Elementary Pilot Qualification BHPA

The BHPA Elementary Pilot Qualification: Taking to The Skies

The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA) offers an entry-level certification for aspiring pilots called the Elementary Pilot (EP) qualification. This certification is the first step for anyone looking to take to the skies through hang gliding or paragliding. Here’s everything you need to know about the EP qualification. You may be wondering if it is safe, check out our post on that.


The EP course typically spans over 4-5 days, though this can vary depending on the weather conditions and the your ability to grasp the necessary skills and knowledge. The flexible nature of the course allows for adjustments to ensure a comprehensive learning experience.

Weather can be fickle for the EP course as the conditions for beginner paragliding is a narrow gap of winds. You will be introduced to a paraglider’s least favourite hobby of parawaiting…


Before embarking on the EP course, individuals must be at least 14 years old. No prior experience in hang gliding or paragliding is required. A BHPA membership is required to commence training, but this is most often sorted as a temporary membership by the instructor or school.

Detailed Syllabus of the Elementary Pilot Course

The syllabus for the Elementary Pilot qualification is designed to take you from the fundamentals of ground handling to the thrill of their first high flights. Here’s a more detailed look at the specific skills and progression steps involved:

  • Introduction to Equipment: Before taking to the air, you will familiarize themselves with the equipment, learning about its parts, maintenance, and safety checks.
  • Ground Handling: The foundation of all flying skills, ground handling involves controlling the glider on the ground under various conditions. You will practice inflating the wing, maintaining control while moving, and understanding how the glider responds to inputs.
  • Low-Level Hops: Once ground handling is mastered, you progress to low-level hops. These short flights from gentle slopes allow you to get a feel for take-off, in-air control, and landing, all within a few feet of the ground.
  • Take Off and Landing Techniques: As confidence grows, the focus shifts to refining take-off and landing techniques. You learn about the importance of posture, control inputs, and assessing conditions for safe take-offs and landings.
  • Flight Skills: Progressing from hops, you begin practicing turns and controlling airspeed in flight. This stage includes learning how to launch from slightly higher elevations, manage straight flights, and execute gentle turns under the instructor’s guidance.
  • First High Flights: The culmination of the EP syllabus is the first high flight, where you experience the true essence of paragliding. This stage focuses on launching from higher elevations, maintaining control during longer flights, executing smooth turns, and landing safely. You also practice altitude awareness and emergency procedures.
  • Theory Lessons: Parallel to practical skills, you engage in theory lessons covering air law, meteorology, and flight theory. Understanding the principles of aerodynamics, weather patterns affecting flight, and legal requirements is crucial for safe flying.
  • Safety and Emergency Procedures: Safety is paramount, and the syllabus includes comprehensive training on emergency procedures, including how to react in unexpected situations and the use of safety equipment like reserve parachutes.

The progression from ground handling to high flights is designed to build confidence and competence, preparing you for the next stages of your flying journey.

Popular Locations in the UK

The UK boasts several popular locations for EP training, including:

  • The South Downs: Offering gentle slopes and consistent winds suitable for beginners.
  • The Peak District: Known for its stunning landscapes and variety of flying sites.
  • Wales: With its rugged terrain providing ideal conditions for learning different launch techniques.
  • Northern Ireland: Great hills and conditions for beginners

Further afield and known for its consistent conditions is Algodonales in Spain where there are some great paragliding schools and where I managed to finish my Club Pilot after doing my EP in the peaks.

Assessment, Criteria, Process

To achieve the EP qualification, candidates must successfully complete both practical and theoretical assessments. The practical assessment includes demonstrating proficiency in take-offs, flights, and landings, while the theoretical part tests knowledge on air law, safety, and meteorology. Continuous assessment throughout the course ensures you meet the required standards.

Awarding Body Overview

The BHPA oversees the EP qualification, ensure high standards of safety and instruction. With a commitment to promoting hang gliding and paragliding, the BHPA provides support and resources to clubs and schools across the UK. The BHPA ratings are often recognised globally and can be exchanged to an IPPI equivalent card.

What the Qualification Enables You to Do

With the EP qualification, pilots are equipped to fly under the supervision of a BHPA instructor or coach within a school environment. It marks the beginning of a pilot’s journey, laying the foundation for further advancements such as the Club Pilot (CP) qualification, which opens the door to unsupervised flying and exploring a wider range of flying sites.

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Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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