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Pilots start out as students and start with a rating of zero meaning they are just beginning to learn the basics. From there pilots are working on what it takes to progress in the sport, adding experience and skills as they go. The United Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association has developed and administers a rating system that is used nationally and beyond to maintain standards that reflect a pilots proficiency level allowing others some confidence that one pilot or another has the skills necessary to fly at a particular flying site. Many sites around the country require these ratings to access the launch.

Pilots are assigned a pilot rating 0-5  (Student, Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Master). For each rating there is a set of requirements that must be met to achieve that rating. The following is a summary of those requirements.

Student Hang Gliding Rating (H0) – Hang Zero 

  1. An understanding that a hang glider is controlled through weight shift and that control is hampered by holding any part of the glider other than where the Instructor indicates. 
  2. An understanding that the Student must pay attention to the Instructor’s commands at all times and be capable of carrying out those instructions. 
  3. A Student pilot has the basic knowledge required to understand and accept the risks of flying a hang glider.

Beginner Hang Gliding Rating (H1) – Hang One 

  1. Set up and preflight of glider and harness. 
  2. Demonstrate proper ground handling of hang glider.
  3. With each flight, demonstrate method(s) of establishing that pilot is hooked in just prior to launch.
  4. Launch unassisted showing an aggressive run.
  5. Demonstrate good angle of attack and pitch control.
  6. Demonstrate directional control.
  7. Demonstrate smooth transition from launching to flying.
  8. Show understanding of airspeed recognition and control.
  9. Two flights predetermined to show constant speed.
  10. Two flights predetermined to show smooth straight flight towards a pre-selected target
  11. Two flights predetermined to show safe, smooth landing, as pre-arranged on feet into the wind.
  12. Two flights predetermined to show confident, slight variation in airspeed showing awareness and control of airspeed envelope.
  13. Two flights predetermined to show smoothly increasing airspeed, smoothly slowing airspeed showing good control, familiarity, and anticipation of safe envelope, without losing control. Airspeed to remain well above stall speed.
  14. Shows ability to recognize and understand how different wind conditions at this site will affect their flights, including but not limited to wind direction, wind velocity, terrain shape, obstructions, etc.
  15. On each flight, demonstrates proper post-landing procedure, to include, but not limited to setting glider down, unhooking, checking traffic, removal of glider from landing area, etc.
  16. Demonstration of understanding of the importance of proper breakdown, packing, transportation, and storage of glider.
  17. The pilot shall use good judgment and have a level of maturity commensurate with the rating. 
  18. Must pass USHPA Hang Gliding Beginner written exam. 
  19. Must agree to all the provisions of the USHPA standard waiver and assumption of risk agreement for the Beginner rating and deliver an original signed copy to the USHPA office. 

Recommended Operating Limitations for Beginner Pilots flying solo: 

  1. It is highly recommended that all flights be made under the direct supervision of a USHPA Certified Basic or Advanced Instructor. 
  2. Should fly only in winds of 12 mph or less, with gust differential of 5 mph or less. 
  3. Should foot launch only on slopes of 3:1 to 6:1, where wind is within 15° of being straight up the slope. 
  4. Should launch only when there are no obstructions within 60° to either side of intended flight path, and when pilot may fly straight out from launch to landing with no need to maneuver and no possibility of over-flying the landing area. 
  5. Should maintain flight heading within 15° of directly into the wind. 
  6. Should fly appropriate sites so as to maintain altitude below 100′ AGL. 

Novice Hang Gliding Rating (H2) – Hang Two 

A. General Description – A Novice hang glider pilot has the knowledge and basic skills necessary to fly and practice without direct instructor supervision but within significant operating limitations. The pilot understands the USHPA hang gliding rating systems and recommended operating limitations. 

The pilot shall use good judgment and have a level of maturity commensurate with the rating. Pilots must demonstrate Beginner level skills and knowledge before obtaining the Novice rating. All witnessed flights must be pre-planned by pilot and discussed with Instructor. 

