STUDENT paragliders are likely to be banned from taking to the air without instructors following an accident which put a senior policeman in hospital. An investigation was launched by the Hongkong Paragliding Association yesterday into why Chief Superintendent Gerard Frith crashed into a hillside in Sai Kung on Sunday. The inquiry came amid claims that Mr Frith, the Shamshuipo District Commander, should not have taken to the air because of indifferent weather conditions. Mr Frith lost control of his paraglider while out flying with his son, Nigel. Both are student pilots with about 10 hours flying experience each. Mr Frith, 54, was recovering well yesterday after six hours of surgery overnight to fix his broken feet. He will soon undergo a second operation for skin grafts. Association chairman Mr Gus Scott said although the inquiry had only just begun it was clear the policeman's paraglider was not faulty and the cause of the crash was ''probably pilot error''. He said the investigation team, led by the association's safety officer, Mr Chris Lodge, had started collecting statements, but would not interview Mr Frith immediately. ''We do want to speak to him, but will give it a few days for him to recover.'' One leading association member said the scene of Sunday's crash was one of only two sites where the association allows student paragliders to fly without more expert fliers on hand. He believed the inquiry would recommend that unsupervised flights be scrapped from the association's approved take-off points. The association allows its student members to fly from Long Ke Wan, in Sai Kung, and southeast Lantau without being in the presence of more experienced paragliders. ''Mr Frith has a pilot's licence to fly planes but he is still relatively inexperienced when it comes to paragliders and it showed on Sunday,'' the association member said. ''In Britain a student pilot would not be allowed to fly unsupervised, but you can here in Hongkong.'' The weather reports, which all of the association's members are supposed to study, forecast gusting winds throughout the territory. Three advanced pilots thought the conditions were too unstable and cancelled plans to fly at Shek O. ''Mr Frith was not breaking any Hongkong laws by taking off in those winds but it was bad judgement and he paid the price for it,'' the association member said. He said paragliding had a good safety record in Hongkong and Mr Frith's accident was an isolated incident. Mr Frith was in a private room at Queen Elizabeth Hospital yesterday. His wife, Barbara, who saw the accident and stayed throughout the surgery, said: ''Massive plates were put in the legs to hold the fractured parts together.'' A second operation for skin grafting would be carried out, but it was still too early to say when, she said. A doctor who operated on Mr Frith said he would be able to walk again soon, according to Cheung Sha Wan divisional commander Superintendent Lee Wai-lam.