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How to learn

There are three different techniques for launching hang gliders, and all three
can be used for training purposes. These techniques are:

  • Hill-based training
  • Aerotow training (towed up behind a microlight)
  • Winch training (towed up like a kite)
  • Crossover between hill, aerotow and winch.
Hill based training

All training starts with some ground school so you have foundation of theory and practical aspects of the equipment.
You'll be solo on the hang glider right from the start, but 'tethered' with ropes under the guise of an instructor and helpers. This enables you to get familiar with the feel of the wing, getting used to airspeed and the sensation of using weight shift for control.

The next stage of training will be 'low skims', where you are now tether-free, but on a very shallow slope where you can skim a few feet above the ground, building experience.
You then progress to slightly higher flights, allowing a few simple S turns to be made before landing. These flights are repeated until the instructor is happy you have confidence and complete control, after which higher flights are completed until your your pilot card can be signed off.
You are now an accomplished pilot able to fly independently, although you'll also receive post-school support from coaches within your club and the Hang Gliding UK support group.

tethers
aerotow tandem
AEROTOW

Just like hill-based training, training starts with some ground school. There will be some additional aspects to learn, as with aerotow you will be towed aloft with a microlight. Unlike hill, the early stages of tuition are done dual so you will fly with an instructor, and fly dual for several days before being allowed to go solo.
The picture explains aerotow training; the glider has wheels (no use of legs while training), the instructor is with you side-by-side, and there is a towline between you and the microlight, and you choose when to release. Tows are typically to 2,000ft, giving several minutes of instruction before landing.
All training can be accomplished dual, until the Instructor is happy you have confidence and complete control, after which you are sent solo. You will repeat a number of solos, leading to signoff of your pilot card.

You are now an accomplished pilot able to fly independently, although you'll also receive post-school support from coaches within your club and the Hang Gliding UK support group.

WINCH BASED training

Training by winch has some similarities with aerotow training; there is a towline and the release is under your control. Instead of a microlight, a small winch unit is used to provide energy to fly.

With less power, winch training can be accomplished solo and very close to the ground, much like tethered/hill training. This means early training is low, slow with full instructor attention, and over several days you'll progress to higher flights as your confidence and capability increases.

Parallel towing is a recent development where the instructor drives a vehicle alongside you which tows you via an arrangement of pulleys. This allows easier communication and for the instructor to more easily

Higher flights initially allow a few simple S turns to be made before landing. Progressing to even higher flights, there is now enough height to allow 'circuits' back to where the winching started. These flights are repeated until the Instructor is happy you have confidence and complete control, after which higher flights are completed leading to signoff of your pilot card.

You are now an accomplished pilot able to fly independently, although you'll also receive post-school support from coaches within your club and the Hang Gliding UK support group.

winch
aerotow tandem2
Crossover between hill, aerotow and winch

The descriptions above describe hill, aerotow and winch launching

independently. If you learn in one discipline there will be a small effort to 'convert' to another.

Choosing which discipline(s) are suitable for you depends on where you are live and the accessibility of aerotow sites, winch sites and hill sites.

The east region (see map) has the highest concentration of aerotow/winch operations with the landscape being devoid of hills.

Most other regions have a selection of hills and many pilots tend to mix their disciplines to maximise their flying opportunity. Likewise, some pilots will be stalwart hill-only (usually when located in a hill-rich area), or perhaps predominantly aerotow if they live near aerotow operation.

The disciplines that are right for you will be subtle blend of location, your circumstances and facilities that are in reach of you. This is most easiest discussed using support from Hang Gliding UK to work towards the best fit for you.