When training, you will begin by just skimming the ground. As you progress and become more skilled and confident, you will gradually go higher and higher – under your instructor’s direction.
There are different sources of “lift” available to hang glider and paraglider pilots. The most common is “ridge lift”, which you use to soar on the uprising air from hills, cliffs etc. Average height gains using ridge lift are around 200ft.
The most useful form of lift is “thermal lift”. The skilled pilot utilises these pockets of warm, rising air in the same way that large birds such as eagles do. Using thermals, a pilot can reach heights of over 10,000ft in warmer countries such as France and Spain. In the UK, we have a cooler climate and, in the summer, heights of 3,000 to 6,000ft are the norm.
The height, or altitude, that you fly at is strictly controlled by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and learning to read air maps is a must for the advancing pilot. Cross country flying is restricted to pilots who have reached “Pilot” level. The levels are: Elementary Pilot (EPC), Club Pilot (CPC), Pilot and Advanced Pilot.