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Why Fly Above All?

Fly Above All is the oldest continuously operating paragliding school in the United States! That's no accident.

We love to teach and are passionate about it! We are constantly searching for the best techniques, tips, and tricks both in the way we teach and what we teach. Our training program and syllabus is the product of our combined decades of experience with paragliding, small airplanes, and education. Nothing we teach is "old school", ever. With our unsurpassed level of experience, we will lead you through a natural progression of skills, training you to be a safe, accomplished pilot. Our instructors have more combined airtime than any other school in the US, but airtime doesn't make great instructors. We also have more combined experience "on the hill" teaching students than any other school.

At Fly Above All, every one of our instructors are Advanced level and can offer training through P4. Fly Above All is the only school in SoCal with two Paragliding Instructor Administrators, and one Speedflying Instructor Administrator on staff who can guide you on your way to becoming an Advanced Instructor and Tandem pilot. If paramotoring is your thing we offer training through our sister school American Paragliding which shares many of our instructors but focuses purely on motorized aviation.

Paragliding may be the least expensive form of aviation around, but we understand that dropping thousands of dollars on equipment can be hard to stomach. At Fly Above All we recommend gear that is appropriate for your skill level and budget, and regularly suggest less expensive, and often better options than other schools. You should ask your prospective school what a gear package generally costs and if there are any hidden "gotchas" that you'll end up having to buy later. We believe you shouldn't look like you just stepped out of an expensive mail-order catalog when you graduate, and you shouldn't feel like you had to sell a kidney to afford it.

 
Fly Above All
Others
Parglider
$3,400
$3,800
Harness
$900
$915
Reserve
$749
$725
Helmet
$75
$212
Variometer/GPS
$379
$620
Radio
$195
$193
Foot Stirrup
$30
$35
Radio Harness
Unnecessary!
$50
Push-To-Talk
Unnecessary!
$42
Accordian Bag
Unnecessary!
$65
Flight Deck
Unnecessary!
$95
Student Discount
-$500
TOTAL
$5,228
$6,752

We realize you have a choice of schools, so before you make a decision feel free to contact us either by phone or email. To help you make a decision we have outlined some questions below that you should ask your potential instructor.

Your training with a paragliding school should be a long-term relationship. While it may only take a few lessons to earn your novice certification, you want to choose a school that will be involved in your development as a pilot through your advanced rating and beyond. Make sure the staff respects you and your time and are dedicated to giving you professional instruction and long-term support.

How will you know? Ask...

How long has the school been established?

While a newer school is not necessarily a bad choice, a school with a proven track record can give you peace of mind, knowing that the school will be there to support you long into the future. Fly Above All was established well over a decade ago, has an exceptional safety record and some of the top US pilots, including current distance record holders, have come through our program.

Our school has been operating at the Elings Park Training hill since it was first opened as a hang gliding school in 1974 and began teaching paragliding in 1989. In 1998 Chad Bastian purchased the school from his instructor Ken DeRussy. Chad was determined to continue the legacy of quality paragliding education for one of the longest running foot launched flight schools in the US. Through Chad's vision, Fly Above All has grown, and while we may not train the most pilots, we definitely train the highest quality. More importantly, Fly Above All and its instructors have been nationally recognized for the quality of instruction and the community of pilots that surrounds it. One of the best measures of a school's success is the number of pilots they've trained that are still flying regularly. We recently received this compliment: "All the folks that you taught are still flying up a storm here in UT. Seriously, I bet that if you looked at the stats, you would see that a huge portion of them fly on a daily basis. That is the ultimate measure of an instructor and a huge compliment to your style." Christopher Grantham, the current owner and lead instructor, has the highest long-term student retention statistics in the country, meaning that after a decade, more of his students are still flying.


Does this school have several instructors?
What are their qualifications?

A school with several instructors will offer you flexibility in scheduling, learning and teaching styles. The opportunity to work with different instructors will expose you to a number of different approaches to learning the same skills, increasing your retention. We have many instructors available every day - instructing at the training hill, flying in the local mountains, or for a one-on-one instructional clinic, covering your first high Mountain Flights, Thermalling, Reserve Parachutes, Cross Country Skills, or a Mountain Site Introduction. Having multiple instructors available means more options for you to take advantage of Santa Barbara or Ojai's unique flying opportunities.

