English pilots

  • Les Toiles du Sud - The fabrics of the South - yes floppies to you and me. www.lestoilesdusud.fr
  • Membership - An active paragliding club based out of Toulouse in the South West of France with over 80 members (including more than 10 tandem rated).
  • Meeting night is Thursday at the MJC near Pont des Demoiselles 8:00 until 9:00. Some of the members do speak English and most are friendly enough to work with charades and phrase book French.
  • All flying sites are a little distance away, two typical flying sites are Arbas and Val Louron in the Pyrenees, easily reachable from Toulouse 1 / 2 hours drive. The club organises weekend trips as well as foreign trips.
  • Most trips to the south revolve around meeting at Roques "Centre Commercial" petrol station (the IKEA / LECLERC shopping centre Jn 37, A64 outside Toulouse) sharing cars to offset the travel costs and boost the camaraderie (and play how many pilots and wings can you stuff into a Twingo).
  • Any flying in France requires that you have third party insurance. Your BHPA membership will cover you only for 60 days/year away from the UK. After this you will need to either register with the FFVL or obtain third party insurance with the likes of CAF (Club Alpine Francais), (note that the BMC (British Mountineering Council used to do some good annual policies including paragliding)).
  • Joining the club and following the e-mail group news indicates what is happening regarding flying/meeting up etc.
FFVL membership can be arranged through the club -

- Go to the meeting
- Shake hands with everyone…(you'll find out who speaks English)
- Find the Chairman
- Club subscription ( 2011 ~ 25 Euros)
- Get a medical!! Just call into any doctors with your form (The medical requirements are printed on the reverse of the last folio) cost (2011 ~ 22 Euros).
- Ideally get an IPPI card from the BHPA (2007 ~ £11.00).Your membership is Volant (flying)
- You need basic insurance "RC volante et AR" (unless you have other insurance - eg. CAF)
- Decide if you want your gear insured.

Eh voila.
  • Flying - The same as anywhere, best to get advice from the locals who are very obliging and have a very strong community spirit here in France (there are a lot more pilots!).The vast majority of sites have designated take-offs and landings, many well maintained with windsocks, notice boards etc. (and even cafes and bars at the posher ones). Best to visit the landing site (Atterrissage) first as local rules are usually displayed on the notice board.
    (A good example currently being Luchon where the notice board displays the flying restrictions regarding the nearby airfield.).
  • A lot of the flying is Alpine thermal flying so English stylie ridge soaring is pretty rare. Most sites are not top-landable but there are usually a whole host of pilots (what is the collective noun for a group of paraglider pilots?) and vehicles sharing and running shuttles (if you've come in a car, chip in and share some of the shuttling). Some sites are very grand (3000 feet top to bottom) so be happy with big take-offs, alpine and reverse style.
  • Be very aware of the Valley breeze and how it works with the time of day / conditions etc. and consult locals. It may seem flyable from take-off but hooting down the valley over the landing field. Getting pinned in the valley (or worse having to land going backwards) is a very disconcerting / potentially dangerous mistake to make.
  • Be aware that although some Pyrenean sites can be flown with a meteo South Wind extreme caution is advised as this can generate severe turbulence.
  • Radios - using the FFVL frequency 143.9875 means that you will get a periodic local Meteo update on the "Vent" from the nearest weather station. This can be useful for judging if the conditions are actually getting stronger etc. (obviously its in French but its only numbers…and site names). This can be monitored whilst flying and you will pick up the nearest meteo station.
  • Phrase book
Bonjour/Salut Hello
Vol Flight / wing
Décollage Take-off - (not a picture made from sticking things to paper)
Atterrissage Landing
Vent The wind (the meterological wind)
Brise The wind (the local wind caused by the effect of the thermals and the valley flow…can be very different from the vent).
Plouf Top to bottom
Amateur Lot an Amateur but an Enthusiast ~ easy to get a little insulted by mistake with this one, as in "you're quite an amateur aren't you?"
Pique-nique Almost as important as the flying itself
Bière Essential post flight refreshment
Merde n ot very good
Randonnée Walk - as in "oh Merde, the winds off lets go walking instead".
Ballade The same as Randonnée. I'm still not sure that a ballade isn't a "randonnée" during which you're meant to sing.
Gîte Pronounced sort of "jeet" - Youth hostel for grown ups - inexpensive way of overnighting in convivial style in the countryside (remember to bring the pique-nique)
Parapente Paraglider
Parapentiste A partaker of the noble art
Delta Lawn dart / Hang glider
Mon aéroglisseur est plein des anguilles My hovercraft is full of eels