St Andre is suitable for all types of pilots. Aerogliss is one of the best paragliding schools in France and is located in St Andre - it turns out excellent pilots in large numbers every year.
You will get plenty of amazing flying here if you use common sense and have a basic respect/understanding of the following:
mountain weather and the forecast
your own skill level and experience
and you choose to fly at a time of day that suits your skills and experience
morning - very calm, amazing views and light - great for top to bottom glides
afternoon - thermic conditions - great for cross country routes
evening - lifty and mellow - great for light thermalling and soaring
Select the mode/gear to suit your ability and then use the other time to play, this helps keeps you AND the family happy.
Assess the Days Conditions Before You Fly
Check the days forecast (click here for weather &wind links)and see if your observations confirm it. Flying in strong winds especially for paragliders is not recommended.
As a general rule do NOT fly when your observations or the weather report indicates any of the following:
The wind is from: NNW, N, S, SSW, SW and the speed is forecast at greater than 15kmh
The wind is from: NNE, E, ESE and more than 10km (early morning and late evening ESE is often ok check with locals )
If there is a very heavy, low inversion, the day is very bright/thermic and winds are above 15kmh
If you can see a lot of wave bars, lots of really milky sky or fast moving cloud shadows
If cu-nims are building in every direction
-NOTE: Cu-nims are normal at certain times and safe flying is possible especially towards the end of the day. Just take care and seek local advice first
Wind is indicated to be greater than 20kmh
These are some typical conditions specific to take off and landings during summer in St-Andre-les-Alpes. Although typical, conditions do vary and each day can be different so use your experience to assess the conditions and act appropriately.
Tips for Safe Launches
Generally in summer the day starts with calm winds. This is the perfect time for easy glides to the landing field from the south or south east take off using a forward / alpine launch (for paragliders).
Thermals on Le Chalvet begin in front of the south take off around 10.30am. Early starts are made here but the thermals will be weak initially and it is a good time for low airtime pilots to get some practice.
As the sun moves around Le Chalvet so does the upslope wind and the south west and west face begin to work from about 11.30am.
Often this makes the wind on the south take off in lee and blow from over the back so if you started here but did not launch you are advised to move to the south west / west take off at this time.
From 11.30am in front of the south west and west take off thermals begin weak and pilots will be scratching in the dynamic lift and toping up in thermals as they come through. Thermal strength and frequency will increase and the upslope wind on take off will get stronger. Paraglider pilots will need a good well timed reverse launch to take off now.
By about 1pm, when with the associated venturi effect the wind speed on take off becomes too difficult or dangerous for paraglider pilots to launch.
Strong inversions and later in the season the start of the thermals will be delayed and the launch window may extend to 2pm for paraglider pilots.
The dilema for pilots is if you take off too early you may scratch about, lose height and have an early landing. If you leave it to late the wind on take off will become too strong for paraglider pilots to take off.
Nigel recommends paraglider pilots launch from the west take off as soon as the signs tell you that the thermals are working (breezes coming through, the giffon vultures thermalling, pilots getting up above the hill).
Hang glider pilots nearly always take off from the south west take off and Mark recommends a later start aiming to launch between 2-4pm.
Of course if you miss the launch window do not stress out or launch when you know it's unwise to. Go and do another activity for the afternoon then come back later when conditions start calming down again.
The days flying is not over, XC's are still possible in the more gentle thermals after 5pm and you may get the perfect evening glass off in the sunset.
Good flying can be had here till as late as 9pm in the Summer and 7pm in Autumn/spring.
Tips For Safe Landings
Early in the morning there is usually nil or very little wind. From the south take off the lake will appear very still.
By about 10.30am the thermals will begin lightly on the sunny faces and the rising air will draw more winds up the valleys. From the south take off the lake will appear rippled as the southerly valley wind comes up from Castellane. The wind at the main landing field at this time is fairly reliably from the lake and easy to land in.
As the day progresses and the sun moves around the mountain faces the westerly valley wind from Barreme will increase. If there is also a westerly meteo wind this will start earlier.
During the afternoon the westerly wind can penetrate over the Col de Robines and meet the southerly wind almost above the main landing field.
Keep a close watch on the windsocks at this time if you are landing here because the wind can quickly switch directions as the two winds ebb and flow. In strong wind conditions this can create some shear layers that can be hazardous and turbulent. The landing fields at Moriez or La Mure provide less convient but safer alternative landings when this is the case.
During the late afternoon and evening the westerly wind will often dominate at the landing field.
If you are landing later at dusk winds may change direction again or drop to nil.
Our recommendations are to make regular assessments of the landing field winds when you have plenty of height. Look for the wind on the lake, the two large windsocks in the landing field and other landing pilots. If you are planning to land in the afternoon and winds are strong land at Moriez or La Mure.
Landing in our Garden
For your first few landings set up along the large rectangular field. Pay attention to the tower, electric, trees and phone cables. The field is huge. If cropped please land in a way so as to minimise damage. As you gain experience, try a garden landing take care not to overshoot and hit the house or the trees :-) It's great fun. Move to a shaded area to pack up.
Surprisingly it can be easier to land back at the house in thermic (fairly windy conditions 15-20kmh) than landing in the large LZ. I think this is because of the rise in height above the large LZ and thermal triggers leaving the immediate area below fairly clean.
In thermic conditions it will feel bumpy from about 200 feet down to 50 feet, then smooths out. Always fly actively and within your skill limit and the prevailing conditions.
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