SEVEN WAYS TO FCUK IT UP.
David Ashcroft - 25/03/2016
The classic - Making the 1st 360 in front of the hill to find you haven't enough room to complete the turn, and SMACK. Sound very obvious but is easily done. A few things can make it happen:
You may simply misjudge the distance needed for that days wind speed.
In the 360 you might fly out of the thermal and into sinking air resulting in a loss off height (against a sloping hill, this can bring you low enough to clip the ground at speed).
Concerned that you haven't enough room to make it round you significantly increase the inside brake which results in greater sink, so like entering sinking air (above) you clout the slope below you. If you flying in front of very steep terrain these issues of sink or significant brake aren’t a problem.
360ing into the hill is obviously 'pilot error' and experience prevails. Practice away from the hill, get to know your wing and always give yourself room for error / sink / turbulence. Don't commit yourself to the turn - If 12 O'clock position is facing away from the hill, by 4 O'clock you must know whether to continue or abort, and act decisively either way.
When Scratching close to the hill - you hit sinking air (or have a wee deflation) and clip the floor. Hopefully a smooth grassy slope and your boots and airbag saved the day. But don't depend on this last defense, keep at least 5 feet up and if you hit some sink you should still have enough height to turn away from the hill. Do not scratch on any terrain where you can't safely ‘crash’, i.e. steep or craggy. Bouncing down the hill can result in more significant injuries, and doesn’t look cool. Just clipping a rock with you harness or branch with your wing tip can be the beginning of a dramatic end.
Cocking up the Take-off has to be the most common event. And it can hurt more than your pride.
Twisting the wrong way when reverse launching, i.e. airborne with a complete twist in the risers and unable to steer. Obvious, but we still do it. Last year there was a guy flying with his karabiner wide open! Don’t get nonchalant about ‘pre-flight checks’.
Getting dragged attempting to take-off or when attempting to land in a strong wind. Practice makes…almost perfect. If you’re letting go of your brakes during reverse launch, or having to use your hands to help struggle into your harness then review why and make some changes.
Wave. It is not always obvious when Wave has established itself.
Lenticular clouds are not always present until later in the day, hours after you've been blown over the hill! The problem with Wave is that it can be out of phase with the hill your flying on for hours, and suddenly become ‘in phase’ significantly increasing the wind speed. I got caught out recently flying on the cliffs at Whitehaven. I landed 2 miles down wind once I’d cleared the housing estates! XC pilots can encounter hills in phase and out of phase all in one flight, giving a surprise or two on route.
Flying in the Lakes pilots are also vulnerable to being blown over in compression or due to significant wind gradient. On these days the decision to take-off is important. In the air GPS’s will give you immediate indication that the wind is increasing. On any hill be aware of the down wind options and safe landings areas. If Sea Breeze reaches you it can force the wind across the hill, or even over the back.
Showing off! Don’t show off near the ground. It is fun, and the ground rush does give you a buzz. But, I can’t imagine a wheelchair is that exciting.
Desperate to make that XC. The Club sites are generally safe to fly on, assuming the wind is ‘on the hill’ and is not too strong. On the other hand, flying XC in the Lakes will probably mean soaring briefly on unfamiliar crags or ridges. Sometimes you recognize that these ‘saves’ are less than ideal or safe, but in desperation to get back up and continue the XC it is very tempting to ‘sell your soul to the Devil’, yet again! Russian roulette? Don’t compromise your safety - expect the worst and fly another day. Taking a chance on your glide into the landing field, ie. assuming your going to make it over those trees, but ‘head wind’, sink or turbulence force an emergency landing etc.
Rough conditions. Are the conditions suitable for your experience? Consider sitting it out during the roughest time of the day. Don’t assume it’s OK because one or two paragliders are in the air. The pilot in the air might be ‘bricking it’ wishing he was safely down. Flying in turbulent conditions will collapse your canopy, but a near miss with the ground can have a longer lasting effect on your psyche.
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