Paragliding: 'The opportunity to fly with birds'

Interview with Dave Blizzard, President of Cascade Paragliding Club

Many of us have dreamed of what it would be like to fly.

For members of the Cascade Paragliding club, this common dream has become a reality.

Paragliding is a relatively new sport and is self-regulated in the United States.

All pilots must adhere to U.S Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) regulations. If you are interested in paragliding, the best way to begin is with an introductory tandem flight.

Individuals can then sign up for courses and begin additional training. The initial investment for paragliding equipment will cost the average person between $3,000 and $5,000.

Q: What exactly is paragliding?
A: "Paragliding is a foot launch fly sport where we fly in a canopy that is suspended by lines. The lines are attached to a harness we sit in. We then bring up our wing, and fly off. We do not jump."

Q: How long have you been paragliding?
A: "I've been paragliding for four years. Once I tried it I became addicted. I absolutely love it."

Q: Where do you do most of your flying?
A: "Our club does most of our flying at the Oregon Coast. We also have two spots over at the Columbia River. It depends on the wind and other weather conditions, but there are about seven different sites we fly."

Q: How often do you fly?
A: "I personally go around three times a week. I'm pretty fanatic."

Q: How high in the air do people usually go?
A: "FAA rules say you must stay under 18,000 feet. Anything over 12,500 you need an oxygen system. The highest I've been is about 8,2000 feet."

Q: Is paragliding dangerous?

A: "Yes, it's dangerous. But it doesn't have to be. We try very hard to be a safe community. We all try to help each other see what the conditions are like. And there are always egos involved. But smart paraglide pilots leave those at the door."

Q: What does it feel like to be flying in the air?
A: "For me, it's real time. I am alive. Right there I am very present. You cannot be thinking about anything else while you are flying. It requires all of your concentration. It can be like a rodeo, or it can be very Zen, but it is certainly present time."

Q: What is your favorite part about flying?
A: "We're in the air. And we're not supposed to be in the air. We're not birds. It's such a privilege to be able to fly I mean, gosh oh golly, how many times can you fly with an eagle? I'm just thankful that I have the opportunity to fly with birds."