Classes

Class Scheduling
To schedule for an upcoming flight class send an email to silverwingshg@netzero.net or call (703) 533-1965 and leave a message with your name, phone number(s), approximate body weight and which day (Saturday and/or Sunday) you want to schedule. Speak slowly and clearly on your message if calling. I will not call you back unless there is a problem. For emails I will usually acknowledge your request. If for some reason you need to cancel, you may by sending an email or calling and leaving a message before 11:00 PM the night before your class or you will be responsible for 1/2 of the class fee if you do not show up and the class happens. I do not teach during the Memorial/July 4th/Labor day weekends.

Class Checkin Procedure
This is normally done via email the evening before your class. Students that come to my Arlington location must be there by 9:00 AM and we car pool from there to the training site leaving just after 9:00 AM. Students that ride with me are responsible for contributing to the cost of gas (generally about $10-20 each).

What to bring/wear for class
Long pants will provide the best protection for your legs if you end up doing a belly landing (quite common for most students). Wear short or long sleeve shirt as appropriate for the temp but no sleeveless shirts please. Wear some type of shoe that has a tread on the bottom such as a running shoe, hiking boot, etc. Bring a light coat for cold months. Bring some food for lunch and plenty of water. I suggest 1/2 to 1 gallon per person. During warmer periods you need the larger quantity of water and I suggest putting the containing in the freezer a day or two before your class so that it can melt during your class giving you cool water. Other things that are helpful are sun screen and insect repellant. Also, if you have a pair of biking gloves and/or a biking helmet, bring those.

Travel time to the training site
It is usually 1:10 - 1:15 each way for some sites and 2:00 for the farthest away (PA) training site (times assuming no unusual traffic problems). We usually arrive at the training site about 11:30 or as late as 12:15 for the PA site.

Length of flight class
Most of the time we stop flying around 5:00 PM and leave around 6:00 to return home. We are at the training site for about 6 hours.

What happens on your first flight class
All new students fill out some paper work including a release form and a pilot critique form. We normally set up some wind socks/streamers in the field to help determine the wind direction and velocity. The hang gliders are removed from the vehicle and you will learn how to assemble a hang glider. You will then learn how to do a pre-flight inspection of the glider to make sure that there is nothing damaged to make the glider un-safe for flying. You will then put on a harness and helmet and move the hang glider to flat ground at the bottom of the hill. You will learn how to hook your harness to the glider and do a hang check. With the glider sitting on the ground you will practice shifting your body simulating speed and turn controls. After learning how to pick up the hang glider and balance it on the outside of your shoulders/upper arms, you practice running with the hang glider working on launching skills. Normally this run is for about 10-15 yards and on your first class expect to do 8-10 of them. At the end of a run, if going level and straight, students will usually do what is called a flare where the control frame is pushed forward and up raising the nose of the glider and this can lift you off of the ground a few feet. After a run or flight, the student then carries or drags the glider back to the starting position. During the last 1/3 of the first class students commonly will get do 2 to 5 flight attempts that start very low on the hill. If a flight attempt is done correctly from low on the hill, you will be flying 3-5 feet above the ground and fly for 15-30 yards! All of this is very dependent on the individual student and what the wind is doing. At the end of the flight class, students disassemble the hang gliders, pack up the equipment, and I fill out the pilot critique form on how you did. We then head back. The first class is a bit more physical than subsequent classes because students do not initially know how to handle the glider and because they need the additional ground running practice.

Important student responsibility
If a student causes damage to the hang glider that necessitates replacement of a part, they are responsible for the cost of the part. I provide any labor as necessary. This happens very infrequent though.

What happens on future flight classes
After setting up some wind socks/streamers we set up the hang gliders. You get your harness and helmet on and we take the glider to the flat ground below the hill. All students usually do 4-5 warm up runs with the hang glider before moving on the hill for flight attempts. Commonly students get between 5-12 flight attempts during the day. Handling the glider gets easier as you get more practice. At the end of the flight class, students disassemble the hang gliders, pack up the equipment, and I fill out the pilot critique form on how you did. With continued classes you get to move higher up the training hill getting higher and longer flights.