The instruction at Fly Above All is unsurpassed by any other school in the United States and has been recognized by USHPA with the Instructor of the Year award. . Fly Above All's instructors have the knowledge of educational theory, years of paragliding instruction, experience flying sites around the country and the world, and abound in enthusiasm. Additionally, our instructors have considerable experience teaching speed flying, which is the cutting edge of high-speed thrills.

When researching a school, ask whether the instructors that will be working with you are Basic or Advanced. That will give you an idea of how much experience they have. All of Fly Above All's instructors are Advanced level so no matter which instructors you're working with, you will get the best. You should also ask how long they've been teaching, and whether they have any experience teaching in other locations. An instructor who hasn't taught in several locations will lack the breadth of knowledge that comes from that experience. Fly Above All instructors have taught in all 4 corners of the US, the Rockies, and internationally. Combined, we have well over 30 years of teaching experience.

We also host many guest instructors not listed here that come to teach with us, or offer a specialized clinics.

  • Christopher Grantham
  • Chad Bastian
  • Bob Peloquin
  • Irene Revenko

What is the maximum and average number of students per instructor?
Are lessons designed to make the best use of my time?

We strongly recommend choosing a school that offers a student:instructor ratio of no more than 3:1. Sometimes schools will try to skirt the challenges of having a single instructor, very few teaching days, or low tuition prices by training far too many students at once. The end result is a high student/low instructor ratio, which is a waste of your time and a compromise of your safety. Often schools will conduct large classes of 10+ but try to maintain a low student/teacher ratio by using inexpereinced instructors.

Fly Above All makes the most of your training time, averaging below the 3:1 ratio. An 8 hour lesson, with lots of individual attention will yield plentiful opportunity for repetition of skills and personal coaching. We teach all week and schedule students in smaller groups, which means you get more flights per day. Often our students get 10-15 flights per day and occasionally as many as 25! You progress faster, learn more, and make better use of your time.


Is the training schedule flexible?
Are lesson reservations available 7 days a week?

Fly Above All is available 7 days a week. We have USHPA certified instructors available to work with you any day of the week with a reservation. Fly Above All could complete your P1 (beginner rating) in 2 to 3 day lessons, however you will need your P2 to be ready to fly on your own. The average student in our program needs 6-10 days at our training hill and eight hours of ground school to receive their their Novice Certification. We also include several guided mountain flights after completing the Novice certification.

We can structure the training program to fit your schedule. You can plan on coming out as little as once or twice a month, or plan on a 6-10 day course on consecutive days. This flexibility has allowed us to train pilots from Santa Barbara to LA, around the country and around the world (Massachusetts, Oregon, Florida, Texas, Alaska, Colorado, Sri Lanka, Ireland, England, France and Luxembourg).

No matter what your time frame, Fly Above All will take a very conservative approach to your lessons. Other schools may push you to advance quickly. Fly Above All's philosophy is different. We know P2 training is the basis for everything you learn about flying in the future and we want you to be a safe pilot throughout your flying career. Therefore we give you the time and individual attention you need to perfect the skills that make a great novice pilot.


Is the training site consistently trainable?

You'd rather spend your training time paragliding than parawaiting, right?

Fly Above All has one of the best training hills in the United States! It is amazing that our beautiful training hill in Santa Barbara is still undeveloped. Because it's purchase was made possible by a former Fly Above All Paragliding Student's donation to a non profit park, it will be here for training well into the future.

Why is it so great? Central California offers weather similar to the Mediterranean. It is trainable year-round, with over 350 trainable days last year. The training hill has a gentle grade so we can start you at low altitudes and work our way up. There are smooth breezes off the ocean to fly in and open fields where you can practice your ground handling. There is also a road so we can pick you up at the bottom of the hill and drive you back to the top for your next flight. No time wasted hiking! Spend your time paragliding instead!


Does the school offer continuing education, including Site Introduction, Thermalling, Cross Country Flying and Powered Paragliding?

