So, I am officially an instructor of paragliding. Why I did it is a question I cannot answer. I just knew I want to try it.
I have suitable background. Graduated pedagogical faculty (PE+computer science) and ran Nordic Skiing School (www.nordicacademy.cz) for 10 years. I probably just want to try helping newbies. Understanding is a lower level of knowledge to me. Ability to clearly explain and structure problem is a higher level of knowledge. I really enjoyed whole instructor certification process despite it was lengthy and challenging in many aspects.
I attended on 3 courses by now so my insights should be treated as impressions not experience. However I believe the strange mixture of an excitement and fresh view is a good timing for some self feedback.
Being a beginner sucks! They lack all skills including total basics. To support frustration during first training, they distinguish only some amount brake vs. no brake position. If glider falls to the leading edge, without help they cannot continue for almost 10 minutes. A small tangle in lines combined with instructor on far end of field means they disconnect the harness and try to solve it for even more time. It sucks!
But when they started to have some feeling, distinguish more positions of brakes, realize they how to around the glider, for an instructor it is a satisfying feeling. For me this is the hardest part, watching total losers trying to be better. Fortunately, it improves quickly, two days with acceptable conditions.
For theoretic part our requirement is around 30 hours in total. For a five days just this is almost a full time job so it is a real challenge and again, most of construction, aerodynamics or meteorology is completely new to most students. They are often tired after morning training or have full stomach after lunch, which is challenging for instructor to use as exciting form as possible. With other instructor we often discuss what is the best level of detail, as this opinion varies less or more.
First flights are the best part for both students and myself. The excitement and adrenaline atmosphere is contagious, even when they just do a short hops few meters above ground. This phase is also little sad as some students quickly realize that flying a paraglider might not be as cool as they thought.
Training, training, training. The skill automation phase is for me the most adrenaline one. “Pilots” think they flew few times and they know it well, instructors know this is where many fuck-ups happen. Especially because we push pilots to prepare themselves, and check them “only” before take-off. Twisted brake line or riser is usual, forgotten helmets, or leg straps are not rare. I hate small cameras because many “pilots” wearing them focus mainly to camera, with very high chance of missing something crucial.
Final flights with collapses are easiest part for me. Modern gliders are so easy, despite they can differ a little. The landings are difficult for “almost” pilots, and during final practical exam, the most common issue is they miss target more than 25 m. Fun fact, more than 95% of pilots are too short…a small tip for newbies for reading till here ;-). Especially with some headwind the chance being short is 100% as they cannot trust that glide ratio decrease so significantly.
Fresh pilots always think their school is the best, it means schools did their promotion well. I did practice in two biggest schools in my country and the approach is different focus areas. Still, the curriculum is very similar. I have seen this in ski and nordic ski instructor career but for sure in paragliding being more relaxed probably raise risk of accident. On the other hand we cannot take all the fun from our hobby.
I met fresh pilot I taught on the same hill once, it was nice seeing him performing well in difficult conditions, and making safe decisions. He waited little first, asked questions to other pilots on the hill, and land when wind increased as most pilots, despite it was extremely easy staying in the air. I believe we did a good job, at least I tried my best.
I enjoyed teaching and fortunately it was always not perfect flying weather…otherwise it would be quite difficult for XC pilot to stay grounded.
The real training starts after a basic course. What I am disappointed there are very limited opportunities in my country. I know many good pilots tried running advanced courses but all stopped it after one or two seasons.
What to write in summary? Teaching is not for everyone and I believe correlation between good pilot and good teacher is unsure, as well as what a good instructor means, similarly to a good teacher definition struggle.