Safety
Hang gliding is a form of aviation and with this activity there is some risk (just like most activities, such as riding a bike, walking across the street, driving a car). With proper instruction and keeping an adequate safety margin as to when and where you fly you reduce the risk. Thousands of people hang glide in this country every week and there are very few accidents. I try to make the flight classes as safe as possible. Sometimes people screw-up and sometimes nothing bad happens but sometimes people get hurt. Luckily this is very, very infrequent. One important piece of safety equipment that I have on the gliders are wheels which can be used to roll in on when landings are less than perfect. Also, improvements in hang glider design and construction over the years has made the equipment much safer.

Airspeed/Windspeed/Groundspeed
Airspeed is the speed of the air traveling over/under the hang glider. Hang gliders can start to fly with just a few mph of airspeed but require a higher airspeed for there to be enough lift to carry the pilot also. Windspeed is the speed the air/wind is blowing past a stationary object. If the wind is blowing 10mph that is what the windspeed is. Ground speed is the speed the hang glider is traveling over the ground. You want to launch and land into the wind. If the wind is blowing 5mph and you have the glider pointed into the wind, it has an airspeed of 5mph. If you need a minimum airspeed of 15mph for there to be enough lift created to carry the pilot also, you run forward at 10mph (groundspeed) giving the glider an airspeed of 15mph and the glider could then carry you. You gain the necessary airspeed to fly a hang glider by running aggressively with the glider into the wind. There does not have to be any wind blowing to get a hang glider to fly but it's easier when there is a little wind blowing toward you. What is ideal is when the wind is blowing just a few mph toward you. As the windspeed increases, its effect on the glider increases exponentially thus it takes a lot more skill to handle higher wind velocities.

Control bar controls
The control bar is a triangular bar on the hang glider that is used to adjust your speed and for directional control. Your harness attaches to hang loops that are above the apex of the control bar. By pulling in on the bar you lower the nose of the glider and increase your speed. By pushing out on the bar you decrease your speed and if pushed out too far, the glider can stall. Raising or lowering the nose is adjusting the pitch of the hang glider. To make a hang glider turn, you move your entire body laterally toward the side of the control in the direction you want the glider to turn. Thus, if you want the glider to turn right, you move your entire body toward the right side of the control bar and the glider will turn right if you have ample airspeed. To turn left, you move your entire body toward the left side of the control bar. To stop a turn, you move your body back to the center of the control bar.

Landing a hang glider
To land a hang glider you want to be gliding about 4 feet above the ground with ample airspeed. You then gradually reduce your airspeed till you are just above stall speed and do a flare, where you push the control bar forward and up. Done properly, you stop all your airspeed and land gently on your feet. It is always good to be ready to run a few steps when you flare and come to the ground to prevent the nose from falling through. You only do a flare when you are flying straight and level because if you are in a turn, the flare will aggravate the turn. If not going straight and level, it is usually best to land on the wheels.

History and possibilites
The design of hang gliders in the USA was based on work by Francis M. Regollo who was working for an agency that became NASA. He designed a triangular shaped wing that would glide forward when descending. His design was used in the late 60's to build the first hang gliders. In the mid 70's an organization called the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA) was started and later it got the approval of the FAA to help regulate hang gliding in this country. There are 4 primarly skill levels in hang gliding called ratings which are a measure of the pilots experience and skill level. Hang 1 (Beginner rating) through Hang 4 (Advanced rating) require demonstation of certain skills, meeting specific requirements, and passing written exams administered by USHGA/USHPA instructors/observers. Most flying sites (other than beginner training hills) throughout the country require pilots to have a certain rating and be a member of USHGA (now USHPA - United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association).

Pilots flying at our local mountain sites can commonly fly for hours reaching altitudes several thousand feet above the mountain using a combination of ridge and thermal lift. In some parts of the country pilot's reach altitudes of 18,000 feet MSL regularily and can travel far distances. World record flights of 34 hours, 475 mile straight line distance in 11 hours, and altitude of 29,850 feet have been made. There are two hang gliding/paragliding clubs in the area which provide support, comraderie and further education. They are the Capitol Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association and the Maryland Hang Gliding Association and these clubs hold meetings, sponsor flying events and parties and provide a good way of connecting with other hang gliding/paragliding enthusiasts.