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Canopy Piloting Training: How Long Does It Take to Become a Paraglider or Paramotor Pilot?

paragliding student learning to ground handle

Are you considering taking up canopy piloting and wondering:

How long does it take to progress through training and become a paraglider or paramotor pilot?

While there is no straightforward answer to this question, most people fly from the training hill on their first day! In this article, we will discuss the variables that influence the learning curve for the rest of your flight instruction and how to make the most of your training sessions.

Getting Into the Student Mindset

The assimilation of new information is easier when you are in the right mindset. If you're ready to learn something new, be a student, and prepare to grow into new territory for your journey ahead. To become a proficient canopy pilot, you must understand the gear, conditions, and yourself.

In this capacity, the time it takes to complete your training matters less than how deeply you understand these critical topics. To build momentum, it's best to attend multiple training sessions in a short amount of time. Like any skill, proficiency in canopy piloting comes from repetition. By immersing yourself in this new activity, you retain the lessons from previous sessions and build muscle memory quickly. Long gaps in training usually require that you re-learn much of what was already covered in previous lessons, which is not ideal for a proper learning curve.

Dedicating at least one day every two weeks to canopy piloting is recommended. However, if you can't make it to training, you can practice at a local park or beach to stay proficient - provided you have your own equipment.

paramotor equipment

Why Getting Your Own Gear Early is Important

Getting your own gear as soon as possible is essential to supplementing your formal training sessions. Our school has training gear for your first ten training flights, but you'll want your own once you're engaging in longer flights. Since there are no American manufacturers of Paragliding or Paramotor wings, our equipment comes from overseas.

Some gear may take longer to ship, so order as soon as possible to avoid delays. Whatever training program you are looking into, be sure to find out if they have gear available for you to begin your flight training.

The Variables That Affect Your Learning Curve

Your learning curve depends on several things. Some are in your control, while others are not. The variables that affect your learning curve include:

How often can you attend training?

The more frequently you attend, the faster your training will be. The beginning is the most important part, so be sure to dedicate the most energy towards this phase.

How quickly do you learn new physical activities?

Some people find it easier than others. While younger, physically fit individuals may learn canopy piloting sooner, that's no problem for less fit, older students, as our school has unlimited lessons to fit with everyone's learning curve. If you're researching programs to join, be sure to ask about the ongoing cost of instruction in case you need extra training at any point.

new paragliding equipment
Lukas folds his new wing for the first time!

How soon will you purchase your own gear?

Getting your own gear as soon as possible is recommended so that you will have the option to practice what you've learned in training at your local parks or beaches. Becoming familiar with your own set of equipment will help you progress more quickly as well versus swapping to new gear every time you attend a training session.

How well do you follow instruction?

This is the major determinant of your learning curve. If you could remember everything you're told the first time and execute those instructions perfectly, you would be a pilot in just two days. But no one can do that, so the real question is: How many times you have to hear or see the same thing before you can repeat the action or task perfectly?

How much will you add to the training program?

Our school has additional reading material, online classes, and field training sessions to complement the flight training program. But how much would you be investing with your time, attention, and energy into these resources? Diving into the material and soaking up as much as you can from the available training material generally leads to faster training progression. Some students think that they will learn everything just by showing up and going through the motions but this is not a good strategy. You will need to do some learning outside of the field sessions.

How favorable is the weather for your training?

While this is the one variable you don't have control over, maintaining a flexible schedule is your best bet. New students are often surprised that they can't just fly whenever they have the day off. We need proper weather first!

Our site has over 300 flyable days a year, the best in North America! This is one of the best reasons to begin training in San Bernardino, there are just so many good days that most people hardly have to adjust there schedules at all.

Summertime offers daily flying options and winter is still great flying but fewer of these days per month. If it looks like a good flying day is coming up, drop everything else and come fly!


The P1-P4 USHPA Ratings in Paragliding:

To get your P1 rating, you need to complete 10 flights from the training hill and pass a written test. This can be done in a day if you're really hustling.

To get your P2 rating, you need 25 more flights from higher launch sites and pass a difficult exam. This can take several sessions over a few weeks, and you must also complete tasks and have your skills evaluated.

To get your P3 rating, you need a minimum of 90 flights total, and you must be able to land within 10ft of a target and pass another exam. It takes around 6 months worth of sessions to achieve this rating.

The focus should be on developing good habits and skills that will last a lifetime, so it's important to take your time and not rush through the training process.

To get to P4 rating takes another 160 flights and a fourth written test. This rating is considered to be the top of the recreational ratings program. There is a lot of knowledge to be gained and we see some students who get through it all in couple of years.

There are advanced ratings that are available as well, including Instructor and Tandem, but they are not necessary for recreational flying.


Wrapping it up

So, there is no short answer to the question of how long it takes to become a canopy pilot, but with dedication, hard work, and a little luck with the weather, you can achieve your goals.

Remember, the key is not to rush through the training process but to deeply understand the critical topics and build momentum through repeated training sessions.

By investing in yourself, following instructions, dedicating time to training, and practicing on your own equipment, you can progress through the ratings program and become a skilled canopy pilot.


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