Hang-Gliding Instructor  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotHave you ever wondered what it's like to soar like a bird? Well, a hang-gliding instructor is just the person to teach you.

Hang-gliding pilots are in a harness and actually hang on the frame of a hang-glider by a strap. They lie flat out like a bird and keep their hands on a control bar.

After they achieve liftoff, pilots shift their weight back and forth and from side to side to control turning and speed.

dotThere are two ways to lift off with a hang-glider. One is called a foot launch. This is where the pilot runs down a slope and basically jumps off a hill, cliff or mountain.

What if there are no hills around? No problem! You can use a tow launch.

This is where the pilot is towed (or pulled) by a truck with a stationary winch or a light aircraft until he achieves altitude. Tow launches are said to be safer than foot launches and you are able to reach higher altitudes quicker.

dotOnce a hang-glider is in the air, a skilled pilot can fly for several hours, go a distance of hundreds of miles and reach thousands of feet in altitude. Some can go so high that they must bring oxygen!

Doug Campbell teaches hang-gliding part time in Tacoma, Washington. He says students are required to have eight hours of instruction time before their first altitude flight.

During this time, the instructor teaches the student the basics of the sport and how to safely use the equipment involved.

dotA hang-gliding instructor teaches the student how to launch and land safely. This may include a foot launch or a tow launch.

They also teach students airspeed control and directional control.

dotOne of the best ways to teach hang-gliding is through tandem flights. This means that the instructor and student go up together on the same glider. The instructor demonstrates a skill, then the student tries it.

Rob McKenzie and his wife teach hang-gliding in San Bernardino, California. "Most hang-gliding instructors in the country, unfortunately, don't do it as a full-time career. They have other jobs and teach on weekends and holidays," he says.

dotOnly a handful of schools hire full-time instructors. Another option for certified instructors is to start their own school or offer lessons during their spare time.

dotHang-gliding instructors spend most of their time outdoors, so this is an occupation that is limited by the weather conditions.

Instructor Ben Davidson says his typical day is from 9 in the morning until dark, and "ideally seven days a week." This is for a full-time instructor.

dotAlthough people with certain physical challenges can still hang-glide, you must be in fairly good shape in order to teach this sport.

At a Glance

Teach others the basics of this type of flight

  • This work depends on the weather
  • Most people do this on a part-time basis
  • Instructors have to be certified