Just as there are different ways to get a hang glider into the air, there are different ways of teaching hang gliding. There are lessons that involve the pilot flying solo from the very first day.
Lessons can and should include a tandem flight where an instructor flies with the student. During this lesson the instructor demonstrates a safe launch, how to turn the glider properly, how to control pitch (speeding up and slowing down) where the stall point is, concluded by how to set up a proper landing in an ideal manner.
This is the original way of learning how to hang glide, and it's still an excellent choice. In this method, after a short period of ground school, the instructor and student start at the top of a shallow hill. While under the instructor's guidance, the student runs down the hill and launches the glider to an altitude of five to ten feet. For the first flights, the student may land the glider either on its wheels, or his feet. As the student gains proficiency, the student starts his launch run from a higher point for longer and higher flights. After the student learns how to make foot landings, turns are introduced, and when the student has demonstrated control of the glider, he is cleared for his mountain solo, and receives his Novice rating, which is also referred to as Hang 2.
This typically takes six to eight days for the average male student. Women of average or above height also usually solo in six to eight days, while shorter women tend to take somewhat longer (citation or study requested on this). The cost of hill training is in the range of $700 to $1100 US dollars, depending on whether the student includes tandem flights as part of their training.
- Student learns foot launches and foot landings.
- Typically the least expensive teaching method.
- Most students successfully fly solo on their first day.
- Can be physically demanding.
- Flights are short.
- Students who will be mountain launching.
- Students who want to learn to foot land.
In aerotow training, the student and an instructor are towed aloft by an ultralight airplane, in what is known as a tandem flight. At a predetermined altitude, the pilot releases the tow line, and the gliding portion of the flight begins. In early flights, the instructor does most of the flying, gradually handing off tasks to the student as the student demonstrates proficiency. An average student can expect to take 12 to 20 flights before his first solo, and to spend between $1350 and $2000 US dollars.
- Learning by aerotow is the least physically demanding of the three methods.
- Aerotow students get the most amount of air time before their first solo.
- Because it isn't practical to foot land a tandem glider, aerotow students do not learn to foot land as part of their training.
- It is usually the most expensive learning method.
- Students do not get to fly solo until the end of their training.
- Students who have physical limitations.
- Time constrained students.
- Students who live in flat areas.
In scooter towing, a modified motor scooter is used as a winch to pull the glider aloft. Unlike aerotow, scooter tow students fly solo from the first day, at an altitude of five to eight feet. The instructor carefully monitors the student's flight, and should anything begin to go wrong, can end the flight by closing the scooter's throttle, which causes the student to glide to a landing. As the student gains proficiency, a more powerful scooter is used to tow the glider to a higher altitude. Training to the H2 level will typically cost between $900 and $1500 US dollars
Scooter towing requires a flat open field rather than a hill.
- Less physically demanding than hill training.
- Teaches winch towing skills.
- Student will get many launches and landings, and can learn to foot land.
- Student will not learn to foot launch.
- Students who will be winch or platform towing.
- Students who will be aerotowing and want to learn to foot land.
Tandem flights, where the student is accompanied by an instructor, can be a part of a foot launch or a scooter tow program, and make up all of an aerotow student lesson program. While tandems can be foot launched or winch towed, they are most commonly aerotowed. A tandem typically lasts 15 to 20 minutes, and are a great way of getting you comfortable in the air. It's also excellent preparation for your first solo.
- Flights are long.
- Your instructor will demonstrate all the most important phases of the flight: Launch, handling the glider in flight, and setting up and performing an ideal landing approach.
- Your instructor can provide you with immediate feedback especially during the phase of the flight while you are in control of the glider.
- The tandem glider is much less responsive than a solo glider.
- Everyone. A tandem is highly recommended as part of any training program for any pilot.