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What is the BHPA?
The BHPA is the controlling body for the sport aviation disciplines including Paragliding, Hang Gliding and their powered variants, which are collectively termed ‘Free Flight’.

The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA) sets standards for training through registered and inspected schools, and issues pilot ratings for flying the various types of aircraft we represent. In conjunction with international bodies it also administers airworthiness standards for free flight aircraft.

Through the national sport aviation governing body, the Royal Aero Club, we control free flying sports in international competition.

Hang Gliding
Not Hand Gliding – it is not, and never was, called that!
Hang Gliders are controlled by shifting the pilot’s weight and were first popularised in the late 60s, although antecedents go back to and beyond Otto Lilienthal in 1891. They owed much of their initial appeal to the fact they offered a means of cheap flying, and were the first aircraft that could be packed up small enough to store in a garage, or put on the roof of a car. The descendants of these cheap flying machines now have enough performance to fly hundreds of kilometres powered by thermal lift alone.

A glider that has no rigid structure and, like a parachute, can be folded and packed into a large rucksack. As a result they are even more portable than a hang glider, but when inflated can form a stable wing capable of flying long distances, with similar performance to a Hang Glider. Paragliding performance and accessibility means that in the UK Paraglider pilots now outnumber Hang Glider pilots by some 8 to 1.

Paramotors and Powered Hang Gliders
Derived from powered versions of Paragliders and Hang Gliders, but now mostly designed specifically to fly under power.

Aerobatic Paragliding is probably the most visible of the many specialist Paragliding disciplines, along with Accuracy where competitors aim to land on a 10cm target. Hike-and-Fly is an emerging discipline which requires pilots to race across large upland distances on foot and by air, and Speed Flying utilises small wings for high-speed flight.

Powered flexwing or three-axis rigid wings, comparable to conventional light aircraft in control and performance but weighing between 300 and 600kg. The controlling body for microlights is the British Microlight Association, not the BHPA.

Human Powered Flight
As the name suggests, these are aircraft driven by human power alone, and consequently very light and delicate structures that are exclusively flown in very calm conditions.

The legalities of flying Hang gliders and Paragliders
The Civil Aviation Authority issues pilot’s licences in the UK. The BHPA does not issue licences. However there is no legal requirement to hold a pilot’s licence for flying Hang Gliders, Paragliders or powered aircraft weighing under 70kg such as Paramotors.

The BHPA issues ratings for various disciplines of free flight. The success of our training regime has meant we have been left to self-organise without the need for our pilots to hold a CAA licence. While almost all free-flight pilots are BHPA members, partly because of the advantages of insurance and access to sites, there is no legal requirement to be a member.

Regardless of what licence or ratings you hold, the Rules of the Air, Anti-Collision Rules, Priority Rules and other Air Law must still be obeyed. A paraglider pilot uses the same maps and must obey the same airspace rules as an Airbus captain, and of course some pilots fly both machines.

Competitions, Records and achievements
There are many types of competition featuring Aerobatics, Accuracy, Navigation and more, but the top level of both Paragliding and Hang Gliding competition involves racing round a GPS-defined course of around 100km.

The current reigning World Champion is UK pilot Russell Ogden, and the UK Paragliding Team currently holds the World Championships team title.

Despite receiving no external or government support the UK has produced World Champions in the Men’s, Women’s and Team classes in both Hang Gliding and Paragliding.

The current World Hang Gliding distance record is 764km and the Paragliding record stands at 582km.

UK weather, geography and airspace make long-distance flights more difficult – the UK Hang Gliding and Paragliding distance records stand at 338km (Carl Wallbank) and 306km (Richard Carter) respectively.

The British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (BHPA) is the governing body for hang gliding and paragliding in the UK . The BHPA was formed in 1992 by the merging of the British Hang Gliding Association and the British Association of Paragliding Clubs. Since then, the sport has grown considerably, and now has over 60 affiliate clubs with a combined total of about 8,000 individual members. 

BHPA Registered Schools will train you at a rate of progress that is suitable for you. They are monitored for safety, the quality of the training they offer, and the equipment they use, and their instructors are licensed by the Association.

When you start training at a BHPA registered school you will be asked to take out BHPA membership. This includes £5 million 3rd-party insurance cover but does not include personal accident cover.

BHPA registered schools usually offer a variety of training packages. If you opt for a elementary pilot or a combined elementary and club pilot course, you can apply online for Trial Membership (3 months) or Full Annual Membership.

Most schools also offer a one day taster course which is ideal if you are not ready to commit to a full course of training. In which case you will need to apply online for One Day Introductory Membership.

One Day Introductory Membership is only valid on the day of issue, and you must therefore only apply on the actual day of your taster course.

The BHPA also charges an annual fee of £164 for flying membership, which includes a subscription to the BHPA’s monthly magazine and £5 million third-party insurance cover. The BHPA charges a joining fee of £25 and a rating issue fee of £10. You can find a comprehensive list of fees charged by the BHPA on their website 1.