You will want to look to quality instructors as you progress into your intermediate paragliding rating and beyond. The basics of paragliding are relatively easy , but mastering it will take a lifetime. Many students want to take paragliding to higher levels or even fly with a Paramotor or PPG Trike. We can fit you into a wing that will be able to work for all of these activities so you will not have to buy two or three wings. Our instructors know the intricacies of moving from foot launched free-flight to powered paragliding (and vice-versa), focusing on the habits and skills you will need to master to be successful at both. With the advent of speed flying, we are also able to transition you into this new form of high speed aviation. Fly Above All has one of the few speed flying instructor administrators in the US on staff as well.

Fly Above All Instructors fly as often as possible, usually every day, and often with former students to offer informal learning opportunities and to make certain our pilots are comfortable with the local sites. Fly Above All regularly offers advanced clinics for the advancing pilot.

Some of the clinics we offer:

  • Pilot Tune-Up & Rating Sign-Off
  • Mountain Site Introduction Clinic
  • Weather Clinic
  • Thermal Soaring Clinic
  • Cross Country Clinic
  • Ridge Soaring Clinic
  • Tow Pilot Clinic
  • Maneuvers Clinic
  • Powered Paragliding
  • Crossing Over - PPG to PG, PG to PPG
  • PPG Trike & TrikeBuggy
  • Special Guest Clinics


Just as important, Fly Above All has created a community atmosphere among our alumni. You will find that there is always someone willing to lend an extra hand or go flying with you once you have completed your P2. We fly as a group almost every weekend, and regularly take former students on trips to new flying sites around CA, the US and even Mexico and France.


What kind of equipment will I be trained on and when do I buy my own gear?

Fly Above All uses DHV-1 (the safest rating a paraglider can obtain) paragliders from your very first day until you are ready to try wings with more performance. These paragliders are not old outdated designs, they are new, current and reliable wings with the best safety characteristics available. Older equipment is regularly rotated out of use well before it would be considered unflyable. We will never put you on a higher performance or more demanding paraglider until we feel you are ready. It's unsafe, and counterproductive to your learning process.

Don't be lured into buying gear early! We recommend students purchase equipment toward the end of their traning program so that we can best recommend an appropriate glider and harness. It's almost impossible for you to know what works for you after a few days on the training hill. You will have a much better feel for what is comfortable after 7+ days.


What glider companies are they authorized to represent? Does the school carry a good selection of harnesses, helmets and flying accessories?

A diverse line of products indicates that the school has enough stability and reputation to earn the support of glider manufacturers.

You can visit Fly Above All's Online Store where we feature a large range of gliders, harnesses, and reserves. We are proud to carry Ozone, Gin, Advance, NOVA, Swing, Skywalk, and U-Turn. Our flagship brands; Ozone, Gin, Advance and NOVA, are the top selling brands worldwide and the technology leaders when it comes to improving the safety and performance of modern gliders. There are many glider brands available, but none have the industry leading reputation of Ozone, Gin, Advance or NOVA.

At Fly Above All, equipment is provided for all of your training on our training hill. We want to make certain that you get the best wing for your needs and skills. You and your instructor will talk about how and where you're going to fly in order to make the best gear choices. With patience, you can purchase a used wing for as little as $2,500 or buy top of the line new equipment for about $5,500. The average student spends $3000 to $6000. Plus, Fly Above All's Student Package Discount applies anytime! Our student discount is available whenever you decide to purchase your package. You may want to get your harness first, then your wing later during your training.

Beware of a school that is encouraging you to buy your equipment before you start. A policy that assumes that a new student has the experience or knowledge to decide on a Paragliding Equipment Package before they start or by the third day of lessons is simply not realistic. You will not have enough time under the wing to tell any difference between gliders until you have nearly completed your training.

Your instructor will also be watching you and your particular skill set and style. As you advance, they will be able to recommend the right glider for your needs. Your instructor will take into account the type of flying you will be doing once you complete your course, look at your total equipment needs, your budget, and guide you in your purchase.

For most new pilots wanting to fly in the mountains, they will need to consider a package that includes the following:

  • Paragliding Wing
  • Harness with Back Protection
  • Reserve Parachute
  • Full-face Helmet
  • Two-Meter Radio

Any school that only offers a discount for this package before the student starts, or during the first two or three days of instruction should approached with caution, as there may be little incentive for that school to give you their full attention post-purchase. Quite often, we take in "orphaned" students that had bought their whole package, only to be abandoned by the school post-purchase.

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