Thermal Lecture (in English)

When a beginners heard the first time the others “The pilots” talking about thermal , he think what the hell is that? Is that a place where they go for a warm bath after flying or what?
He found out soon that not , it’s actually a way to going up in the air!
But it must be something really complex and difficult because they all keep talking about it and they don’t even agreed! 
It look even scary with these story about collapses, reserve deployment, pilots who had so much difficult to go down that they had even to use special technique!
So that’s the feeling that medium pilots have when they start to learn about thermal, not really ideal!
I use to give lecture (really good from my point of view) to student which the year later, I found out still didn’t had a clue of what to do when their variometre start to beep.
It make me wonder, and I realize that doesn’t matter how good is a lecture if the persons is not ready for it, what ever is the reason :Not the level to understand it, not interested or not feel concern about it and what about the stress?
I start to observe medium pilots in thermal conditions and I realize that most of them –especially coming from the Uk where thermal are not easy and rare, can be relax in ridge flying (no thermal) and in most part of the flight, but as soon as a solid thermal hit them (not a big one) they are nearly in panic and their brain shrink the size of a peanuts. All the hours of lecture about thermal they had in the pass GONE.
Why? because of too much stress associated with the word “thermal” which make them also believe that they won’t habile to coop!
They think that these thermal are only for people that they reed the name in magazine and who fly all the year round.
So boys , I have a good news for you –It’s all bullshit! 
I don’t say that thermal will not kick your ass, I just say that with modern gliders, you are really safe and that it’s rare that a thermal collapse your wing and if it do so, just relax and keep reading your Cross-country magazine, because it will reopen by itself.
Also that to go up in thermal is not big deal, sometime they are so easy that it require more effort not to go up with them!
I been to some lecture (eider French or English) from paragliders Gurus, and I have to say that I been impress, every body been really impress, but I am not sure that’s why people are there for?
For sure, technically these lecture are absolutely amazing with 2 hours (or more) of technical information, shape of clouds, different inversions level and so on. But who is really concern about it in the whole public? 10% maybe. 
Too many instructor get drag into their speech , they really like their subject –some of them like also to listen themselves talking as well, and don’t realize that they forget the most important in a lecture : 
To pass useful information to ALL of your public. 

So I decide to rebuild completely all my lecture.
To have them really simple, directly to the point and relative to the reality and to the flying here, and to forget about the Mac-Ready ring and so on (instrument to improve cross country)
So what a pilots who don’t know to fly thermal want to know?

( I am not talking about pilot who fly in thermal and don’t know to use them. Because I know many pilots who even do cross country who still don’t know how to use a thermal properly. With the performance of paragliders now, they arrive to get by, but they could do much better.)

So the first problem is that as a student you been taught that if you pull too much your break you will stall your glider or put in flat spin–which is right, except that nobody show you how far you can go –so you are shit scared to pull too much on your break.
I see it here all the time, when I ask a student to turn a thermal, he turn the same 360 as he was flying a Boeing!
So before even to go in thermal condition, you should on a calm day with altitude, practice some 360 reaching something like 20/ 30 degrees bank angle, stabilize them, change side, use weights shift, see the difference, try tighter turn –not like a spiral dive, and then you will be ready to look for thermal.
-Let’s forget about thermal trigger and so on for now.
So safety first : which mean, before turning a 360 always check that :
-You can reach the landing safely at any time.
-You are fare away of any hill/ cliff, considering wind drift and so on, and you will keep an euil on this.
-There is no pilot close by (you will keep as well and euil on it.)

-You want to know :

     1 -What to do when the vario start to beep?
     2 -How to stay in the thermal when you are turning in it ?
     3 -What to do when the vario stop?

1 .You all heard about the 3 (4 sometime) second delay that you should wait before start turning the thermal. I use it for years, till the day where I was quiet high with good conditions and I was not bother to loose a thermal or 2. 
So when my variometre start to beep, instead of turning after the “official” 4 seconds, I keep  flying straight and observe what’s happening.
-The rules of the 4 second mean that most of thermal need 6 to 8 second to be pass completely. So if you turn after 4 you should be  turning into it.
Unfortunately, I found out that it was not really right, so I done much more research, I found that :

  • Some thermal was really small, I had to turn after 2 second, tight and slow to stay in.
  • Some thermal was huge, It could take me more than 12 seconds to cross them, so to turn after 4 seconds would have make me turn not even in the first half of it.
  • But my most interesting discover is what I called pre-thermal. Many time just curious, instead of turning the thermal when I was feeling to do so. I keep flying straight and went out of it.  Every 4 or 5 time it was an other thermal stronger and bigger right behind!

