When it comes to flying paragliders efficiently whether in competitions or XC, there’s really not much information that we actually need.
The five key pieces of information you really need and in order of importance are:
An arrow to the next turn-point (competitions or other planned flights)
ground speed (“speed”)
glide angle (or glide ratio or L/D)
climb rate, and
Whilst additional information can improve the quality of our decisions, with these key pieces of information and only these pieces of information, I have won competition tasks and even broken a world record!
It’s a dashboard!
Think about this GPS information in much the same way as you would a car dashboard or even car mirrors. You should be looking at these often. You should know how fast you’re driving. You should always be aware if there’s a car behind you, but we still have our eyes on the road. We’re always looking ahead.
In much the same way as a good driver looks in his or her mirror often, so when flying we should always be aware of some key bits of information, for example, when on transition I’m keenly aware of my glide angle; when climbing, my climb rate – all information gleaned by quick and occasional glances. AND YET…… I barely take my eyes off the sky!
Keep it simple
Additional fields of information can be useful, but the decisions made in the air with reference to visual clues (other pilots, birds, clouds and so on) are far far more important!
Yes, glide angle to next turn point, or height above ground, or G-force or whatever else might be interesting, but really!!?? Anytime spent looking at your GPS or trying to look at it, or trying to work out what it’s saying is time that you are not looking at the sky, ground or other visual markers that are much more important for making good flying decisions.
Get good at controlling your wing and keep the rest as simple as possible.
If you’re new to using a GPS keep it all really really simple. The key is to be very familiar with which ever unit you fly with, so you can read key pieces of information very easily with just a mere glance.
Later you can add additional pieces of information if you want to.
For competition flying, I like to fly with TWO pages, a START PAGE and a GOAL PAGE.
On my start page I have everything I need to get a great start and On my goal page I have everything I need to get to goal (and as fast as possible)
By the way, as soon as I’ve started I’m on my way to goal – my focus is on reaching goal (and quickly). Having goal related information at hand (even with 100km of flying to go) also helps me keep focused on reaching goal.
You should rarely need more than two pages and for XC flying one is usually enough. Again, keep it simple.