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I am a private pilot looking to get into paragliding. After talking to some of my friends who do paragliding in the SF bay area and watching youtube videos. I noticed some fly through places like VPMIN (which is near SUNOL) which is an extremely busy intersection sometimes right in the altitude ranges I normally fly through them in my powered aircraft. From this I had a few questions:

  1. Is it possible to get the equivalent of flight following or at least call up ATC to let them know you are there if you are planning on flying at higher altitudes? I am used to doing this for a D airspace if I am flying only just over or near it if they are not busy.
  2. If so what would the phrasing of that sound like when you don't have a callsign?
  3. 14 CFR 103.17 says that I require prior authorization to enter B, C, D. What does this look like? Can I take a handheld radio and ask for permission on the tower frequency? Or is this something I'd need to get through written permission from a FSDO or the tower directly?
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    $\begingroup$ As a paraglider, you can't enter class B (or C I believe). There really shouldn't be any reason you need to talk to ATC as a paraglider in the airspaces and altitudes you'll be operating at. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Nov 22 '18 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to look at Do lighter-than-air aircraft communicate with ATC? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 23 '18 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a CVn that link was helpful. The one part that stuck out was this: "On the other hand, if they do have a radio (even a hand-held radio) it can greatly add to the safety of flight if they remain in contact with ATC since they can point out traffic that they might not have seen as quickly otherwise." I have always found this to be true in my powered flying and is the root of why I'm interested in doing the same for paragliding $\endgroup$ – Nick Nov 23 '18 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ Rob Beyer: I disagree, take this video for example youtu.be/vjQ6yIOAisQ the pilot here is 5500 ft right in the middle of a busy vfr corridor that is used by people who are traveling north and trying to avoid SFO B and OAK C. He is also right at a vfr cruising altitude. As far as I can tell he's perfectly legal to be there but If I was a plane flying through there I would love atc to be talking to him and so they can call out to me that he exists even if they don't know an exact location $\endgroup$ – Nick Nov 23 '18 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ "As a paraglider, you can't enter class B (or C I believe). "-- yes you can, if you have prior authorization from ATC, as the original asker correctly noted. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Nov 25 '18 at 13:55
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I know of some paragliding sites in the UK that are in Class D. The site rules state that if you expect to get above a certain height you must phone the local ATC who will issue a clearance, usually 'not above xxxx feet'. XC is not allowed from these sites.

Paraglider pilots can also create Notams or use a CANP to notify others that a class G site will be active.

Most of the radios used by paragliders and hangies in the UK are hand-held that don't cover the same bands as GA, and also aren't really usable in the air since your hands are busy with the controls.

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  • $\begingroup$ A "push to talk" button solves the issue of hands being busy. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Nov 25 '18 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ In the United States, it would technically not be legal to fly an ultralight aircraft (including hang gliders and paragliders) within Class D airspace (and even in some types of Class-E-to-Surface airspace) even 10' off the ground, without getting prior authorization from ATC. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Nov 25 '18 at 13:58

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