Thinking about learning to fly ?
Here are some points you should consider...
We are passionate about flying and giving people their wings, and are well aware of the marketing spin being fed to you, the enquiring public, by some school operators web sites and advertising claims.
Since presenting this facts section in 2006, we have noted that some schools have changed some of their obviously misrepresented web site content... so thankfully it seems to be working. Some schools though are still (as at 1st Feb 2021) using photo's of our school and facility here in Manilla on their web sites (you can tell by the multiple huge astro-turfed launch areas which only exist here in Manilla) and blatently copied sections of our web site.
Note that not all have come clean and still persist in presenting a distorted view of the facts ! Please ensure you have read the "BEWARE" note on the main school page regarding unqualified operators claiming to be qualified. Also note the real level of qualification an Instructor has, it may be much less than you think !
Here are some FACTS in black and white (with some spot colour to highlight a point) and not some flashy glitzy website marketing claims designed to catch the unknowing non-flying public. You also won't find any specifics about products or courses advertised here - sales of courses and most sports aviation products need personal advise and not a “add to your cart” e-shopping mentality. We prefer to talk to our pilots to ensure their needs are met properly that is what expert advice is all about.
We are not saying we are the biggest or best school or have the most students, but there are some things that are facts and some that are not.
Although we receive students from around the world, we know that not all potential students have the time or mobility to travel to Manilla (near Tamworth NSW, 4-1/2 hrs from Sydney) for a 9 day course... but by reading the following you will at least be armed with the right information to ask the right questions and choose your school wisely.
Ask Some Pilots !
One of the best things you can do BEFORE you book a course anywhere, is to ask some pilots at a flying site what they think. Too many miss this important step. Get a few opinions and become an informed purchaser... you would inform yourself about other significant purchases, an air sport like paragliding should be no different. Be aware however of those who are blinded by their allegiance to a particular school or operator - we have heard many times such pilots saying that instructor X has more experience and is better than Y when in fact the opposite is the case !!!
Look for Experienced Instructors and Personal Tuition !
- Manilla Paragliding provides HGFA approved license courses that offers the highest Instructor Experience in Australia and extensive quality personal tuition that no other schools can match....why ?
- Your CFI, Godfrey Wenness, is the most experienced paraglider pilot in Australia (see CV below) and has been teaching for 22 years. Whilst all HGFA Instructors are qualified to safely teach, experience counts.
- BEWARE : One particular school advertises saying they have been in operation for 25 years. They are giving you a misleading impression of their teaching experience in saying this, when in actual fact the school's CFI has only been teaching for 2yrs. Sure the "school business" has been there for 25 years, and the CFI is HGFA accredited, but why not tell the truth about the actual Instructors experience???
- BEWARE : Some operators also claim to have 35 years "experience" or be flying since year 19XX, or are the most "popular" and have taught XXXX students in order to gain some credibility. Yet when investigated you will find out they don't actually mean flying or teaching paragliders (which started in Australia in 1988) and nor teaching to a full license level (which is vastly different to doing free 2 day intro's). In fact one operator who made this type of claim didn't even start flying paragliders until 1993. They are simply distorting the facts about their experience with paragliding to catch your attention. Make your own mind up if that is OK ? Our live-in instructors are also some of the highest airtime and student experienced instructors in Australia.
- We use tandem instruction in the early high flights phase before your solo, and on days where it might be unsuitable for student level flying. This in our opinion maximises safety and learning.
- Our live in courses also provide access to your instructors all day, every day for the best possible learning environment !
A Safe School Flying Site That Offers All Skill Aspects ?
- Mt Borah is one of the worlds best and most famous flying sites. That's why the 2007 Paragliding World Championships were held here. Aside from 100's of people like you that have learned to fly at Mt Borah, many thousands of pilots from Australia and around the world have enjoyed 10,000's of hours of safe flying and achieved personal bests from Mt Borah. No other site in Australia comes even remotely close.
- Mt Borah is the ONLY site in the world to have 4 of the worlds largest astro-turfed launches for most wind directions in one place - offering unparalleled safety and convenience. Each one is the size of a hockey field and more !
- On site we also have our huge Ground Handling Paddock which is right next to your cabins and the HQ facility where we run the theory lessons - so when it's on to do practical we are right there ready to go with no time wasted needed to drive to sites. The Training Slope for your first short flights to practise take-off and landings is at the base of Mt Borah as well. Unlike any other schools, we drive you back up the Training Slope to reduce fatigue and increase flight turn-arounds - all other schools require you to walk back up (fine for the ultra-fit, but for average fitness students the fatigue factor is significant).
