Deciding whether to paraglide in light rain showers can be a tough judgment call. While flying in some precipitation can be manageable for experienced pilots with the right precautions, rain introduces additional risks to be aware of. Before heading out to fly when showers are expected, it is critical to methodically assess the weather conditions and terrain while also honestly evaluating your skills. Continuing into deteriorating conditions is one of the most common causes of paragliding accidents. This article provides key considerations for remaining vigilant about safety when rain is in the forecast on your next flight.

Deciding Whether to Fly in Rain Showers

Assessing Current Conditions

Before choosing to fly with rain showers in the area, thoroughly assess the immediate conditions at your planned site and surrounding region. Check visibility, cloud ceilings, wind speeds, and direction. How intense is the rainfall—a light sprinkle or heavier downpours? Are thunderstorms present or expected that require a wider safety margin? Scan for variables like dense fog or low clouds that could reduce visibility during your flight. If taking off in initially acceptable conditions, continue monitoring for deterioration, as rain can worsen rapidly.

Checking the Forecast

Consult credible weather resources to understand the big-picture rain situation beyond what you immediately observe on site. Check Doppler radar and satellite maps showing real-time precipitation movement, coverage, and intensity out to the duration of your expected flight. Review area forecasts and advisories for the timeline you’ll be flying to confirm general expectations. While conditions may look pleasant when setting up to fly, a storm system could be fast approaching.

Evaluating Your Skills and Experience

Honestly assess your capabilities compared to the conditions. Flying in rain introduces additional challenges better suited for experienced pilots who have demonstrated skills in correcting canopy problems, handling turbulence, and navigating reduced visibility. If you’re new to flying in precipitation, start conservatively until you’ve gradually built competency. Consider if you have the judgment to make prudent “no-fly” calls when weather deteriorates past your limits. Know that overconfidence in one’s abilities is a primary contributor to accidents.

Key Safety Risks When Flying in Rain

Reduced Visibility

Rain showers bring inherent visibility challenges for paragliding due to direct obstruction between water droplets on your vision gear, mist, and low clouds obscuring sight lines. Reduced visibility impacts a pilot’s ability to scan for traffic, maintain clearance from terrain and other aircraft, visually navigate lines and landings, and effectively respond to emergencies. Losing perspective on your position relative to potential hazards heightens dangers.

Wet Canopy and Equipment

Flying with a wet wing introduces risks directly related to the paraglider’s aerodynamic properties and structural integrity. Canopies can become less responsive going from dry to wet surfaces, especially during inflation, requiring adjustments. Excess weight from water collected on the upper skin can increase the collapse risk. Seams may unzip partially when loaded, particularly on older canopies. In addition, wet weather shortens the life expectancy of components from abrasion, including lines, risers, and harnesses.

Increased Turbulence

More turbulent conditions frequently accompany rain showers as the atmosphere becomes unstable. Shifting winds may funnel erratically around terrain features. Expect buffeting shear turbulence near the cloud edges. Understand that rotorss can form on the lee sides of ridges and obstacles when wind strength and direction change. When thermals weaken in rain, venturing too far downwind without landing options raises the consequences of getting pinned in a strong wind.

Lightning

Thunderstorms bring a very real threat of lightning strikes, which can be fatal for exposed paraglider pilots. While unlikely compared to being struck on the ground, flight trajectories like thermal climbing increase relative exposure. Lightning can travel 10–15 miles ahead of storms. Consult lightning detection apps to confirm distance before flying and evacuate areas with any thunder audible or storms visible. Land immediately if the gap closes under your flight path or if temporal flashes indicate strikes are intensifying nearer to your position.

Mitigating Risks When Flying in Rain

Choosing Appropriate Sites and Conditions

Select flying sites with wide open landing zones and free of major obstacles to counter reduced visibility. Only fly in mild rain showers and moderate winds, given your skill level. Confirm that no thunderstorms are expected or present before launching. Wait out squall lines and heavy downpours passing through rather than taking off in a gap that could soon close. Avoid flying early or late in the day when visibility may already be limited by low light.

Using Quality Gear

Inspect your paraglider and harness, and ensure that all components are in airworthy condition before flying in wet conditions. Fabric and seams should be intact without tears, lines free of abrasions, and carabiners and buckles functioning smoothly. Install good-quality goggles and consider equipping helmets with visors to maintain visibility in rain. Pack a lightweight, waterproof radio to maintain air traffic awareness.

Following Proper Procedures

When flying in moisture, exercise adds vigilance during all phases, from launch through landing. Inflate conservatively, be cautious entering turbulence, leave added margin for clearing obstacles, constantly evaluate conditions, and have alternative sites mapped for landing if weather shifts course. Resist any distraction from electronics or conversation that compromises scanning to maintain situational awareness.

Aborting Early If Needed

Given the increased risks associated with rain impacting flight dynamics, always err conservatively on “no-go” decisions, prioritizing safety first. If conditions deteriorate or you become uncomfortable with visibility at any point after taking off, promptly get the glider on the ground while you still have control rather than pushing into what exposes you to greater hazards.

Flying paragliders in rain showers demands methodical risk assessment and mitigation to fly safely. By thoroughly evaluating conditions before and during flight, choosing conservative sites that match experience levels, being prepared with quality gear, and always placing judgment over temptation, pilots can make personal safety the top priority even when showers enter the forecast.

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