Hang- and Paragliding in Finland
Instructor Riikka Vilkuna, Tandem Instructor Heikki Pimiä and student Victoria on the ice of Lehijärvi.
Hello there, you are very welcome to fly in Finland! But please read the following...If you have any questions you might contact Riikka Vilkkuna at the Finnish Aeronautical Association, or Robert J. Aarts.
Flying in Finland may be better then you would expect from such a geographic location. In summer (May-September) we try to fly the termals. We often have good termal days, but cloud-base rarely is over 2000 m. As we have no high mountains to clear these altitudes are sufficient for serious XC flying. Hang-gliding flights of 100 km are quite common and the Finnish record (free XC) is some 224 km. In southern Finland a good field for landing is almost always nearby.
Although we have some good hills and small mountains (and even "cliffs"), these are almost always forested. So we have to use towing to get up in the air. We like to believe that we have developed towing to a high degree of safety and efficiency. So if you come to fly here you would have to learn static towing. An experienced pilot should have no difficulties with it and we are willing to teach you. Most clubs charge a incredible modest 10 FIM for each launch/tow.
Because of the towing, we mostly operate from small airfields, not unlike sailplanes do. Local clubs typically maintain the site and towing equipment. At most sites camping at or near the field is possible. Of course, there is usually a sauna around.
During winter (December/January - April) we practice ridge soaring. There are several large lakes in southern Finland that are surrounded by (forested) steep hills. Due to the lake air-flow is smooth and the relatively low hill may produce significant lift. We can not lauch from the hill, but again use towing with the frozen, and snow-covered lake as a huge airfield. Plenty of landing space and no need to climb the hill or try difficult top-landings!
The exception to this is Lapland. In Lapland there are mountains and the tree-lines are low. In winter ridge-soaring is possible with traditional hill-launches and top-landings. Every April there is a group of pilots heading for Pallastunturi for flying and (XC-)skiing.
To fly in Finland you need a valid license. Best would be an IPPI card but a recognised foreign license may do. Bring your logbook in any case. Insurance is mandatory, that is your glider should have insurance for any damage etc. caused by its pilot to third parties. Just like cars need everywhere. Of course you might want to take a health/travel insurance for yourself.
Gliders should be certified, but you do not want to fly one that isn't.
Hang- and paragliding is very much self-regulated in Finland, and we like to keep it that way!
Hang-gliding vs. paragliding
We know of no friction or rivalry between para- and hang-glider pilots. We share the sites and towing equipment and sometimes even our gliders. Paragliding is relatively new in Finland but interest is growing. Seven pilots competed in the paragliding nationals (1995); the hang-gliding nationals had slightly over 20 entries (20 is normally the limit). The paragliding champion took third place in the hang-gliding nationals.
Below an incomplete list of clubs and sites.