Novice Rating – Required Witnessed Tasks and Study

Attends a minimum of 8 hours of ground school. Topics of Study for ground school:

      1. Show students how to observe weather forecasts relating to the site from news broadcasting, newspapers and the Internet. 
      2. Monitor weather forecast on a weather radio and or smart phones prior to leaving for flying and on site prior to flying. 
      3. Discuss with students the wisdom of calling a local pilot to gain insight into the local conditions. 
      4. Consider altitude humidity and temperature factors (air density) 
      5. Consider the slope of the ramp or hill, wind factors and the need for wire assistance. 
      6. Discuss the angle of attack requirements, especially with cliff launches. 
      7. Danger Signs
      8. Rotor possibilities – note overall wind signs (cloud drift, water lines, bird drift, smoke from fires or smoke stack smoke direction) with respect to wind indicators at launch.
      9. Varying wind directions and differences at launch and landing. 
      10. Air density considerations
      11. Wind direction awareness and how wind affects landing.
      12. Wind direction indicators other than the wind sock. 
      13. Approach. i. Watch for man-made objects. Lines in the field mean fences, ditches or power lines. Assume all roads have power lines. 
      14. Setup procedures for long straight approach. 
      15. Discuss approach options and preferred approaches with locals. 
      16. Extra speed for handling gradient and turbulence. 
      17. Review crosswind landing techniques 
      18. Tree landing techniques 
      19. Avoidance of obvious crop fields. 

Logged Requirements:

Must have logged a minimum of 25 flights with a required ability to demonstrate an appropriate landing approach. 

    1. Demonstrates set-up and preflight of glider, harness, and reserve parachute. 
    2. Gives a reliable analysis of general conditions of the site and self; and flight plan including flight path, areas to avoid in relation to the wind flow, and obstacles to stay clear of. 
    3. With each flight, demonstrates method of establishing that pilot is hooked in just prior to launch. 
    4. Demonstrates flight with smooth variation in airspeed, from above minimum sink to fast flight, while maintaining a heading. 
    5. Demonstrates flight showing ability to comfortably and precisely slow the glider to minimum sink and smoothly increase to normal airspeed while maintaining a heading. The pilot should not mush or stall the glider. These maneuvers should be practiced and observed with a minimum of 75 feet AGL in smooth conditions. 
    6. While in preferred flying position, demonstrates flight(s) along a planned path alternating “S” turns of at least 90° change in heading. Flight heading need not exceed 45° from straight into wind. Turns must be smooth with controlled airspeed, ending in safe, stand-up landings on a heading. 
    7. Demonstrates 180º turns in both directions, and at various speeds and bank angles. 
    8. Explains how to safely execute a 360 degree turn, and describes the associated risk factors and decision making process. 
    9. Demonstrates three consecutive landings that average less than 100′ from a target, safe, smooth, on feet and into the wind. The target must be sufficiently close to launch such that turns are required to set up an approach and avoid over-flying the target. The target should be at least 100′ below the launch point. 
    10. Demonstrates smooth entry to and exit from flying position without changes in pitch and roll. 
    11. While in preferred flying position, demonstrates flight with smooth variation in airspeed, from above minimum sink to fast flight, while maintaining a heading. 
    12. While in preferred flying position, demonstrates flight showing ability to comfortably and precisely slow the glider to minimum sink and smoothly increase airspeed to normal while maintaining a heading. The pilot should not mush or stall the glider. These maneuvers should be practiced and observed with a minimum of 75 feet AGL in smooth conditions. 
    13. Must pass the USHPA Novice Hang Gliding Written Examination. 
    14. Must agree to all the provisions of the USHPA standard waiver and assumption of risk agreement for the Novice rating and deliver an original signed copy to the USHPA office. 
    15. Demonstrates reserve deployment while hanging in a harness in simulated turbulence or emergency conditions. 

Recommended Operating Limitations for H-2 Novice Pilots

    1. Acknowledges and understands the need to become familiar with site-specific restrictions and launch or landing access limits, consistent with preservation of flying privileges at a site. 
    2. Should exceed these limitations only after thoroughly mastering all required tasks, and after acquiring a full understanding of the potential problems and dangers involved in exceeding these limitations. 
    3. Should fly only in smooth winds of 18 mph or less and gusty winds to 11 mph. 
    4. If foot launching, should launch only on slopes 2:1 to 7:1, where wind is within 25° of being straight up the slope. 
    5. Should maintain heading within 90° of directly into wind, and within 45° of directly into wind below 60′ AGL. 
    6. Flight speed. Should not attempt to fly slowly when encountering lift, but instead, concentrate on maintaining attitude, heading, and airspeed. Slow flight must be preceded by stall experience 500′ from any object.

