Cross-country (XC) flying is a form of long distance paragliding, in which pilot are using thermals to climb upwards in the sky to get as much altitude as possible, and then setting off and gliding in the desired direction you want to go until you can find another thermal climb to continue the whole process again. Flights of 100-300 kilometers (60-180 miles) are not uncommon in some areas, and pilots can stay in the air up to 7-8 hours or more!
Pilot use specialized paragliders and aerodynamic harnesses while XC flying to help facilitate covering long distances, by gliding quite quickly (about 25-30 mph) and at a relative glide ratio of about 10 to 1. Pilot normally take off from a high location in the hills or mountains after the sun has heated the air enough to get it to start rising, and then use these rising thermals to gain our altitude. As the day heats up, the thermals get stronger and cloud base raises up. Our best days is when we have strong thermals but light winds. Since our gliders do not have a very high trim speed, we are at the mercy of the wind if it picks up.
Doing cross-country XC flying will require pilots to fine-tuning their thermalling skills on more advanced thermalling techniques as well as some of the following:
Understanding the weather and how to predict a good XC day.
Good decision making. This is the key in successful XC flights.
Reading the sky and reading the ground….and when to do which.
Speeds to Fly – Flying with maximum efficiency.
Keeping safe in the mountains – Really understanding leeside thermals and not ending up in one.
How to fly in turbulent air.
Landing-out techniques. (too many people want to fly XC but are not competent at landing anywhere).
Once you comfortable flying long XC routes, some pilots choose to kick it up another notch and start to take up Cross-county XC competition.
What are Paragliders XC competition?
The paraglider community has held paragliding competitions since the sport caught on in the 80’s. Early wings had atrocious performance and even worse flying characteristics, so these comps were true thrill-sporting events. The modern paraglider is much safer and has the performance to fly long distances at high speeds relative to the early days of the sport. Generally speaking, most XC Comps are events that have a defined task, over turnpoints, to a goal; with points accrued for distance flown and speed-to-goal. – Source-Tim O’neill
Here is what feels like to fly in Paragliding XC competition by our very own Malaysia XC pilot Haqimy Ismail on his recent International PRE-PWC 2016 in Indonesia.