Dual Control

How to Turn Your Tandem into a Dual Control Trainer

Copyright Murray ‘fotoglider’ Hay/Paraglider Magazine 2003-5 (flying hours etc. in this article have been updated to the summer 2008 totals)

Having spent most of my life coming up with new ways to do things and modifying everything in sight, and after six years and over 1,500 hours air time flying paragliders and teaching PG pilots, it only took about five minutes into my first tandem flight with a student to see a number of problems and dangers inherent in passing the controls to my passenger should they wish to try controlling the the paraglider.

From an instructor’s viewpoint, there are a number of advantages of being able to allow your student full control of the glider within limits. Not only can you teach the student in a “real world” environment, letting them feel what effect their input has on the ship above them, but also being there with your student provides a situation where instruction becomes a real-time discussion, instead of a the one way, delayed dictation input of a radio. And from a safety standpoint, the advantages of having a instructor ready at the controls if things were to get dicey should be obvious.

Simply passing toggles to your passenger without the modifications that I outline here simply isn’t practical for a couple reasons... and yet this is what is common in the rest of the world, the resultant position for the student is unnatural and strained even with the Dual Control the position is not perfect. The Dual Control is the only way for the instructor to regain control of the glider if he need’s to.

The solution was so obvious it was difficult to understand why my idea hadn't been produced already.


Build time

We have about 450 video clips on-line now; just click on the YouTube Icon to see a few of the flights made with the Dual Control System.

I spent less than 30 minutes working with on one of the industrial sewing machine the club owns (you can ask your local shoe repair or sail loft), a few pulleys, and some extra line and brake handles to produce the first fully working version. The next day with good weather the dual control system was ready for its first test flight!

Everything worked well right from the start. The only minor change involved moving the new pulley down another two inches to the bottom of the 'C' riser that evening (I fly a Nova *X-LARGE* 37 which has three risers). With a lower position for the pulley the height is nearer to that on a solo glider for the student giving an improved arm/hand position.

Total design, build and modification time was under an hour and cost approx $30 in bits.

Of the 3,500+ hours airtime so far, over 300 hours have been with students on my dual-control gliders. During these tandem flights, almost 90% of the time the student was in control including on landing and also sometimes on ‘Take Off’, with me ready to override or assist at any time. This system allows for both automatic (on over braking) and manual disconnection by the pilot in charge all within a fraction of a second!


Friction losses

Assisting the student leaves the dual controls fully attached.

During the flight the main difference to the 'feel' is the due to the extra friction the passenger feels from the extra pulleys, however by adding ‘Power Steering’ the Instructor, will in part, offset the higher tension felt on the brake lines on a tandem glider compared to solo flying.

The single biggest advantage is in the rapid building of ‘On the Controls’ flight experiance prior to ‘First Solos’ .

Picture caption:

Flying on a right beat (photographer standing on the ridge) Murray is seen assisting the training pilot with a little additional right brake on the dual handle, while the left main control is ready for any correction required on the out of ridge side (safety side) and to assist in needed with the turn at the end of beat.

  • 2x pulleys (speed system type)
  • 2x brake handles (press stud type is best)
  • 2x (male) poppers the same size as on 'C' (or back) riser
  • 2x 4" - 5" of bright colour webbing the same width as brake handle
  • 2x 3" - 4" hook & pile Velcro
  • 2x length of bright para cord (4mm best but must fit pulley when folded double)
  • 1x (female) popper
  • 2x length thin webbing to attach pulleys
  • 2x webbing to attach female popper to rear riser (DO NOT PUT POPPER ON OR IN CONTACT WITH REAR RISER)

Picture caption

Turning at the end of the right beat Murray is seen assisting the training pilot with a little additional right brake on the dual handle along with some weight shift, on this 35ft high grass slope we regularly do hour long tandem training flights including top and slope landings and 'touch & goes'. Many (as in this case) local residents have taken advantage of free half hour or hour long flights.


For specific, detailed advice on Dual Control Tandem Training in your country and other methods of improving paragliding training feel free to contact me on UK mobile 0783-11-22-480

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