Intermediate Hang Gliding Rating (H3) 

  1. A. General Description – The pilot has the knowledge and skills to fly most sites in mild to moderate soaring conditions, and to judge when the site and conditions are within the pilot’s skill, knowledge, and experience level. The pilot understands the USHPA hang gliding rating system and recommended operating limitations, and the FARs and other flying rules applicable to his/her flying (ridge rules, thermal right of way, FAR 103, aircraft sectional use and regulated airspace avoidance, etc.). 

The pilot shall use good judgment and have a level of maturity commensurate with the rating. 

Logged Requirements:

  1. Must have logged a minimum of 30 flying days. 
  2. Must have logged a minimum of 90 flights. 
  3. Must have logged a minimum of ten hours of solo airtime. 
  4. Has received training in and/or understands the importance and significance of Right of way rules. 
  5. FAA Regulations and aircraft sectional charts. 
  6. Airspeed control, stalls, spins, and adverse yaw. 
  7. Glider owner’s manual. 
  8. Can give verbal analysis of conditions on the hill demonstrating knowledge of wind shadows, gradients, lift, sink, laminar air, turbulence, and rotors, and the effect these items can have on an intended flight path and turns. 
  9. Must give a verbal flight plan for each observed flight. 
  10. Must show thorough preflight of harness, glider, and reserve parachute. 
  11. With each flight, demonstrates a method of establishing that the pilot is hooked in just prior to launch. 
  12. All takeoffs should be aggressive, confident and with a smooth transition to flying. Flights with slow, unstable launches will not be considered adequate as witnessed tasks. 
  13. For witnessed tasks, all landings must be safe, smooth, on the feet, and in control. 
  14. Demonstrates the ability to differentiate airspeed from ground speed. 
  15. Demonstrate smooth coordinated 360° turns in both directions, with reversal at various speeds and bank angles. 
  16. Demonstrates linked 180° turns along a predetermined ground track showing smooth controlled reversals and proper coordination at various speeds and bank angles. 
  17. Explains stall warning characteristics. 
  18. Has practiced and demonstrates gentle stalls and proper recovery under the direct supervision of an instructor or qualified observer, at least 500′ from any object. 
  19. In 8 to 15 mph wind, demonstrates the ability to maintain airspeed at or near minimum sink during crosswind and upwind legs, without any evidence of stalls. 
  20. Demonstrates three consecutive landings that average less than 50′ from a target, or, optional landing task (see Addendum 1 – Optional Landing Task) after flights requiring turns on approach. 
  21. Demonstrates proper airspeed control on landing approach when descending through a gradient. 
  22. Demonstrates proper airspeed for maximum distance flown into a significant headwind. 
  23. Must pass USHPA Hang Gliding Intermediate written exam. 
  24. The pilot must agree to all the provisions of the USHPA standard waiver and assumption of risk agreement for the Intermediate rating and deliver an original signed copy to the USHPA office. 
  25. Acknowledges and understands the need to become familiar with site-specific restrictions and launch or landing access limits, consistent with preservation of flying privileges at a site. 
  26. Should fly only in winds of 25 mph or less, with gust differential of 10 mph or less.

Recommended Operating Limitations for Intermediate Pilots 

  1. Should initiate downwind turns only with 500′ of clearance outward from the hill or ridge in winds above 18 mph, and 300′ of clearance in winds above 10 mph.
  2. Upon mastering the above skills, an Intermediate Pilot should pursue new maneuvers, sites and conditions with the guidance of a USHPA Certified Advanced Instructor or Observer.

Advanced Hang Gliding Rating (H4) 

  1. A. General Description – The pilot has the knowledge and skills to fly technically demanding sites in strong soaring conditions, and to judge when the site and conditions are within the pilot’s skill, knowledge, and experience level. The pilot understands the USHPA hang gliding rating system and recommended operating limitations, and the FARs and other flying rules applicable to his/her flying. 

The pilot will fly using good judgment and have a level of maturity commensurate with the rating. 

Logged Requirements:

  1. 250 flights. 
  2. Must have made 5 flights at each of 5 different sites in Intermediate level conditions, of which at least 3 were inland. 
  3. Must have logged a minimum of 80 flying days. 
  4. Must have at least one 1-hour flight. 
  5. Must have at least one 30-minute flight in thermal lift without sustaining ridge lift. 
  6. Must have logged 75 hours total air time with no more than 25 of these hours to be tandem. Of these 75 hours, 25 must be in thermal lift, with no more than 10 of these 25 hours to be tandem. 