- Mt Borah offers ridge soaring and thermalling, and has large, easy, obstacle free landing areas all round. BEWARE : Some schools say you need to learn on the coast to ridge soar or handle gliders in supposedly stronger winds there etc... That's simply an advertising untruth to attract unsuspecting students. Ridge soaring involves surfing a dynamic up-slope wind, no matter where it exists - coastal or inland. In fact Mt Borah offers excellent and much higher ridge soaring than ANY other site in Australia ! As for "ground handling" in stronger winds...such conditions are obviously not the exclusive domain of coastal sites either, and highlight even more advertising misinformation being presented to you. Some coastal schools say they offer thermalling in their course but in reality it is very rare that their students ever get a chance to thermal - it's just more misinformation.
- Some sites are limited to what they can offer. In Victoria for example, the main site for learning only offers high flights to the bottom and not thermalling or ridge soaring. Most coastal based schools cannot offer thermalling or proper high flights 1000ft+. Mt Borah offers all skill area's in one location - high flights 1000ft+, Ridge Soaring and Thermalling.
- One school is making a claim that they have 15 sites to choose from for a variety of experience. At Mt Borah we have all the flying variety needed on one mountain facility with 4 unique launch sites and multiple landings. Each variation offers differing launch situations, flight plan options, landing zone scenario's. No need to drive hours wasting precious flying time looking for sites to be flyable in the narrow band of conditions for short windows of opportunity and lots of waiting around for it to "come on".
- Best of all Mt Borah is right where you stay ! No need to waste time driving long distances to different sites when the wind changes - its all in one place (flying, practical, theory ground handling) !
- Manilla is just over 4-1/2hrs from Sydney (430kms). One operator for example blatently claims to be "just over" 3hrs from Sydney when in fact it actually takes over 4 hrs to drive... again, they are making false claims about something simple like distances/driving time from a city to catch your attention. Is that OK ?
- Manilla does not require the use of Aircraft Radio's to legally fly. Since 3rd June 2010, CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) mandated the carriage and use of aircraft VHF radio's in areas (20kms radius) from all small airports. As such now some flying areas require all pilots (including students) to carry and use aircraft radio's in order to fly legally - a highly complicating and unnecessary factor when learning. In Manilla the airspace is free and open (its called Class G Airspace) and there are no affected airports nearby that might effect school operations. To further enhance safety we use our own exclusive private radio channels for all teaching as clear communication is critical and we use the highest quality Icom commercial spec UHF radio's (and not $50 toys).
- BEWARE : License courses conducted by some Australian schools in Bali might seem like a nice way to have a holiday and learn to fly. The reason why they go there is because their local area does not offer flyable conditions over the cooler winter months due to a lack of a sea breeze. The courses in Bali however are limited in their scope and variety of flying and thus skills attained. Everyone doing a course in Bali needs to do more training when back in Australia as they do not fulfill the minimum HGFA P2 license requirements there. This needs more time. The student accident rate is also many many times higher than when learning in Australia due to the strong winds flown there where a small mistake (as students can do) results in a huge issue. At the end of the day are you are intending to do a serious sports aviation course with a view to safely flying in the future with a full range of skills, or just a holiday fun flying course (albeit with well above average risk factors)? If there is just one thing you take away from reading all this info - think twice about learning in Bali !
Exclusively Paragliding ?
- We only teach Paragliding. We do not spread our time and thus expertise into other areas. We also do not conduct commercial tandems (Trial Instructional Flight or TIF) operations during any course weeks. BEWARE : Some operators prefer to conduct financially lucrative TIF's when its flyable rather than teaching their students. They are well known to leave students sitting on the hill or a cafe waiting - wasting their time. We have heard this story so often that its amazing they actually still get customers for courses !
Proper Theory Lessons ?
- We teach around 20 hrs of "in classroom" style theory over a 9 day course week in an interesting and educational way drawing on over 20 years of paragliding teaching and 30 years flying experience. Whilst all schools teach the same theory syllabus there is a difference in experience of delivery and additional content above the minimum requirement. BEWARE : Many schools will sit you in a cafe and casually explain some theory or worse still just give you a book and say "here, study this, there's an exam at the end of the week".
Full Days of Teaching ?
- We teach all day at Australia's only world class flying site where everything is at one location (including training slopes and ground handling paddock). Its not just 9-5 - most of our days are 10-12hrs (with breaks of course) and living on site assists with getting the most out of the week. We adapt to the weather alternating between flying, ground handling and theory to maximise time efficiency. So 9 days in Manilla can be like 12-15 days elsewhere. Thus you get more value for your time and money. We also suggest students to stay on for a few extra "supervised" days if they can at no extra cost.
What Time of Year to Learn ?
