Strong Wind: to fly or not to fly

As a Dutch person I’m used to quite a bit of wind. Not like people in the Philippines know it with their tyfoons, but really a lot more than people here in Austria. Many paragliders in Austria can’t handle strong winds at all. And they don’t have to since so often it remains a gentle breeze here, due to the protection the high mountains offer. Yes, with thunderstorms come fierce winds here but only for a few hours. This week however everything was different!

The image on top shows the wind over the European continent and how the Alps completely shield the Italian side from the wind. Yet on the North side of the main chain the winds can come through. It’s my feelong that in the summer this hardly happens, but now in the winter the wind did reach us like in an off and on fashion. Yesterday morning good to fly and then from 13 o clock on impossible. The graph is from the paragliding burnair app and black means: no fly. Under that threshold every pilot has their own limit… many don’t start over 20kmh winds. Most tandem pilots will start up to 28kmh. I can handle up to 38 but then we need to consider also whether the rest of the flight will be safe.

The video shows my upper limit. In the background you see 2 solo paragliders who have just packed up to go home and look in amazement that I will still start. Of course only with the cobrastart that is so comfortable for the passenger. Well: this week (and today) In Zell am See Kaprun were totally crazy… winds mostly too strong but sometimes flyable. And extremely gusty at that. It is better to fly in 38kmh not too gusty than in 32kmh very gusty. And amazingly just a few hundred meters under the mountain tops: zero wind! And sometimes fog. This makes our work as tandem pilots so interesting!

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