Demonstrated Skills and Knowledge:

  1. Demonstrates preflight of harness, glider, and reserve parachute. 
  2. Can give a verbal analysis of conditions. 
  3. Can develop then follow a flight plan. 
  4. With each flight, demonstrates a method of establishing that pilot is hooked in just prior to launch. 
  5. All takeoffs should be aggressive, confident and with a smooth transition to flying. Flights with slow, unstable launches will not be considered adequate as witnessed tasks. 
  6. All landings must be safe, smooth, on the feet and in control. 
  7. Demonstrate ability to allow clearance when doing 180° turns by demonstrating figure eights: i. In a wind sufficient to cause drift, two points will be selected on a line perpendicular to the wind. 
  8. The pilot will fly along a line parallel to that joining the pylons, slightly downwind of the pylons, toward a point midway between them. During the crosswind leg, the pilot will establish the degree of wind drift. At the midpoint between the pylons, the pilot will make a smooth deliberate upwind turn and enter a figure eight course consisting of smooth turns of constant ground track radius around the pylons (centered on the pylons) with straight segments crossing at the midpoint between the pylons.
  9. The pilot must complete two consecutive figure eights in which the airspeed, bank angle, and turn rate are altered smoothly around the course such that the proper ground track is held and the drift is compensated for, without overcompensation or hesitation. 
  10. Demonstrate three consecutive landings that average less than 25′ from a target, or, optional landing task (see Addendum 1 – Optional Landing Task) after a flight which requires turns on approach. In smooth conditions, the spot location should be changed by the Observer, for each of the three flights. Flights should be a minimum of one minute and 200′ AGL. 
  11. At a minimum of 500′ demonstrate intentional stalls straight ahead and in turns, not exceeding manufacturer’s recommended limitations, showing confident, smooth recoveries. 
  12. Demonstrates the ability to soar above a low point for five minutes on each of three different flights. 
  13. Demonstrates an altitude gain of at least 500′ in thermals. 
  14. Must pass the USHPA Hang Gliding Advanced written exam. 
  15. Must convince the Instructor or Observer that he can check in and fly Advanced rated sites without endangering spectators, other pilots, or jeopardizing the site. 
  16. Must agree to all the provisions of the USHPA standard waiver and assumption of risk agreement for the Advanced rating and deliver an original signed copy to the USHPA office.

Recommended Operating Limitations for Advanced Pilots

  1. Should not fly within 30′ of another glider in smooth air, or 100′ of another glider in moderately turbulent air. 

Master Hang Gliding Rating (H5) 

For pilots who wish to further diversify their skills in the sport of hang gliding, and to recognize the achievement of the expert skilled pilot who has experience beyond the Advanced level, there is a designation of Master Pilot. No site will be designated as requiring Master skills. The pilot will fly using good judgment and have a level of maturity commensurate with the rating. 

  1. Must be a current USHPA Pilot or Rogallo Member. 
  2. Must have all non-launch Special Skills. 
  3. Must have a minimum of 1,450 points in at least six categories. (see chart below) Must have a minimum of 400 hours logged airtime with at least 200 hours in thermals, and at least 500 logged flights. 
  4. Must obtain at least three letters of recommendation from USHPA Observers, Examiners or Advance Instructors, who will attest to the flying requirements and especially the good judgment and maturity of the applicant. If these officials have not seen the applicant flying for this three year period, additional letters of recommendation must be presented so that the three year block of time is covered. 
  5. Must possess the Bronze Safe Pilot Award, or above (100 flights; there are no points given for this). 
Categories  Points  Max Points Allowed 
Air time (min. 400 hours)  1 pt./hour (beyond 400 hrs. required airtime)  350 
Number of flights (Min. 500 flights. 250 must be foot launched)  1 pt./flight. (beyond required 500 flights)  250 
Altitude Gains(Only one altitude gain may be used from each flight)  10 pts./2,000′ gain 15 pts./3,000′ gain 20 pts./4,000′ gain 25 pts./5,000′ gain 30 pts./6,000′ gain  350 
Cross Country (10 mile min. flights)  1 pt./mile  350 
Number of different sites flown  10 pts./site  300 
Number of different gliders flown  5 pts./glider  150 
Competition  10 pts./fifth 20 pts./fourth 30 pts./third 40 pts./second 50 pts./first  100 
Tandem (As pilot in command)  10 pts./flight  100 
Towing(Payout Reel, Stationary Winch Static Line, Aerotow)  5 pts./flight  100 (50 pts. in each of the possible categories)