You have decided that you are going to train to become a paragliding pilot. You want to get on with some training, but where do you start?
Your Google search tells you that there are loads of great schools with great reviews in both the UK and abroad (Europe). You might (as I did) decide to narrow the decision down by looking at who has the best offer. Some schools offer free training with the purchase of new kit. If you are really going to get into this sport, you are going to need your own kit. Why not just bite the bullet and buy it at the start?!
The benefit of this is that you will then be training with your own wing, and therefore know it really well by the time you finish training. Obviously the downfall is that you might not like paragliding! (highly unlikely!)
Training in the UK
Advantages — Schools are open at weekends and all year round, therefore training in the UK can fit around work and other commitments. If you train in the UK you will fly UK sites, the majority of flights in the UK start off with a reverse launch, if you train in the UK you will be an expert at this by the time you have your CP.
Loads of UK schools offer deals on kit purchased with a course, the benefit of this is that if there are any problems you can go back to the school and they can help.
Another advantage is that you will get to know fellow pilots, when you head out to the hill for the first time as a qualified Club Pilot you will know a handful of people on the hill to help and guide you.
Disadvantages — Training in the UK can be very time
consuming, I have met people that spent 18 months
training. It is very weather dependent and can be
Advantages — Training to CP level can be achieved within 2 weeks. The weather conditions are generally more reliable (Spain, the Alps etc). Due to the intensity of the training you will learn very quickly and often theory lessons are factored in if it is not flyable.
The cost of training is generally similar to UK schools. Plus you get a holiday out of it!
Disadvantages — Occasionally the weather might not be in your favor and the course might not be completed. The overall cost might be greater as you have to factor in flights, accommodation and food expenses.
Many schools abroad are not BHPA registered, if you are planning on flying in the UK after training make sure the school you train with offers the UK EP/CP training syllabus. Otherwise you may encounter problems with getting insured in the UK.
If you purchase your kit with the school and you have a problem with it once you are back in the UK it can be tricky to solve due to the distance of you and the school.
You might not be ready to fly in the UK after 2 weeks abroad and may require further training.
Train abroad. My deciding factor was time, I didn’t want the UK weather to dictate how long it was going to take me to get to CP level. I knew that if I went abroad I would likely complete training within 2 weeks.
In 2015 I trained with Verbier Summits in Switzerland, although the cost was greater than if I were to stay in the UK I figured that it would be worth it as they guaranteed the training would be completed with the 2 weeks. I purchased my kit through the school and received the second week of training and accommodation for free. The kit I purchased has been great and I haven’t had any issues with it. I also had no idea what kind of wing I needed. Purchasing it through the school, meant they could advise me as to what I needed and had it ready for me when I arrived.
The major disadvantage I found was that I came back to the UK and had no experience of reverse launching. I spent a few days with Fly Sussex where I learned how to reverse launch in UK conditions.