Flare Timing

Returning to the ground in a paraglider is not complex.   The primary factors involved are airspeed energy and timing the pull of the brakes to match the energy dissipation.   The below article describes a system that I developed to simplify the conversion of technical understanding to feel during the flare.  When you first begin landing, the feel will not have experience, so using the two stages based on height will help you develop the feel that will take you past the analytical side of landing.   With all aspects of paragliding, feel and light touch are better than stiff controlled movements that happen when you have to think about all the factors.

I teach a two stage flare that I call  the 7 – 5 – 3 technique.

In all of the following discussions, the height is estimated from the feet to the ground. So, 7 feet is when your feet are 7 feet above the ground etc.

7 - Represents the minimum height in feet, that the feet are above ground, when you begin the initial pull of the brakes. Although I use 7 feet in the description, the beginning of this can vary between 6 and 9 ft above the ground.  If you are better with Meters, you could use 2 – 3 meters for this.

In this photo, the brakes are just beginning to be pulled downward.
The glider is just below the 7 foot threshold.
flaretime1

5 - Represents the height, in feet, that the 2nd half of the flare begins. In this phase, the pilot should be sensing the energy of the wing (how much airspeed there is).   If the glider climbs at all during the initial pull of the brakes, pause and discontinue pulling any further until the glider begins to descend again.   If the glider continues to descend when the brakes are pulled to chest height, the pilot will need to continue towards a full pull to finish the flare at 3 feet.  This phase is the key to timing.   The following finish is really the result of good timing during the pull between 5 and 3 feet.    The goal is to have a full flare not much lower than 3 ft over the ground ( target 2 – 3 ft ).

Here the pilot is in the middle stage, waiting for his height to
drop below the 5 ft threshold before executing the 2nd half of the flare.

flaretime2

3 - Represents the height you should have a full flare completed or mostly completed by. Please note, in windier situations, a full flare might be just slightly more than the first half of the flare.

This Pilot is below 3 ft and has a full flare completed or nearly completed.
If the wind moderate or stronger, he might not need to pull down all the way.

flaretime3

Approaching the Flare:

When gliding in on final from your approach pattern, make sure that your keep your airspeed up prior to the following flare stages.   Having airspeed (energy) in the wing will help your round-out be smoother and as a result your landing will be softer.   No sharp turns should be done below 25′, turns like this can leave the glider low on airspeed or can create a descent speed too high.  It is more important to have higher speed when in light or variable winds.

Your legs should be down prior to all of the above and you should have your legs running during the flare. Running ensures that your legs are below you and keeps the knees flexed to absorb some downward movement.

Stage 1 (Testing the wing’s energy):

As you approach the ground during your final glide, begin pulling the brakes down from trim or near trim speed between 6 and 9 feet. Start out with a nice smooth pull to the shoulders.   If the air was always smooth and there was no lift or gusts of wind when you land, flares would not require much adjustment.  In the real world, thermals, gusts and different wind speeds make each flare unique.  This is why you need to test the energy with this first part of the flare.

If you sense good energy in the glider when you reach mid-chest height, pause your flair until you descend smoothly to about 5 feet. If you have reached mid-chest height and the glider continues to descend and does not show good energy, continue into the second stage of the flare.

Stage 2 (Finish the flare 2 to 3 feet above the ground):

During the second half of the flare, with good feel you can adjust the pacing. The speed needs to be adjusted to the rate you are descending. If you are coming down slowly, you can pull very gently downward as you finish the flare. When coming down faster, you need to increase the pace of the flare.

The goal is to finish of the flare to about 2 to 3 ft above the ground. If you finish a flare in this range, you will have consistently good landings. With time and good feel, you will gain the touch that lands you smooth and graceful on every landing.

Landings vary based on the wind and conditions. In light or no winds (less than 4 or 5 MPH), completing a full flare at 3 ft. above the ground will achieve nice and easy touchdowns. On such landings you should always have your legs down from 30′ or higher and get the legs moving when below 10 feet. The full flare will help to minimize the speed at which you will need to run as you touch down. Do not make the mistake of flaring to minimize your forward speed. The focus should always be on flaring to minimize vertical speed. You can always run, but if you come down vertically fast, it can be much more dangerous.

In stronger winds ( 8 MPH or stronger ) pulling the brakes all the way down could pull you backwards and cause the wing to drag you after you flare. Instead of executing full arm extension in the flare, pull the brakes down just as much as needed from the chest position. As you practice, you can fine tune your feel to adjust how much brake to pull to adjust the rate of descent. In winds like this, you will not need to move much faster than a trot on landing and often will not have any forward speed at touchdown. As with all other aspects of flying, practice will help polish the techniques and feel.

Dividing the flair into two stages makes it easier to learn the timing. After you learn the feel and get familiar with the flare speed and descent speed management, you will not have to think about the specific feet anymore. As you practice landings, the flare will become fluid and will become one motion (Slower pull at first with a slightly stronger pull at the end – progressive speed) with varying speed throughout the flare. However, timing will vary based on the conditions.  The factors include the following:  thermals, wind gusts, density altitude, and how much airspeed the glider had on approach. You will also learn how far to extend the flare with regard to wind conditions (less pull in stronger winds and a full flare in any light wind situations).

If timing goes wrong:

  • If you are below 10 feet, hold the flare. If you let the brakes up after a full flare, the wing could surge forward and swing you into the ground. This has potential to be even worse than a full stall from this height.  From 10 feet, most entry paragliders will go into a parachutal mode and the descent rate will be manageable.  Make sure your legs are bent and be prepared to go into a roll onto the ground to absorb some of this extra vertical speed.
  • If you are above 10 feet, let the brakes smoothly back up to chest height. This will aid in prevention of a stall and help the glider maintain airspeed for flair. You can then do a finish flare again when you descend below the 5 ft level.

Common Flare Issues:

General Landing Concepts for Safety

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