Thermal flight

Long live spring and the beautiful days of flight!

How to prepare for it as a beginner?

You should have already flown your paraglider well in the months before, and carry out some basic exercises to familiarise yourself with your equipment. 

In spring, conditions are often strong in the early afternoon, so it is advisable to start flying as soon as the conditions allow you to hold on to the take-off (light headwind). There is no fixed time, in any case, take off early and try to hold in the air, it is the best way to learn.

You learn patience and tenacity, you improve the manoeuvrability of your paraglider. Holding on to the ground when the conditions are poor will help us to perfect our trajectories and find the right compromise between safety margins and thermal exploitation. It is absolutely necessary to go through this stage of discovery of the world of air in movement before finding yourself too high in the sky.

It is clear that you are faced with the frustration of a flight that is too short, or the desire to fly when conditions are stronger to stay in the air longer, well no! Make sure you keep up this rhythm of practice which will form a solid base of tenacity and confidence for flying close to the ground.

Don’t be too greedy about time in the air, as flying is also about being focused on your approach and landing, so keep your energy up!

How do you learn ?

Learning is a succession of successful attempts and failures, so accept it as such.

To understand the exploitation of thermals, you have to fly at times when the air mass is not yet organised, so learn where to turn, when to turn, which radius to choose, how to wait in a zone, how to be patient, how to observe, how to be strategic before moving to another point.

When our mind is not disturbed by anything else, and our technique is sufficient to keep the glider manageable, we are in a learning phase, where our brain has a clear analysis of the situation and can therefore anticipate.

In this condition we experience the air, we can materialise, we can imagine our space. It is in these moments where we accumulate our layers of experience, where the debriefing on the perception of the air mass is the finest.

How do you know ?

How do I handle the situation:

When I am flying and I feel “ok”, whether my analysis is right or wrong, I have a plan B to stay in the air and find a support to continue my flight, I am in control and in the feeling. I can therefore give back my knowledge and exploit the magic phenomenon.

 

When I’m in the air and I can’t move too much anymore, my options become rare, I feel tension, my intuition pushes me to land, and my ego to stay. When I look too much at others and pay more attention to my own sensations or analysis, I am in a situation of not learning. It’s time to land, or to change flight space.

For intermediate to expert levels ?

Taking off early is a good way to warm up, to get a feel for the glide and rhythm of the thermal (rhythm: knowing when to turn in the thermal, depending on the conditions).

You have to make volume in the air, I often say “make circles in the air”! Knowing how to climb is essential to flying (according to the best pilots in the world) so take advantage of those hours when you can’t necessarily fly miles, to climb, descend, climb and descend, again and again. 

Review your fast descent techniques: small ears, accelerated ears, regular 360’s (working on rotation while controlling speed).

You should feel comfortable practising these techniques and make them automatic, which will strengthen your free brain capacity to analyse other situations (the beauty of the surrounding mountains, the other pilots around, the weather evolution, the next transition…).

Be progressive in the length of your flights, test yourself minute by minute, hour by hour, and judge your health. Avoid the bulimia of the beginning of the season, keep some margin and the pleasure will be greater!

Fly as soon as the conditions allow, don’t wait for a better day than the other, every flight is an opportunity to experience the air and to learn, so GO!

Some tips for thermal flights ?

  • Be patient
  • Be relaxed
  • Know how to observe
  • Be attentive to sensations
  • Understand the movements of the wing in relation to the air mass
  • Be confident in your placements and choices

Good flights to all, rely on your sensations and exploit your theoretical knowledge, but not the opposite!

Fabien

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