Tow launched flight would have to be considered one of the biggest assets that Discover Paragliding has in its training repertoire. So many lesson and tandem flying days have been saved by the 'little mountain' we carry around in the back of our truck. When the winds are too light, the wrong direction, or we just want our students to get more altitude and more airtime, our pay-out winch routinely comes to the rescue.
With over 20 years towing experience and something around 20,000 successful tow launched flights we have long ago proven that towing is one of the safest, easiest and most reliable ways to get into the air.
For our Tandem Flight students:
Tow launching from a sandy beach has proven to be the easiest and safest way to first experience paragliding flight. Launching from the flat ground and gently ascending to altitude eliminates the nervousness typically associated with running down a hillside to become airborne. Also for those with a possible fear of heights (Click link for more info!), we can keep you at any elevation you feel comfortable with, climbing higher only after you give us the OK.
For our Solo Flight students:
Tow launched flight provides a great way to get new pilots into the air. A typical first flight from a training hill lasts about 10-20 seconds at most. Your first training flight on tow last closer to 5 minutes and starts with a slow climb, giving you plenty of time to figure out this 'towing' thing. As you become more comfortable in the air , your climb rate will be increased, eventually reaching up to around 300' high! After a quick release from the tow line, you now have the luxury of over a minute to descend, allowing ample time to look around, do some turns and enjoy some airtime before transitioning into landing mode. A long straight 'final', and your feet will gently touch the ground. (Don't worry, your instructor will be 'in your ear' via our radio systems for the duration of your flight.)
Said simply, tow launched flight gives the student enough time between phases of flight (launching, flying, landing) to separate them and mentally process all these new sensations which is a fantastic learning tool!
Tow flight also 'bridges the gap' between the typical training hill flight where you may only be 50-100' over the ground at any point, and those first mountain flights where you will likely be 1000' or more above the ground . By first towing up to lower elevations, then progressively to altitudes as high as 3000', our students gradually gain valuable high altitude experience before launching from that first 'mountain' site.
Powered Paraglider (PPG) Towing:
Our towing system allows beginner PPG pilots a safe, power off, way to get into the air on those first motor flights. After launching and climbing 100' or so, they can now start the engine in flight and release from the towline. At this point, with instructor guidance, they can begin to learn the subtleties of power on flight without the concern of launching power on without already knowing (having prior experience with) what's going to happen once their feet leave the ground.
You might have heard: You don't need tow launched flight to learn how to fly a motor. To that we respond: No, you don't 'need' it. But with a tool like that available, doesn't it just make sense to use it?!?
For more info visit: Why Tow a PPG?
Cross Country (XC) Towing:
Another towing opportunity for more advanced pilots is XC towing. We occasionally venture out to the plains east of the Cascade range, where the object of your tow launched flight becomes not landing as close, but as far away from launch as possible! Using the thermal currents of the air, pilots can easily climb up over the flats, (often thousands of feet over). It is so simple to turn circles in the lift without having to worry about getting above or away from any terrain features that cross country flight becomes almost 'easy'. So far, our site record for farthest flight from launch is almost 50 miles! Impressive as that sounds, we will continue to offer occasional Cross Country towing opportunities to the local flying community, and flights over 100 miles are clearly anticipated.
Over the Water Towing/Safety Training:
We have a second winch that is mounted in a boat that allows us to take our advanced students over the water and into an environment that is perfect for simulating various emergency situations that might occur as you enter into the realm of strong thermal and XC type flying. Flying and maneuvering over water has repeatedly proven to the the best way to train all 'advanced maneuvers' and even aerobatic flight training.
How it works:
A 'pay-out' style winch is typically mounted in either a truck or a boat, with the pilot setting up about 50' downwind. As the vehicle begins driving/moving, the pilots waits for that first 'tension' signal to inflate his/her glider. As the glider comes over the pilots head, the line tension is then further increased to a point where the pilot is lifted off the ground.
The winch system is designed to pull the glider just a little faster than it wants to fly, while the glider compensates for this extra speed by climbing up and into the sky. As the tow continues, the truck and pilot get farther and farther apart as the pilot climbs out. Eventually the pilot will reach the maximum available altitude and will release from the line. Up to this point, the whole operation looks very similar to Parasailing, but once the pilot releases from the towline, he/she is free to fly off in any direction he chooses, while the tow operator reels the extended line back to the truck, (typically before it ever touches the ground), and then returns for the next pilot.
Although there are several different designs of pay-out style winches to choose from, the 'Super Tow Hydraulic Pay-Out Winch' is the design we had to have. Designed for 'no surprises', it has proven to be the safest, most reliable, versatile, and durable winch available today for the purpose of paraglider towing. It's so good, as a matter of fact, that we had to have two! One for our boat and one for our truck! Visit the guys at TowMeUp.com for a more detailed description of our winches, (and to see a pic of our old truck!).
Our two winches are truly remarkable machines, providing us with an unparalleled tool to enhance the paragliding experience and flight safety for all of our students and tandem flight passengers.