What is Paragliding

What is Paragliding

Paragliding is the simplest and purest form of flying there is.  Whether you dream of soaring above the hills of the Derbyshire Peak District, or taking your canopy on holiday with you to explore exotic locations from the air, we can help you.

Paragliders were developed from freefall parachutes and have been refined to make them easy to fly with the best possible performance whilst keeping them small enough to carry in a backpack.  As you take off with the canopy above your head, you feel the irresistible freedom of the skies.  Experience it for yourself – the excitement of learning to fly is within your grasp.

In sensible hands, paragliding can be amongst the safest of adventure sports.  The expertise you need to keep you safe starts with the school you learn with.  Airways Flying School is registered with the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (school no. 313).  At Airways Flying School we aim to equip you not only with excellent flying skills, but also with the knowledge to keep you flying safely whilst having fun!

Learning to Fly

Airways Flying School is based at Darley Moor Airfield, near the Derbyshire Peak District town of Ashbourne and is the only dedicated free flight park in the UK.  The friendly atmosphere and excellent teaching means you will enjoy fulfilling your dream of learning to fly.  We teach using a winch to tow the paragliders aloft.  Having run a hill school for many years, we realised that by using a winch, pilots learn to fly more safely and quickly for several reasons:-

  • Towing is less affected by the weather – although bad weather will stop us from flying, we are able to teach, on average, 220 days a year at the airfield as opposed to 120 days a year on the hills.
  • If the wind changes direction (which is common in this country) at a hill school you have to pack up your equipment and move to a different site, or stop training for the day. At Airways Flying School, we just move the winch to the other side of the field and carry on! 
  • The airfield is a dedicated school environment devoid of the usual hill hazards of dry stone walls, power lines etc. Winching allows the instructors to control your height gain in progressive increments and to regulate your descent rate during your early flights.
  • Pilots get more time in the air because you don’t have to carry your paraglider back up a hill each time you want to fly. Carrying it along flat ground, back to the launch area, is much quicker and easier, saving your strength to allow you to fly more. In fact, you learn to fly whilst being winched up into the sky as well as flying down.
  • Towing allows students of all levels to train together.  Pilots using our facilities range from beginners to World Champions. This allows informal interaction and first hand knowledge of club and advanced flying to be gained from others.
  • We have excellent facilities on site.  There is a shop selling all kinds of flying gear as well as clothing and kites; we have a classroom for theory instruction and de-briefings.  Most importantly, we have refreshments, toilets and comfortable family viewing facilities to enhance your whole learning experience.

 You will begin your course by being shown what a paraglider is and how it works.  This will be combined with an introduction to the complexities of meteorology and air movement so that you know when and where to fly.  Then it’s off to the launch area for the practical sessions.  Teaching is progressive, starting with learning how to control the paraglider on the ground.  Only when these skills have been mastered will you move on to the tow line for your first low flights, progressing steadily on to make higher and longer flights.  You will soon move on to doing circuits of the airfield, landing back where you started from.

Once you have reached Club Pilot Certificate (Tow) level, you are free to soar like a bird, or develop your thermal and cross country-flying skills. We can then run hill and FLPA courses for you to add the additional ratings of hill flying and paramotoring to your tow-launch skills. You are the pilot.  You decide what you want to do.  We will teach you – it is as simple as that!


Tandem Flights

This is for the person who has always wanted to try paragliding and experience the thrill of being in the air.  You will fly with one of our experienced tandem pilots.  Being towed up by our winch, you could reach a height of 1,000 feet!  You can help to pilot the paraglider, or sit back and simply admire the view of the beautiful Derbyshire countryside.  A wheeled “buggy” is available for those with disabilities – please let us know at the time of booking if you think you may need the buggy.

Please Note:  There is a weight restriction for this activity.

Taster Day (including a high tandem flight!)

A chance to try out paragliding for a day.  This is for the person who wants to find out what it is like to take control of a paraglider by themselves, and to experience being high in the air before they commit to a full course.  You will be introduced to the sport and equipment and will then be taught the techniques for take off, basic canopy control and low level flight.  As an exciting finale, we offer you a tandem flight – a taste of what is to come if you continue to fly (see “Tandem Flights” above).  A “taster day” gift voucher makes an ideal present for those looking for something different.

If you decide to continue your training with us, your taster day will be credited against any course you do with us.  

Elementary Pilot Certificate (EPC) – up to 5 days

All your equipment will be supplied by the school for your EPC course.

EPC Course content:

  • Learn to correctly rig and de-rig a paraglider
  • Thoroughly understand, and use, procedures for:
    • Daily Inspection Checks
    • Pre-Flight Checks
  • Flights
    • Complete a minimum of 3 low flights
    • Complete a minimum of 3 medium solo flights up to 150 ft
    • Complete a minimum of 3 higher flights up to 500 feet with turns of 90 degrees or more.
  • Consistently demonstrate safe airspeed control
  • Demonstrate the ability to evaluate sites and weather conditions and to formulate and execute simple flight plans
  • Pass the BHPA EPC theory examination
  • Pass a final assessment based on attitude and approach to safety and airmanship

Club Pilot Certificate (CPC)  – up to 5 days 

Your own equipment will be needed at this stage, so that you can become familiar with it within the school environment, before you leave to pursue your club flying.

CPC Course content (in addition to EPC):

  • To fly a paraglider to a height exceeding 500 feet, and complete circuits, (minimum of 20 flights) landing back at your takeoff point. 
  • You will learn about, and practice, techniques to widen your knowledge of the performance of your paraglider, including the use of a speed bar, “big ears”, instability, emergencies, active flying, asymmetric and symmetric tucks, and eventualities.
  • 180 degree turns, weight shift, planned landing approaches and “spot landing” within a designated area.
  • Complete the BHPA CPC theory exam and final assessment.

BHPA Membership and Insurance

The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association is the governing body of our sport.  Membership of the Association is mandatory for all students in the UK.  The price for this cover depends on the time scale for the flying experience you want; for example, a one day taster course will require one day’s cover (included in the price of your day taster), whereas an EPC course will need a minimum of “training membership”.  We can arrange BHPA membership for you on the first day of your course.  Membership also includes third party insurance cover which is limited to £50,000 (going up to £2m when qualified). 


Weather is a big factor in learning to fly paragliders. We assess the conditions each day and if due to bad weather you cannot fly, we will rearrange your booking.  Should the weather interrupt flying during your course, any unused flying may be taken at a future date by arrangement.  We do not refund deposits or course fees, however, vouchers are valid for 9 months from date of purchase and you have six months in which to complete a course.


The Peak District National Park has plenty of hotels, B & B and campsites.  Please contact the office for more information or Google search for places to stay in Ashbourne.

Basic Requirements

Apart from a spirit of adventure, all you need to bring is warm, layered clothing; footwear with rigid soles and ankle support is essential. Gloves and sunglasses can be a good idea, and long trousers stop grazed knees if you stumble. We have a Bistro on site providing tasty home made food, drinks etc. Although the Bistro is licenced, please note that there is zero alcohol tolerance throughout your course – once your flying day is complete, feel free to celebrate!


Our shop stocks a huge range of paragliding equipment. We offer a wide range of paragliders, both new and second hand. We also stock helmets, harnesses, books, videos, boots, reserve parachutes, instruments, flying suits and all round cool clothing. Whatever your budget, our advice and support will always be available. We also have a Bistro serving hot and cold food and drinks.

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