Sunday, May 06, 2007

All's well that ends . . . well . . .

Started the morning very early; 6:00 am. I figured I would get in a quick tandem flight with a lady that says that she really wants to become a paraglider pilot.

Most of you know her: Jennifer Jones.

Yes . . . the same Jennifer Jones that dated Johan for several years and was the leader in Johan’s memorial services.

I figured Makapu’u would be going early. I wanted to fly early and land with enough time to make it to church. So, I headed to the LZ to check it out. It was light, but Easterly. It was getting a bit strong by the time Jennifer arrived but I figured we could give it a try at Cactus.

I know . . . with the wind speed coming up and the direction tuning east. Tomato Juice may have been a better choice; but, considering what happened to Johan, I figured being so close to the power lines would be a bit insensitive.

As we exited my truck, Jennifer noticed the rotting corpse of a dead bird. She asked if this was a bad omen. We both laughed.

So . . . waivers signed and instructions given, we hiked-up. The wind was on the stronger side, and more easterly than I would have liked, but it was certainly do-able.

While setting-up, the wind started to pick-up, but had long lows that made the cycles fairly predictable. We hooked-in and waited for a low. When it came, I launched the glider and we were pulled forward, as one would expect; but, we did not fly away.

I set the glider down; made sure my student was OK (she assured me she was); and launched again. That is when the gust came in. We were lofted about four or five feet and came down quickly.

Jennifer slipped under me and came down hard on her hip. I unhooked her and checked to make sure she was uninjured; unfortunately, that was not the case.

In the dragging, and the lofting, and the landing, Pain reared its ugly head in her hip and both feet/ankles; an angry abrasion seeping blood from her elbow.

Of course, I packed-up and we stared the long, slow hike down. Jennifer was in considerable pain, but, handled the hike like a champion. She was sure that she had a sprain in one ankle and maybe a fracture in the other. I wasn’t so sure . . . but I felt HORRIBLE.

As much as she was aching, she repeatedly tried to make me “feel better” by cracking jokes and making pleasant conversation.

As we neared the end of the hike, Jet-flap arrived and helped Jennifer finish the hike while I ran to get the truck. The dead bird lying next to my truck practically screamed, "DUMB-ASS! Didn't you see me laying here? . . . READ THE OMENS!"

Off to Queen’s ER.

The ER Doc was very thorough . . . but not very timely. She X-Rayed the poor lass over and over and shot her full of morphine for pain and an I.V. to replace the fluids she'd lost during the hike . . . and we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.

Finally, the doc came back and informed us that Jennifer was completely fine . . . except for the smallest hairline fracture in the tip of her big toe: a Distal Phalanx Fracture.

This is a painful, but unremarkable injury. She will be sore for a few days, but should make a full recovery in a matter of days.

I was so relieved.

We went to Long’s to get her pain meds and then to Buca di’ Beppo for pasta and garlic bread.

So . . . that’s the story.

I wish, I would have hiked down or gone to The Juice or gone to Lani Kai or gone to Kahana or a host of other decisions.

I am just thankful that she did not suffer further injury.

To her credit . . . Jennifer STILL wants to start paragliding. She wants to log this as her first flight!!

All’s well that ends . . . well . . . I still feel like crap.

Aloha,
Peter

A side note: I still feel HORRIBLE. I know a lot of HPA members may wish to critique the decision to fly or offer some well-meaning, but easily misinterpreted comment. Please be considerate in your commentary

I may not be the first Tandem Instructor to get dragged across Cactus . . . but this time it was ME . . . I am mortified.

Please . . . I KNOW!!! I should have hiked-down. I wish I had.

24 comments:

Doug said...

We have all been there. Some times we all make bad choices. I once bounced a guy down a couple of the ledges below cactus trying to launch on a light day. I felt the same...like crap.

Raimar said...

"Please . . . I KNOW!!! I should have hiked-down. I wish I had."

Next time, please DO IT!

we all been there. thanks for sharing and I wish a fast recovery for Jennifer.

Aloha
Ray

Suicide said...

Thanks Doug. I appreciate your kind words.

Ray . . . was it necessary to quote my and then EXCLAIM that I should hike down next time?

Man . . . I hope -- no I pray -- that you never have a bad launch with a tandem student.

But, if you do . . . I PROMISE . . . all I will do ask if you & your student are alright.

If not, I will render aide.

If so, I will only give you and your student my encouragement.

I will be conscientious NOT to ad a remark that, however well-intentioned, can be "mis-interpreted" as a scolding or judgement or say anyhing that might make you feel worse than you already do . . . because . . . I'm sure, if you EVER make a bad decision, you will feel bad.

