Paragliding and Right of Way Rules

In the FAA viewpoint, the following are the Basic Safety and Right of Way Rules.


A. Takeoffs and landings should be made into any significant wind.
B. When ridge soaring, reversing turns should be made away from the ridge and into the wind.
C. When ridge soaring, an overtaking glider should pass between the ridge and the overtake glider.
D. Gliders approaching head on should give way to the right.
E. Pilots should avoid flying directly above or below another glider in close proximity.
F. Pilots entering a thermal should circle in the direction established by the first glider to begin circling in the thermal, without regard to the relative altitude of the gliders in the thermal.

In teaching, I like to expand a bit on these.

A: Take Off into the Wind – This is fairly obvious for most situation.  It is common sense. In a very light tail wind (less than 2 or 3 MPH), it is possible to take off from a mountain launch in a Paraglider, but you need to have excellent running ability.  If you attempt to take off in such conditions, you should make sure that the wind is not subdued because of blockage from Trees or obstructions.  This means going to the upwind side of the Mountain or hill and confirming that the wind is truely light. For the most part, taking off in a tailwind is a bad idea.

B: Do Reversing Turns Away from the Ridge – Because of the tail wind and resultant high ground speed toward the cliff, doing a reversing turn downwind toward a cliff is a bad idea.  Not only does it require more distance from the cliff or hill, but it is against standard protocol.  Doing so can confuse other pilots.  If one starts a turn this way without enough distance from the cliff, there is no exit and a crash may ensue.

C: When Overtaking another glider, Pass on the Ridge Side: – Do not pass another glider on their upwind side. You could crowd them, or create a wake that would disturb their safe flying. If your glider flies faster than the glider in front of you, slow down as much as possible. If there is room to pass on the ridge side, you can do so. If there is not, then do a reversing turn.

D: Give Way to the Right – Like on the road, in a car, pass on the right side. In ridge soaring, it is said, “The glider with their right wing toward the hill has the Right of Way”. This means that the glider with the ridge on their left, “gives way to the right” – meaning, that glider moves to the right to allow the other glider the right of way.

E: Avoid flying directly above or below other gliders – Pilots below cannot see pilots above, so it is mainly the above pilots responsibility to reposition their craft if a lower pilot comes underneath their craft. If you are in a lower glider, try not to fly directly below another glider if you are aware of their presence. In thermaling, sometimes a lower glider will climb faster than a higher one. If this happens, the higher glider might even have to leave the thermal to get out of the way of the lower pilot. As a general rule, if you are the higher pilot, assume that the lower glider does not see you and take responsibility to move out of the lower glider’s way.

F: Thermal in the Same Direction – When entering a thermal, turn in the same direction as other pilots already in the thermal. All pilots in a thermal should be circling in the same direction. It is easy to watch other gliders circling in the same direction, but dangerous if there are gliders circling in oposite directions. If I am ever in a thermal and see any glider other than myself circling in the oposite direction, unless there are only two gliders, I will leave the thermal. If I notice another glider circling in the thermal and we are the only two in the thermal. I will switch directions to match the other gliders direction.


Note – There can be some confusion with the above rules.   I wrote the article – Beyond the Standard “Right – of – Way Rules” to help you better understand the basic rules. This was published in the USHPA magazine in 1996.