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Paragliding Goatfell

Listed under Flying, Gliding & Ballooning in Scotland, United Kingdom.

  • Photo of Paragliding Goatfell
  • Photo of Paragliding Goatfell
  • Photo of Paragliding Goatfell
  • Photo of Paragliding Goatfell
Photo of Paragliding Goatfell
Photo by zabdikeen
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When a group of us camped up Goatfell on the Isle of Arran on the Solstice 1989 One of them Andy Robson flew down on his new paraglider – It was magic to see him run forward and lift off and fly down to greet the dawn but then I had to walk down.

That was it ! I wanted to fly. The sport had only just come to Britain and there were no schools in Scotland. So Andy taught me.

The first time I flew off Goatfell was my first time to fly alone and only my 11th flight. When I got to the top I found a coach load of grannies and grandpas lining the slopes and watching as I laid out my brightly coloured nylon canopy. As I prepared my controls I realised I had never really payed attention before as Andy just used to shove them into my hands and tell me to run as he was desperate to fly.

I thought I had it right but my first two attempts failed as I ran hesitatingly towards the cliff. By the third time I lay out the paraglider with blazing cheeks under the scrutiny of the large audience I decided that this time I would just go for it- so I did and luckily it worked. I ran forward the wing lifted and the granite cliffs dropped away. Beneath me the river of glen Rosa shining all, the lochs turned silver in the sunlight I was in the centre of the valley dangling, a few lines and a nylon canopy suspended me in a climbing harness as paragliding harnesses were yet to be invented – my scarf was wrapped around the leg straps to add more comfort. The mountains all around me, the sweat drying and deep joy in my heart.

Equipment and training has developed from those days. Both are a lot safer I was lucky to survive my method of learning. Training is now carried out following the British Hang gliding and Paragliding pilot rating syllabus taking you step by step to the freedom of the skies. Exercises start on gentle slopes learning to take off and land and gradually move up getting higher as confidence and ability grow. Radios and tandem paragliders are used to aid instruction.

For a while paragliding equipment got heavier and heavier as more comfort and technology was added to wings and harnesses. Now new lightweight mountain paragliding equipment has been developed that brings the enjoyment back into the walk up with no performance or safety lost.

Summer Solstice found me walking up Goatfell with a small day sack that transformed into a harness and contained a new lightweight paraglider. A fellow pilot Kenny Ross joined me. Sleeping overnight wrapped in our paragliders and using gortex bivi bags. Kenny had founds room for a bottle of wine to celebrate (The thought of wine in the hills is always good but the reality is as I sipped out the flask cup I had to push down the guilty thought that I would rather have a sweet cup of tea.)

Morning I awoke to the best room in the world. Peering round as the dawn light defined the granite rocks of Cir Mhor. I took off in the light breeze still thrilled as my feet leave the ground and I am airborne once more sharing the lift with a huge black raven in the early morning thermals around the huge summit blocks of Goatfell and flying out to greet the sun on the sea, land on the beach and collect the paragliding students off the ferry ready for a day teaching.

Is Paragliding on your really gonna have to do that some time list?

Paragliding – Take off and land into wind, you don’t jump. The paraglider inflates and you are lifted off the ground. All equipment fits in a rucksack. You can stay up for hours and fly huge distances with modern wings. The current paragliding record is 423 km.

Is it dangerous? There is an element of risk as Paragliding is classed as an adventure sport. If you train properly with a registered school and only fly in suitable conditions then you can keep the risk to a minimum. Your course teaches you to judge conditions and do proper risk assessments. Currency is also important – if you have a long lay off it is good to go back to a training environment and do some ground handling to refresh your skills in take off, landing and control before going onto higher flights.

Age limits. 14 upwards with parental consent you can do the full course when you are 16. Upper age limits are defined by fitness. If you are over 60 or have any medical condition you should check with your doctor.

Equipment: Is supplied during your course. Your instructor can advise you of suitable equipment. The school often has a discount on training if you purchase through them. New equipment package costs from around £2500 for paraglider, harness, helmet and reserve. Good second hand equipment package with airworthy certificate sells from £1000 up. It is important to get advice on equipment as there are a lot of unsuitable and unsafe paragliders for sale. Weight of equipment package ranges from 28kg to 5kg for lightweight equipment.

Training: A Fundays paragliding is a good introduction to the sport and counts as the first day of the Elementary pilot course if you decide to continue.

Elementary pilot rating: 4/5 days training (if it takes longer this is normally included check with the school)

Club Pilot rating: After this you are qualified to fly without an instructor present. Takes between 6 – 15 days further training. Again check with the school to see if they charge for extra days training required. Learning to fly is like learning to drive everyone learns at a different rate it is important to go at your own pace to consolidate and learn control before moving up to higher flights. It is good to keep the training as close together as possible as currency is very important. Flying Fever offers a season pass to encourage you to do as much flying as possible under the schools guidance.

Pilot rating. Once you are qualified Club Pilot you can join a local flying club and build up your hours and work towards your pilot license. When you fly abroad for the first time it is good to go with guidance from a school as there are a lot of new things to learn about meteorology and conditions in different countries.

Flying Sites: Contact local clubs for site rules to keep the landowners happy. Make sure the school you learn with has a range of sites to cover all wind directions. local schools and clubs Scottish hang gliding and paragliding federation

Zabdi Keen has run flying fever Paragliding School on the Isle of Arran for the last 16 years. Running flying courses in Nepal in the winter. She came 2nd British Woman in the 2005 paragliding championships and was chosen for the British Team.

Written by  Zabdi Keen.

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