Basics of Turning



Paragliders turn with a combination of weight shift and brake pulls.  Before turning, you should always look in the direction you want to go. We call this “clearing a turn”.  Always assume that there is somebody there.  It will also show a pilot nearby or behind you an indication that you are preparing to turn.   I like to say – “Look, Lean, and Pull” to pilots doing their first turns. 

Look means look around and in the direction you will be turning to ensure there are no other crafts nearby that you might interfere with.   

Lean means, shift your weight in the direction you want to turn. Weight shift is in the seat of the harness, not in the shoulders. You can achieve a better weight shift if you think of leaning as; lifting the outside hip to get more weight on the inside. For first turns, you do not need to do extreme weight shift, just a little will help the glider turn quicker.   

Pull is pulling the brake down. For first turns pull to just above the shoulder after beginning the lean. Timing should be about a 2 second pull, think “One one thousand two one thousand” for the pull, and use this again and you near the intended turn direction, and count, “One one thousand two one thousand” as you release.   



Avoiding Pilot Induced Oscillations

“Pilot induced oscillations” are something to be aware of, especially for newer pilots doing their first turns. We call these PIOs. As the word “induced” indicates, a pilot creates the oscillations.  The irony is the pilot is trying to stop the wing from swinging.

Newer pilots occasionally start a turn and think they did too much.  To dampen this out, they pull the opposite brake to soften the turn.  Because of the timing, instead of achieving the dampening, the timing increases the opposite swing. Sometimes, the reaction becomes stronger and creates even bigger oscillations.   

Another cause is when a pilot comes out of a turn too fast.  If you release a brake fast at the end of a turn, the wing can swing back past center and start a series of swings, back and forth. All turns should be executed with smooth and progressive pulling (starting) and releasing (ending) the brakes during turns.   If swinging happens, the best thing to do is nothing.  If the pilot tries to use the brakes to stop swinging, the oscillations will continue.   By doing nothing, the wing will swing back and forth a little bit, but less and less each time, and it will go away.   Sometimes, the pilot might also try weight shift for the swinging. The solution is the same as the brakes, no weight shift input will allow the swinging to dampen itself out.  

Sometimes the oscillations are pretty small, but they do not stop.   This is usually happening because unconsciously, the pilot pulls just an inch or two of the opposite brake, trying to stop the minor swing.  

The key here is awareness of what PIOs are. With awareness, a pilot can consciously lift both brakes all the way to pulley, or keep each pulled the same amount if the situation is one where flying slower is needed. 

Another point here is to learn the correct tempo of brake input during the start and end of a turn.   It is easy to see that newer pilots often have little tick / tocks happen after a turn.  

Relaxation is the Key

Relaxation equals smoothness.   Newer pilot sometimes “sit up” in their harness instead of reclining into the back of it.   They also straighten their arms, causing a tightening of muscles in the arms, blocking the feel part of steering.   If you catch yourself sitting up, try to relax and let your body recline into the back of the harness.  If you notice your arms are stiff, let your elbows hang, and this will help your arms relax and feel better.   Be aware of both of these things to better your timing and feel.   If you focus on being relaxed, your mechanics and feel will improve rapidly.   Relaxation promotes feel.   Feel is the ability to know how much brake to pull and the timing of when to release, and the pace to perfect your turns.