Come Fly With Us
Since the 1970's, the Rochester Area Flyers has been operating our all-volunteer training program and safely teaching student members how to fly. Rochester Area Flyers operates the training program between the months of April and July at our training hill in Victor, NY. Watch this video for a brief introductory overview of Rochester Area Flyers and our training program for student members.
By the end of the program, most student members are qualified for a Hang 2 (H2) rating from our national organization USHPA (United States Hang gliding and Paragliding Association). For some more general information about learning to fly please visit their website at
The RAF training program consists of hands-on training and ground school.
H2 Training Program
The RAF Hang Gliding school begins Mid April with a three hour ground school session. The session deals with basic aspects of the sport such as aerodynamics, weather factors and safety. Attendance is required for the training program. Ground school is provided for all student members, and is also available to any prospective non-members pilots. Following ground school, RAF Student Members are given instructional books, study materials and access to instructional videos.
On the Hill
On-the-hill training begins around the end of April and continues to the beginning of July. We teach 6 days a week, weather permitting. Our lessons are Saturday mornings from 9am until noon, and weekday evenings from 6pm until dusk. All lessons are under the supervision of a USHPA certified instructor with special emphasis on perfecting basic flying skills, developing good judgment and safe flying practices.
The lesson starts on flat ground and progresses to higher levels on the training hill. The rate of progression is highly individual dependent on the student's comfort level, demonstrated skills and safety judgments. On the ground, the students learn about glider hardware, assembly, acceleration and deceleration. The students actually feel the glider's lift, interplay with the wind, the power of wind, and even launch and landing technique before commitment to flying off the hill. At the base of the hill the same movement patterns reward the student with their 1st multi-seconds flight. Control and confidence are enhanced with each launch as flights become longer and boundaries of safe demonstrated flights are expanded. Soon, the student is at the top of our 100 ft. hill enjoying 20 second "sled rides". Later they are turning and maneuvering the glider to land at a spot and handle varied wind conditions.
It is work, but it's also fun. You will lose weight, you will sweat, your muscles will get sore at times and you will become physically stronger. You will also be enlightened with a heightened awareness of the sun, the clouds, and the wind. You will learn that running at top speed down a hillside will be rewarded by a launch that floats your body pleasantly over a grassy field, over cheering friends and deposits you on your feet in a cool swirl of air. What a flight!
The Hang Glider
A hang glider is a highly engineered aircraft that weighs between 45 and 75+ pounds, is launched by foot or towed and is controlled by altering its center of gravity. The pilot is suspended beneath the glider in a harness and initiates turns and controls airspeed solely by shifting their body. Experienced pilots can make use of rising pockets of air (thermals) to regularly attain altitudes of over 4,000 feet and stay aloft for hours.
Safety and Judgment
Like any form of aviation, hang gliding requires specific skills and good judgment in order to be enjoyed safely. The Western New York hang gliding community has an exceptionally safe record that spans 25 years of the sport. Insurance company statistics indicate that hang gliding is as safe as scuba diving, sail planes, and safer than general aviation or moto-cross on a participation basis. Never the less, aviation can be an unforgiving sport for those who take safety lightly. For this reason, beginning pilots are all strongly encouraged to develop their skills both through lessons and through the Pilot Proficiency Program; the official skills development and testing program of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA). Good physical fitness is recommended to assure a rapid and injury free progression.
For More Information
The RAF training program is available at no additional charge to all student members. As of 2019, student membership is $750. This includes all the equipment you will need, current calendar year membership in the RAF, USHPA membership for the current training period, an instructional video. Please call the RAF Training Coordinator, Katrin Parsiegla, at (585) 750-5886. She will be happy to talk about this thrilling sport of hang gliding! If you're too far from Rochester, NY don't despair- the USHPA has a listing of hang gliding and paragliding schools.
Scooter Tow Training
Scooter towing is a ground based winch towing system for hang gliders that uses a simple scooter as the towing device. The scooter's rear wheel is converted to a spool that can hold a few thousand feet of rope and is anchored to the ground as a stationary winch. The Rochester Area Flyers use a turn around pulley that allows the student to be next to the winch operator and beginners can be gently pulled just a few feet off the ground as they learn how to control the speed and direction of the glider. The towline is attached to the student and the glider.
With a gentle twist of the throttle, a gentle pull allows the student to foot launch, fly along several feet above level ground, release the towline, float to the ground and land on the wheels initially then on their feet as training progresses. Beginners can use scooter towing for their first lesson, the altitude is controlled by instructor, and as students progress they can reach altitudes of 75 feet, releasing the line and flying back to a gentle landing. Altitudes can gradually be increased in a safe and controlled manner as skills develop. As you progress, your instructor will control your altitude. Mountain flying and aerotowing may be your next goal.
Scooter towing is not currently being used in our training program, but we are working on it.
CHECK IT OUT PROGRAM
The check it out program lets non-members interested in flying get a tested of the sport.
Foot-Launched hang gliding is the most bird-like flying experience a human can have. Like a bird the pilot takes off from the ground with the help of a wing, explores and exploits the updraft of air currents, and lands on his or her feet. In this course of "Introduction to Hang Gliding" you will learn the basics of hang gliding, what equipment you need, and what it costs. You will also get a chance to see what it feels like to carry a hang-glider on your shoulders and how it becomes lighter as you accelerate and start running into the wind...
At the end of this course every student knows how a hang glider works and can list the basic equipment needed to fly with it. He or she will be aware of the basic safety procedures and will have handled a hang glider on flat ground.
The program will be held in mid April. A message will be put on the RAF Training Hotline (a phone messaging system: 585-NNN-NNNN) by 10am that morning announcing if the course will be held or delayed for a week. Official starting time is 1pm next to 455 Bowerman Rd, Farmington 14425. Parking is along the East side of Bowerman Rd North of the dirt road leading to the RAF Training Hill. DO NOT DRIVE ONTO THE DIRT ROAD
Participants must be in good physical shape and need the parent's permission if younger than 18.
1:00 - 1:30 Welcome, registration, paperwork, show proof of health insurance
1:30 - 2:00 Introduction: clubs (RAF, USHPA), equipment, costs, theory of flight
2:00 - 3:00 Hang gliders: part names and ground handling
3:00 - 3:30 Break and demonstration flights
3:30 - 4:30 Ground handling, launching process, flaring
4:30 - 5:00 Questions and answers, wrap up
A non-refundable $50 deposit is required. (cash, check, or PayPal)
Counts towards training cost if enrolled in Training Program same season
The deposit covers all equipment and temporary membership in the Rochester Area Flyers (RAF) and the US Hang Gliding Association (USHPA).
You need to have your own health insurance.
Proof of health insurance is required at the beginning of the training season.
Driving Directions from Rochester NY:
Exit 28 for NY-96
Left at the fork 96 S
Left on High St
Left on Gillis Rd
Right to stay on Gillis Rd
Onto Brownsville Rd
Left onto Bowerman Rd
Destination on the right
Parking is along the East side of Bowerman Rd North of the dirt road leading to the RAF Training Hill.
DO NOT DRIVE ONTO THE DIRT ROAD