Air Law BHPA

Understanding air law is necessary for all  pilots no matter what you fly

All non military flying in Britain is controlled  by the CAA (Civil aviation authority). It is to them you must answer for  contravention! Just because you fly a paraglider don’t think that you’re exempt. CAA fines for contravention can be massive.

Collision avoidance:  this information is vital  to your life and exam paper! Lets have a look at some examples:

1. head on & converging. The simple rule is the pilot on the right is in the right. In fact, it is exactly the same as entering a roundabout on British roads. You give way to the car on the right hand side. In the second photograph it shows that the red paraglider to give way to the yellow pilot can in fact turning either direction. This is correct but it is worth pointing out that we normally turn away. If in the rare circumstance that you needed to turn towards the other pilot, for example, you were blocked by a third glider on your left hand side, if you needed to turn towards the red paraglider they would need to be a great deal of room to do so.

Converging course

2. overtaking (on or off the hill, either side). This diagram shows the way it used to be until recently. We were always told to overtake between the ridge and the overtaken paraglider. If you were to overtake on the outside and the other pilot turned away from the hill it could cause a collision. But it was soon realised in the example below that if the pilot moved in closer to the ridge to utilise weak lift, the overtaking paraglider could be sandwiched and again the risk of collision could be caused. The new rules simply state that now you can overtake on either side but you must keep your wits about you. With the slow speed of paragliders it is probably better not to overtake at all.


3. landing. The lowest aircraft always has priority. You often hear pilots say that when in a thermal the lowest paraglider also has priority. It is worth pointing out that this is not true. Whilst thermaling, everybody’s priority is equal apart from the first person in sets of the direction of turn.


4. Thermaling. As already stated, return direction is set by the first pilot into the thermal and all other pilots follow his or her lead.

Thermaling direction

… and why is this so important? Take a look at this video clip…

Video Player

One of the oldest sayings in aviation is as true today as when it was first coined; “Look around before you turn around you if you want to stay around!“ Always clear your  turns! This means looking over BOTH shoulders, not just the one in the direction you’re about to turn. This will ensure that no other pilots are hiding in any of your blind spots.

Some more rules..

Tow law: 60m or height on permit. This is the maximum height that you can legally tow a paraglider in the UK without permission from the civil aviation authority. It is also the maximum height that you are allowed to fly a kite!

M.S.R.’s: what are they? This stands for mandatory safety requirements. These are the Golden rules laid down over the years by the BHPA to help keep pilots safe. These rules are black and white and absolute. In reference to Hill soaring Paragliding here are some MSR’s listed below:

1. MSR’s are for every pilot and instructor. There are no exemptions.

2. Helmet rules. This rule states that if you’re in a harness and connected to a paraglider you must be wearing a helmet. This is not just for your own safety; it is also a condition of our BHPA insurance policy.

3. Preflight checks and daily inspection. What’s the difference? This rule states that if you are about to fly a paraglider, you must have performed a daily inspection followed by a prelaunch check. The daily inspection is exactly as it sounds. It is a check made to the glider, the lines, the risers and the harness to check for any damage or any other problems. The prelaunch check again, is exactly what it sounds like. It is your final check that everything is correct before takeoff. Will Geordie have his cat aboard today is a pneumonic that we use to remember the things that we have to do:

‘Will’= wind and weather, ‘Geordie’=glider, ‘Have’=helmet, ‘His’=harness, ‘Cat’=controls, ‘Aboard’=all clear, ‘Today’=turn direction.

4. EP+ compulsory log book record. Once you’ve passed elementary pilot it is compulsory that you keep a log book record of your flights. This will support your BHPA ratings should you want to go on with further training, for example tandem flying or to become an instructor. It is also very interesting to read after you have a bit of experience, when you look back to what it was like to be a beginner.

5. Buoyancy aids over water. It is compulsory that if you are flying directly over water that you wear a buoyancy aid of some description or lifejacket.

6. Red streamer up to CP+10 hours. Once you have passed your club pilot qualification, you must wear a red streamer attached to your wind or harness for the first 10 hours of your flying career. This is a similar idea to wearing L plates when learning to drive a car. It warns the other pilots that you are inexperienced and to give you some room.

Specific bans: with self launch: static kiting. Over the years, the BHPA have listed some extremely dangerous practices. These are called specific bans. In regards to self launched hill flying paragliding, the main one is called static kiting. This is when you attached a length of rope to yourself and the other end to an anchor point and basically trying to fly yourself as if you were a kite. Unfortunately there has been quite a few fatalities with pilots trying this approach. You can get into a situation called lockout, where the glider shoots off to one side and dives vertically into the ground almost always killing the pilot.

Student pilot supervision: Elementary Pilot is an award not a rating. You must stay in school until you are Club (Novice) Pilot!

That is all of the air law that you need to know for elementary pilot. If you have any questions, ask them in the comment box below.


Additional Notes for Club Novice Pilots from here on:

Air priority:  who gives way to who

The Air map

Controlled or uncontrolled?: what’s the difference?

Danger area’s: mostly no go areas. Some are activated by NOTAM, some passable with radio permission.

Aeronautical charts: 1:500,000 and 1:250,000. The 1:250,000 only shows airspace to 5000ft or FL55.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 15.46.27

Hang glider sites:  the 1nm exclusion zone.  New charts only show winch sites.

Civil Advance Notification Procedure (CANP): only military aircraft taking off 4 or  more hours after the call will be notified. This  is only advisory for crews to avoid area.  “NOTAM”, freephone 0800 51 55 44

Airspace categories

A controlled airspace

B no access. Maybe access

C with radio, but best left alone!

D with radio, but best left alone!

E  Scottish and Belfast TMA, access allowed in theory, but…

F uncontrolled airspace, the rest

G of the sky where we fly, in VMC


Flying VMC

In uncontrolled airspace at or below 3000ft ASL, an aircraft flying at or below 140 knots  IAS must remain:

       clear of cloud,

       in sight of the ground,

       with a visibility of at least 1500m

In uncontrolled airspace, or at more than 3000ft ASL, an aircraft shall remain:

      1500m horizontally from cloud

      1000ft vertically

      with a visibility of at least 5km

      except a glider circling to cloud base.

(8km visibility all other classes etc;)

General flying rules

do not endanger life; you are the commander of your aircraft, with this comes responsibility             

no drink

no drugs

do not drop articles except water or dry sand

night flying rules

tow law

Low flying rules 

Do not fly over built up area’s less than 1000ft above the highest fixed object within 600m of the aircraft or enough height to land clear, whichever is the highest

An aircraft is not allowed to fly within 500ft of any person, vehicle, vessel or structure, except when taking off, landing, or a glider hill soaring

We must follow the rules:  the BHPA is  mostly self-regulating, but we all still answer  to the CAA

Why keep a log book:  supports your BHPA  qualifications and is a mandatory requirement