between 55 and 90 pounds.
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What type of physical condition do I need to be in?
Most people in normal physical condition can learn to hang glide.  Learning at the training hills can be somewhat physically demanding initially but becomes easier as one gains a little experience.  Running for short distances (5-10 yards) with the hang glider is necessary for most launches.
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How often should I take a lesson?
Classes are only offered on weekends.  Students who can take a training class every week or two will generally progress the best.  Allowing some time between classes gives the student time to absorb the experience and skills they encountered.  Training manuals carried by Silver Wings allow students to continue learning between flight lessons.
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Are there many hang glider pilots in this area?
We have a fairly large hang gliding community in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore and surrounding area with over 100 pilots.
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How often do people hang glide in this area?
Most hang glider pilots fly primarly on weekends.  We can only fly when the weather is suitable which fortunately in this area is quite often.  Some fly most weekends all year long regardless of temperature.  But a majority fly when the expected high temperature is 50 and above.
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How big are hang gliders and how are they transported?
Most hang gliders are transported on cars with roof rack systems.  When folded up most are approximately 12 inches in diameter and 17-18 feet long.  Most can be broken down to about 12 feet in length when necessary.  There are a variety of hang glider sizes and models and each particular model can accomodate a certain pilot weight range and level of experience.  Generally, there are larger gliders for larger people and smaller ones for smaller people.
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I am afraid of heights, can I still learn to hang glide?
While learning on the training hills your initial flights are only a few feet above the ground.  As you gain experience your flights get a little higher but, more important, you gain the knowledge and confidence that your hang glider will support you and that you can control it.  This, in turn, helps most people get over their fear of heights when hang gliding.
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What sort of mountain and training sites are in the area?
Initial training is done at grassy training hills in Virginia and Maryland with a travel time of 1:15 to 2:00 hours from Arlington.  There are a number of available training hills that range in altitude to 100 feet.

Mountain flying sites are located in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  The more frequently used sites are 1:15 to 2:15 hours from Arlington.  Each of these mountain sites face a specific direction and they range in altitude from 550 to 1200 feet (AGL).
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How do I get started?
Contact us by email silverwingshg@netzero.net or phone (703)533-1965 to schedule for a class. Please read Classes.
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