OUR SYSTEM - the secret to success
OUR SYSTEM - the pyramid of progression
A Bit of History
We at Austrian Arena have been flying since the mid 90's, watching others learn and often struggle since 2002. Over that time I devised some strategies that were helpful to pilots. These slowly developed into a syllabus that we now use to coach pilots who find themselves fresh out of school or somewhere on the way to being competent. Most importantly we promote safe pilots, encouraging them to ignore the misinformation they might hear on windy hills.
So back in 2009 I found myself a beginner yet again, quite refreshing. This time in Wing Tsun, a truly black art with many parallels to paragliding. Both are reliant on feeling and reaction, in the moment. The difference being that the exponents of this 300 year old martial art had time to devise a way to train and build on their skills from the ground up, unlike the relatively new sport of Paragliding. Understanding their logical progression was a huge step for my personal and professional development. Once I worked out what the key steps were in paragiding it was just a matter of training pilots in that order. This turned out to be more powerful than I could have imagined.
Fast forwarding to 2011, I approached XC magazine with the idea to finally write this syllabus down in book form. A syllabus that starts with ground handling, thermalling (both carving & mapping), then moves on to XC route planning and adaption, then finally on to the highest skill set, the efficiency tools (lines & speed). Austrian Arena's progression enables us to flow unimpeded over the terrain around us, while including the knowledge gleamed from decades spent on mountains about meteorology.
When wanting to learn how to fly properly it's important to understand that passing our license is just the very beginning. It's a license to learn. After school training is virtually non existent. Only recently has a clear method of progression been laid out with the publication of my book, Mastering Paragliding. Pilots wishing to follow this discussed 'Pyramid of Progression' are welcome to join us, no matter where they find themselves on this learning curve.
At Austrian Arena we believe that thermalling is the corner stone of XC flying. Without a strong valid technique, pilots rely on luck and strong conditions rather than skill and judgement. There's a reason why the same pilots climb out time after time. It's not by chance.
It's also important to have a strong technique for leaving the hill. Though for all our courses we expect a pilots ground handing and launching technique to be in the hand. Nothing ruins a good flight more than a shaky take off.
We recommend pilots take their first steps with us in Bassano del Grappa, in the summer months, on one of our thermalling courses. Details are found within this website but the main priority is to learn to turn the glider dynamically, whilst keeping it smooth. We'll discuss at length in the theory session how to achieve this. Plus I will be on the radio from launch ironing out mistakes giving real-time feedback as to when errors are made and just as importantly when it's done correctly. Join us to bottle that feeling while constantly recreating it here.
Midweek we'll discuss the basics of aerology, so pilots start to understand what controls the conditions we need for fun recreational flying.
Once pilots are carving cleanly around climbs in this ultra reliable area it's time to add a basic mapping strategy. Depending on your skill we'll discuss the one that's right for your level. No point over stretching the processor (brain), as it's got enough to do keeping the carve clean.
If pilots are tuning in to the discussed techniques then it's time to bolt on some short achievable XC flights. This is what we consider the first step in the system.
Moving On Up
Normally after our thermal/XC lite course pilots will see a huge improvement and can start to take advantage of climbs back on their home site. Once practiced it's possibly time to revisit for more of the same. Don't be in a rush to cement the basics. However, if a pilot is feeling more confident in their skill level, now could be the time to join us for the 'Pure XC' course in Bassano.
These weeks we'll be pushing long, rewarding XC flights along the ridges while also using the flatlands out front. There will be some basic XC theory with the last part of the aerology topic explained, including reading Skew-T graphs. Also I'll be on hand to tweak pilots thermalling technique in the evening sessions.
Hopefully by now pilots can climb smoothly, efficiently and more importantly without too much brain power being used, as if on autopilot. We need bandwidth free for the next step, decision making. Over the radio I will be explaining in real time what I'm seeing and why I'm doing what I suggest. We will move at a moderate speed for the day, so hopefully pilots enrolling will have the 'basic' skills needed to stay with the group.
There is no limit to how many XC courses in Bassano a pilot can attend, as it's one of the most fun flyable places in Europe. Pilots are rarely disappointed, clocking up 20+hrs per week here. Some pilots are happy just flying here and enjoy the area so much they come back year after year.
The basics of aerology and where thermals will be triggering from are explained in the Bassano XC courses. Once a pilot owns a strong thermalling technique, it may be time to push the boundaries a little harder and join us in the Drautal for our full on Alpine XC courses. Held in Greifenburg these weeks are designed to give what aspiring Alpine XC pilots need when wishing to blaze big routes through the most amazing mountain range in Europe.
Pilots should be able to stay with the moderate pace set by the group, who hopefully have honed their skills with us in Bassano. Now it's time to truly start to reap the rewards of the effort pilots have put in. Training the sport in a methodical way will help pilots feel confident in their own ability to complete long and challenging routes around this amazing playground.
During the week I'll explain the Alpine route planning theory with maps and easy to remember rules. Learning to keep ourselves safe while in the big stuff is very important. When pilots are truly confident they understand what's going on out here, able to stay with the group. Getting round the set routes most of the time then and only then should they think about enrolling for our final step. The Dolomites.
The Final Step
These days we insist that all pilots flying with us in the Dolomites have completed the system with us. Either that or have an extremely strong CV.
The area there does not allow for mistakes and is definitely not the place to train the early parts of the system, or even the concepts gleamed on the XC course in Greifenburg. We expect all pilots to know this stuff inside out.
My place as course leader during these weeks is to assess the conditions, explain what I think will happen, set a route accordingly that takes into account the day's potential and of course fly the route with my team. A team that has learnt the system with us through all the stages, contains pilots who are becoming complete and autonomous, owning strong and valid techinques.
A Final Word
It is not my business, nor would I attempt to stop any pilots 'step skipping' though I will no longer take responsibility for such pilots in the Dolomites. I do however recommend pilots embark on the system laid out here on this page. Hopefully forward thinking, smart pilots will see the benefit of such an undertaking. If so please feel free to contact us here. We're always happy to answer any questions regarding any weeks and even any questions that may arise from reading our book, Mastering Paragliding.