So I start to wonder, maybe thermal are not homologate by BHPA Or FFVL ?

So when you variometre start to beep.

Fly slower, because :

  • You’ll stay longer in the thermal.
  • You will have less bank angle for the same size 360 turn (or smaller turn for the same bank angle).

-Forget about timing and wait, when the beep stop to increase in force and stabilized, Start to turn your 360, turn to the side that you are pushed away -if you fell any, other way as you like.

-In the thermal when your variometre increase –open your turn,( the thermal is in front of you) –When the noise decrease close your turn, (the thermal is behind you, you flying away of it).
Try it on piece of paper, draw a potatoes, then draw a line of you flying into it, then follow the rule above considering the information that would give you the variometre and see.

That’s the only 2 main rules that you have to follow to fly in thermal.

3 -When been going up into a thermal which stop certainly, it may finish there, or you maybe just lost it, so keep turning a wider 360 around the area, often you will fine it back.

-Off course you have to weight shift inside the side where you are turning, because It help you to fly slower /or a tighter turn for the same bank angle, which is the main objective in a thermal (closer to the core. of it). 
I know that some people teach to lean outside in the thermal, it’s completely illogical, except maybe if you are at 12000 feet in a 2 km diameter thermal.
-Have your break with 10 centimeters slack, like this you can take a rap round your hand and feel the variation of tension of your wing on one finger.
-Forget about the ground (Of course except concerning safety), just let yourself to be drifted in the masse of air concentrating on the thermal.
-Try in calm air different harness adjustment to fine the best one for you when you are thermalling, sensitive, but not too much instable.
-And the most important of all, try to relax, and go at your own rhythms, to push yourself is good up to a point. 
-Remember to breeze, to relax and to take a break between thermals. It’s totally normal to become anxious when the ground disappear below, don’t let it overtake you!
-Have some sweet and water is important, let go your break as well for a moment, it help to relax.

Enjoy yourself
Christophe Dubois 
Flying-Paradise director

Initiation Cross country Lecture

That’s not actually a proper cross-country lecture with amazing technique explaining how to go as far as possible. It’s few just few points to explain that cross country is accessible to every one and how to try it safely.
There are some experiences pilots who never done any Cross country. Most of time it’s just because they see it as some things really difficult or dangerous, that they don’t think (consciencly or not) that they have the level for.
For sure, starting a cross-country toward the Alps in St Andre des Alpes, you better know what your doing because you are committed, no road, deep valley, not mentioning the strong conditions.
But a bit further for instance at Laragne, also a very famous flying sites, if it’s not a too strong days, or launching after 3 pm, you will be fine to go cross country, landing field, every where around!
The worst which can happen to you is to walk if there is nobody to pick you up!
Nowadays with actual paragliders, you don’t need to be really good to enjoy a nice cross country. All what you need is to be safe.
What are you looking for to be safe? Let’s keep things simple.
-If you fly alone god idea to inform somebody of your intention (direction you want to go) you can even live a note in your car just before taking off.
-Have some water and food with you, a mobile phone with number to call stored in it or on a note book –Have this mobile phone and number in a place that you can reach without getting out of you harness in case of breaking something at landing.
-During your flight where ever you go all what you have to keep in mind is.
     -Check regularly how you are drifted, it will tell you how the masse of air you are flying is moving (The 2 way to achieve this is or a GPS or to look at your shadow on the ground) Like this you know if you going to be in the lee or not of the next mountain / hill / cliff which maybe is on your way or close by. That’s the most important things.
      -If you start to be low (around 600 ft, depend of the country) look for main road, start to get closer of it looking for landing. Around 400 feet look for power line checking pole (far away with high voltage). Try to have some options in case you discover something in the one that you had choice first.
-While looking at your landing you been doing 360 which should have give you an idea of the wind direction. If you are not sure, fly straight looking at your speed relative to the ground, then turn 180 degrees, the difference will be very obvious because 2 time the wind speed. If you don’t see where the wind coming from, just pick up the easier direction for you (the longer one usual) and land. Remember that with a paragliders it’s not a big deal to land with 5 km/ hour down wind and that if it was more , you would have notice it.
Off course for your first time, fly to place that you know, with big open valley, many field and so on, other way take bigger safety margin with attitude to look for landing.