The story of Green Dragons

We are the longest established Full time British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association accredited air sports flying centre in the country. We are highly trained and experienced instructors dedicated to delivering training in most disciplines or air sports. Our history dates back to 1974 and some would say longer due to Leslie Shaw’s activities dating back to the 1950’s.

Green Dragons was founded by the late Leslie John Shaw in the 1950’s who dedicated his life to teaching both adults and children to fly. Leslie was one of the very few qualified army parachute instructors and when he left the army he formed an army cadet force dedicated to getting people airborne.

Back then he would use an old land rover with some rope to tow round and square parachutes into the air where the pilot would self-release and then be guided back down to earth by Leslie on a loudhailer.

Some say our pedigree and the main reason for our success is that we have a very family like school and club scene where people are thought of as friends. We are proud to have created and promote a lifestyle rather a business venture at Green Dragons and we welcome everyone to join us.

Please read our FAQs and T&Cs for more information and contact us if you have any questions. Have a look at our History Gallery or See our Facebook page for more images.

History of green dragons
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World Champs 2002 bronze and Silver medals
Green Dragons Team 1974
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The birth of Green Dragons

Leslie’s two sons Mike and Andy, had always had a passion for airborne activity and both were involved in the running of the school from an early age. Their natural ability was clear from an early age and they both excelled in a variety of competitions from accuracy to cross country. They both reached national, international and world level ranking with Andy winning several world medals.

In 1988 Andy Shaw became the youngest Chief Flying Instructor in the UK, possibly the world and Green Dragons as we know it today was formed. Andy has over 40 years of experience training students a wide variety of airborne activities including, paragliding, hang gliding, paramotoring, Microlights and parascending. He also is the team manager, captain and chief trainer of the British Accuracy team regularly taking the team to victory around the world.

Our dedication and over 40 years of experience raises Green Dragons above other flying schools and it helps us develop our students into becoming confident pilots with safe decision making skills. We have a brilliant team of instructors that complement each other’s training styles and who are focused on keeping you safe throughout your training courses. Once BHPA qualified we actively encourage our students to continue flying with us by joining our Flying Buddies club managed by experienced pilots and club coaches. The Flying Buddies club helps with the often difficult jump from School to Club environment, particularly when flying the busy Southern Club sites.

Here is a video of the pioneering days in hang glider captured by the BBC

How and where we teach

We are the only BHPA school within the M25 and being based just south of Croydon we are extremely easy to get to from most parts of London. Being based in a farm location and having our own 100% private flying sites we can fly all year round in almost any wind direction. Our private flying sites are perfect for learning with gentle shallow slopes and short retrieves before your next flight means more flights per day. This is critical when learning to fly and is what makes us stand out from other schools that use public sites to train on.

We have taught people from all walks of life from the CEO of major companies to the surfer types who love being at one with nature. Our school is run in a friendly but disciplined manor to keep our students safe and has a great history of producing competition level pilots in all disciplines. Our students can do intensive courses or learn more slowly due to the lack of free time and commitments of modern day life. Although we specialise in training people to fly hang gliders and paragliders we also offer a wide range of services including, tandem flights, fun days, paramotor training and parascending days. We are confident that we can offer you the training you need whatever your chosen path is to get you airborne.

Our site and methods allow us to train more days a year than any other school which means you will learn faster. We teach hill flying and use winching to supplement this training on days when other schools would be grounded. Andy Shaw has developed a newly approved by the BHPA form of towing called parallel towing. This is a brilliant way for Andy to be in direct visual and vocal contact with the students whilst on and off tow. Using this form of towing our students are able to rapidly progress through their Elementary Pilot and Club Pilot training in both paragliding and hang gliding.

Visit our Gallery of our airborne activities

Why train with us?

Green Dragons is the number one training school in the South of England with a friendly, welcoming and professional focus to training it’s students. Our highly experienced team of instructors all bring their own passion of flying with them every day they teach. We are driven to help you succeed in fulfilling your flying dreams in a progressive safe training environment. We offer a full range of BHPA approved courses and continued to support the BHPA in their evaluation and development of training techniques and course content.

We treat our students as individuals on a journey to becoming confident safe pilots capable of making independent decisions about their flying. We personally fly the type of flying we teach so we have the skills and experience to keep you safe. Our school has an exceptional safety record and we never compromise on safety when making decisions in regards to your training. You will have a personalised training program and we will always keep you learning safely encouraging you to learn new skills without pushing beyond your skill set. This means you are always learning, it increases your focus and develops you into an independent pilot capable of flying solo once qualified.

Our Chief Flying Instructor Andy Shaw is a world class instructor who has taught some of the best UK pilots across a wide range of flying disciplines. Once qualified you will continue to fly at many of the top flying site around the world and no doubt meet some of the exceptional pilots Andy has trained over the last 40 years at Green Dragons.

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Have a Fun Day with us

If you do not want to do a full course or if you are unsure whether the sport is for you then we recommend you do a Fun Day in the flying discipline of your choice. No previous experience is needed and we will give you full instructions to get you flying on day one. These Fun Days can also be bought as gifts for that special someone with a lust for adventure and make a wonderfully unique gift experience.

Our fun days are focused on having fun whilst giving you a taste of the sport we love and passionately want to share with others. On the day you will arrive at Green Dragons and be enrolled into the BHPA on a one day membership before you start your training. Because Green Dragons is an BHPA approved school and all our instructors are fully qualified BHPA certified we are confident that our activities are as safe as possible.

You will be introduced to the equipment, shown how to get into the harness and taught how the wing flies just like any other aeroplane. After a short period of running around our private fields to get used to the equipment you will get to fly from one of our training hills or be winched into the air to get your first taste of flight. This all may sound daunting but do not worry, our Fun Days are delivered at a pace specific to your needs and our instructors are there to help you complete each step. Once airborne you will be guided by one of highly experienced instructors safely back down to the ground ready for another flight.

This is by far the easiest way to taste independent flight is your first step in becoming a qualified pilot. We have had all types of people, fitness levels and ages complete Fun Days with us and you only require the ability to run around a field to be able to complete the amazing experience. Our Fun Days have been described as once in a lifetime experiences so, book today or buy as a gift for a truly unique present.

Tandem Paragliding Flights With Us

Whether you want to experience the sensation of flight with the minimal amount of effort or you are not confident enough to fly solo as pilot in command. A Tandem Experience Flight with one of our highly experienced, fully qualified and insured pilots is a perfect way to experience the feeling of flying silently like a bird above the beautiful North Downs.

No prior experience is needed and with minimal instructions we can get you airborne and flying one of our private flying sites or being towed high above our winching field to heights of up to 800ft. Our instructor and tandem pilot will launch, fly and land so all you have to do is enjoy the views from a birds eye perspective.

All of our pilots are fully BHPA qualified and insured to fly members of the public who otherwise would never be able to experience such a freeing feeling of flight. Imagine being sat high above the ground flying with the birds with only the wind rushing past your face to be heard.

A Tandem Experience Flight is a once in a lifetime experience that very few people ever get to experience so treat yourself today or book a flight as a gift. The experience is truly mind blowing and will never be forgotten but be warned, our sport is addictive so it may lead to you signing up for a full course!

Book today or buy a gift for a truly amazing experience