Our scheduled group courses are run in Autumn and Spring – the best time of year to learn in Australia and get the most out of each day. No matter where you are, the days are too short and often unreliable in winter and the conditions are too variable and limited in summer, to achieve the highest skill level and thus get the best value for your time during a one week (9 day) course. Our Private courses run in summer and winter are available for small groups and extend for extra days to account for this.
BEWARE : Some will have you believe that they have magically increased daylight hours on the coast over winter. They also claim that summer is great too but forget to add that the sea breeze which they rely on isn’t available on tap either all day either. Many operators need to drive long distances to find sites when the wind changes direction or isn’t suitable for their main site (eg in winter for all coastal schools) – at Mt Borah its all in one location so we don't lose any time..
BEWARE of doing courses in mid summer (and mid winter). Some claim to operate all year round and justify it by making all sorts of amazing claims as to why they can and others can't. Whilst mid summer may be convenient from a “holidays” perspective, it simply isn’t the right time to learn anywhere unless you are willing to take around 2 weeks off – no matter what they may suggest. It is hot everywhere (even on the coast where the humidity drains your energy) and results in student fatigue so you don't get the time to attain the skills in the time available! We know because we regularly see their “unfinished“ yet licensed ex-students (!), and often need to skill them up to the correct solo level - that is if they recognise the fact they are substandard.
Some will have you believe that it’s too windy inland to teach in winter or too turbulent in summer. The fact is that at Manilla we could easily teach all year round in better conditions than anywhere else, BUT we choose not to as we know that winter and summer results in the need to extend the group courses to attain the level of skill we are happy signing your license off with. We offer longer 1:1 and small group private courses in summer and winter if requested but state clearly that to achieve the skill standard we require it will usually take more than 9 days - and that goes for any location ... including coastal ones. Warning - if you are doing a 9 day course on the coast in summer it's VERY likely you will NOT be up to a suitable standard skill level to fly solo safely as you would expect.... this is despite being signed off for a license. Yes that stinks....and yes people have lots of accidents or "scares" as a result and then end up never flying again. Also if you choose to learn just on weekends and days off on the coast it might take you more than 6 months to finish - very frustrating and costly (travel, and accom costs add up !!).
High Quality Equipment ?
Serious About Learning ?
- We only use and sell the highest quality equipment on the market. It's an industry known fact that the brand we import is regarded in the industry as at the highest quality level.
- The gliders we use in the courses are all tested to the highest safety level possible. Godfrey Wenness has been involved in prototype testing for one of the world major brands for 23 years - the only instructor in Australia with such vast experience. As such we know every aspect of the school gliders characteristics to the finest detail, a fact that has a huge safety advantage in critical situations.
Most of our students arrive via referrals from former students and other pilots - contact us below and we will put you in touch with some for their personal opinion...or ask someone at flying site near you !
Contact : Godfrey Wenness
Email : click here
Phone : 02 67 85 65 45
from Overseas phone : +61 2 67 85 65 45
CFI : Godfrey Wenness - Paragliding Experience CV
Commenced regular paragliding in Europe in 1988 (Austria Basic PG ‘A’ license)
Australian HGFA Paragliding “Restricted” license in 1992
Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (HGFA) certified Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) 1995
Rigid Wing Hang Glider (3 axis controls) Pilot Course Belgium - 2002
Owner and Developer of Mt Borah and Operator of Manilla Paragliding School (Manilla, NSW) 1995
Total Logged flying hours as at 30/06/17 : 9900hrs
World Record – Paragliding Open Distance 335kms : Nov 1998 – 2002 (from Mt Borah)
Worlds Longest Tandem Open Distance - 223kms : Jan 2000 – 2003 (from Mt Borah)
First pilot in the World to fly over 300kms
First Australian pilot to fly over 100 miles, 200kms, 300kms, 200 miles
First and Only Australian pilot to achieve a FAI World Distance Record.
Australian Sports Medal (ASM) 2000
Multiple National Records 1997- 2014
Australian National Cross Country League Champion 2002 (Inaugural) & 2003
HGFA Safety and Operations Committee Member (Paragliding) : 1998 –
HGFA Instructor Examiner 1999 –
Organsier and Meet Director of the 10th FAI Paragliding World Championships - Manilla 2007
Competition Organiser & Meet Director – Australian National C/ships, Manilla International Open, XC Open World Series : 1995 –
Australian National Team Member : 1997 – 2004
Flying and Testing Prototypes for Advance Paragliders (Switzerland) : 1995-
Material Testing for Advance Paragliders and Porcher Industries (France) : 1995-
- Discussion Group Member for Common European Norms (CEN) for EN Glider Certification 2000