Thursday, October 05, 2006

Weather or not to fly

As I read the blog I am amazed at all the great weather information that so many young pilots have learned over the years while flying at Makapuu and Kahana. Weather knowledge is important, but it's not enough to keep us safe - we could all benefit from a reminder of the importance of improving (and flying within) our own abilities, and flying with safe equipment.

Fourteen years ago when I moved here, I was flying a comp wing. Why not? It was super fast and had a great glide. That to me seemed like the wing to have here, especially with the smooth ocean air we get from the trades. I soon realized that maybe a comp wing wasn't the best glider to fly as my daily glider. They are subject to higher stall speeds, more collapses, faster spins (faster everything), and really just a hell of a lot more trouble than they're worth. So I quit flying my comp wings and bought a DHV 2 glider. Great speed, good glide, safer, and I didn't have to worry about keeping my bloody wing open all the time.

Also, fourteen years ago (and very nearly up to the present) we only flew Makapuu in very light winds from Cactus or Lazy Man launches, and therefore we hardly ever experienced any turbulence from Rabbit Island, or other mechanical turbulence. (Unless we went XC, and then we encountered numerous areas of turbulence such as behind Mt. Olomana or heading around the Pali.) Now that we fly in very high winds from Crazys, Tomato Juice, Tomato Patch, and Manics, we have been experiencing a lot more turbulence and a lot more incidents. Are these strong wind conditions reducing our margin of safety to an unacceptable level?

The last meeting I went to at Bob's shop was "proof in the pudding" of our current safety margins. How many pilots have had accidents or incidents this past year, and how many more are going to get hurt before we step up and say to our friends, "Maybe we shouldn't be flying in this much wind", or "I hate to see you putting yourself at unecessary risk by flying that acro/comp glider." I think as a fairly new club, we might benefit from having a safety committee to discuss these issues, and maybe figure out some guidelines to give our newer pilots some tools to make safer flying decisions.

One safety issue in particular that has caused many of us trouble over the years is the danger of inducing a negative spin when making downwind high banked turns. We all need to remember the importance of keeping our airspeed up while in a high banked turn, especially while low or descending through a wind gradient. When the inside (lower)
portion of our wing is heavily braked as we are making a high banked turn, that portion of the wing is in danger of losing enough airspeed to continue flying, and it is likely to stall, causing the wing to spin or just drop out of the air. Higher performance wings will stall sooner, but even the safest wing can't continue to fly below a certain
airspeed. I recommend using less bank, more weight shift and less brake input when you make those turns.

We can all have more fun and be safer if we stay on the conservative side of our flying decisions, by flying gliders that give us higher safety margins, respecting the weather conditions (and knowing when to just walk away), and continuing to improve our flying skills. Try to be a little conservative and you'll live longer...

The Reaper


paliglydr said...

Hear hear.

Thanks, Coach.

Jetflap said...

yes, hear, hear. thanks coach.

these wonderful postings really take the load off off. no reason to write an article of what happened when it has been so clearly explained already. i didn't even have to be there!! actually...wasn't i the only one there? well lets bog the issue down with the facts.

maybe a few of you can get together and give a symposium of approved wings and conditions...this will surely guarantee that no accident will ever happen again in paragliding.

don't fly a comp wing, or fly in wind on the lz at more than 3 mph...or over 3 ft off the will be safe. actually you should probably outlaw flying all is really much too dangerous.

if anyone feels the need to comment to me please do it through the post office. i am no longer monitoring or commenting in this forum.


Gravity said...

Well, I guess you're probably tired of hearing about your accident, and hell you deserve to be heard. But, Jeff we're trying to enlighten all pilots. Not just you. Hopefully, some less experianced pilot other than yourself might learn a thing or two besides how to open a beer in emergency at the LZ. Everytime we have an incident, wether it involves an injury or not, the community sounds off. It's a good thing to talk about these things that effect all of us. Maybe you would care to talk about you're accident, so that we can all learn a little bit more about what Not to do. Peace, Reaper

Bob said...

Pete, thank you very much for posting this article. You brought up points that I've not thought of. I think all of us newer pilots need to read and hear these pointers. There have been many coments here of late about different safety issues and being one who has spilled more DNA on both launches and LZ's then most (read blood) I always want to hear from anyone who feels that I, or someone else, might do something in a safer way. I know that all the pilots in our community have all of our best interests in mind. We all bite our tounge from time to time as we don't want to be too presumptuous when we think that we have a concern of certain flying techniques, ablities or conditions. I truely hope that we can all accept critiques and percieved criticism in the spirit that it is carefully given. Let's all consider what is offered before reacting. Poor Dangler beat himself up over the fact that he sat at the LZ and told many people that he though my kiting on that fateful day was not safe and that I shouldn't be doing it. He beat himself up for not telling me. Maybe I would have listened and maybe I would not but after he left the LZ and then heard that ambulance racing by, he knew right away where it was going. I learned a lot about pilot's concerns while in my comfy hospital bed. I had many visitors and calls from Paragliders and Hanggliders alike. Thank you all. This is a great group to be associated with. PS. please let me know if I'm doing something dopey.

Gravity said...

We (me too) can all learn something from this and other incidents. Like where to park your car in the LZ...

Unfortunatley, it took someone getting hurt for us to learn a little bit more about Micro-meterology, flying contraptions, and each other.

Thanks Bob