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.
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.
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 will last closer to 5 minutes (or more!) 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.
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.
One of the most daunting moments in learning how to fly a powered paraglider comes when the student is finally ready for that first power on flight. Perhaps even their first ever flight, if towing or a training hill is not available.
Many questions arise for the student as they prepare for those first flights:
– How much throttle will I need?
– Will the torque be hard to steer against?
– How much will the glider pendulum when I add/let off the gas?
– Will I be able to get off the ground without breaking a propeller?
– What if I trip?!?
While all of these questions can be addressed in theory, giving the student a good understanding of what to expect, there’s nothing quite like firsthand experience. That’s where the winch and tow launched flight come in.
With our Pay-Out winch system, we are able to incrementally add all the bits and pieces of Paraglider and Powered Paraglider flight, without requiring giant and often intimidating steps. First flights will be without a motor at all, then a few flights with our paramotor training frame until the student is ready for that first motor on flight.
Even on that first powered flight, we ‘cheat’ a bit to keep it simple and safe. By towing up with the power off, then having you start the motor in flight, we are able to remove even more of the unknown variables from the learning process. Go ahead, fly around for a while and really get the feel of what it’s like to fly with a motor. We’ll run you through several in flight drills, then when it’s time to come down, you simply turn off the engine and land much the same as you have many times before, the only new variable being the extra weight of the motor on your back.
Eventually, with the confidence that comes from having developed an extensive foundation of skills, it simply becomes the next natural step to launch unassisted and power on! It’s moments like those that bring huge, involuntary smiles to everyone. Really great fun!
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?!?
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.
We have one of the best locations for towing in the entire US, and are happy to share our knowledge in making this alternative method for getting up into the air available to everyone. Learn about towing dynamics, angle of attack, safest and best towing practices, weak link and winch choices, etc.
Our Tow Tech clinic gives you the basics and a good foundation to be a competent winch operator.
For those wanting to go further, our Towing Administrator program gives you an advanced level of competency and experience. Towing Administrators can also certify Tow Tech candidates.