Let's hope it never happens.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pedro,
Hopefully lesson learned. Nobody ever said tandems are easy.

The extra amount of care and preparation needed to pull-off a successful tandem is extraordinary at times.

The most important lesson is to protect the unknowing passenger from injury. Insuring a safe successful flight, and making it a fun experience. I have no problem shutting down and hiking down if it looks un-flyable. Not since I bounced a guy off Lanikai for rent money...

In then end you did the right thing by making sure you're passenger got down the mountain, to a hospital (even for a check-up), and then to dinner. Some tandem pilots would have simply walked away.

Good Job, Pete
(Learning to walk away is the hardest thing to do)

Ski Bum Reaper

Nick said...

Pete,
At least you did the right thing after the incident. If I had to choose to get hurt by anyone, I'd choose you. At least I'll know that I'll be well taken care of!

I've banged up a few pax and crew in my years too. There are those who have and those who will. All we can ask is that you learn from your perceived mistakes, and take the observed criticism with a grain of salt.

Thanks for sharing, it’s what makes this club so great.
Nick,
P.S. I don’t think Ray meant to be as harsh as you thought, it’s just the way he writes…straight to the point. Tact can be “lost in translation”

Anonymous said...

Ray is right! This is the kind of incident that should be judged and commented on without pulling punches. Your feelings are hardly the point. You assessed the conditions, knew you should have walked away and didn't. And now you feel bad. Your candor and sensitivity are admirable. But other peoples forth with comments should not be cloaked in tact and honey to spare your feelings. Yes, everyone can see you feel bad. I'm sure everyone is happy you don't feel worse because of a more serious injury or death.

Suicide said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alex said...

Guys, just FYI, I originally set up our website to require logins and prevent any anonymous comments. It really does help cut down on the flame wars. But I recently changed the settings to allow anonymous posting in order to allow visitors and non-flying friends to post comments without making them sign up for our blog. But like any permissive system it's open to abuse, and anyone who makes a post without logging in or signing their name really shouldn't be taken very seriously. Please sign your name to your posts. I am asking the two anonymous posters above to please take credit for your posts (with a new comment that has your name on it) or I am inclined to delete them soon. Thanks for your understanding.

firedave said...

Peter,
It is good that you post your incident, so that we can all learn from it, and hopefully avoid it in the future.
Cactus and Manic's are easy launches when the wind is right, but the window is small and the conditions get out of hand fast, and they are some hardest launches for a tandem because the wing has to come up so far.
I think you actually scored, you felt the worst but scored on the final outcome. A trip to the ER and dinner at Buca di Beppo is a small cost.
As far as us being sensitive to feelings, hurt pride stings, but time heals all and you will see that everyone is just expressing their feelings at that moment.
On the flipside, personally I find my tandeming less and less appealing as I often find myself put into the situation of taking someone flying in less than ideal conditions. I can manage the risks, but I question why I would care to take those risks for a few dollars or less in the first place. Off topic, but relevant none the less.
Like most tandem pilots here, I have dragged a few pax and left some skin on launch. It comes with the territory.

Suicide said...

Alex,

I would prefer that you please take them down. It is best for all.

Please take down my reply to the anonymous poster too.

I appologize to Ray if my post seemed too defensive, I am just a little rattled by the whole thing.

I know that ray meant no harm in his post.

Aloha

Alex said...

Peter, I'll leave the anonymous posts up for a bit longer and give people a little time to take credit for their words. I actually know who both of them are (I am the webmaster after all) but I don't think it's my place to out them. I have mixed feelings about forcing folks to sign in just to write a comment - I really don't want to do that if I can avoid it.

nightshift said...

If all T3's posted their faux pas, the community would be better off. Almost 2 years ago a well respected tandem pilot attemted to launch my brother in law at Cactus in a breezy east wind. I commented that perhaps they should set up at the far west site, since it was more into wind. The pilot maintained that there wasn't as much maneuvering room as the regular launch.
After 2 aborts they finally got airborne, briefly. The east wing tip collapsed as rotor hit, then down they went onto the lava rock. The passenger took the brunt of the fall as he was dragged on his right side. Bob, standing nearby, was quick to react and killed the wing. Only a few cuts and scrapes.
A good lesson was learned. We all know that launching tandem is more difficult than launching solo, but Cactus is especially unforgiving in easterly winds. Perhaps a "site briefing sheet" for each launch should be maintained and updated by T3 pilots, something like the Jepp charts that powered pilots use.

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nightshift said...

I disagree with Nick. Perhaps he wasn't here when Pete had his other tandem incident. He pushed the limits. To his credit, he admitted that freely, and also commented that flying tandem requires a pilot to be more conservative in his judgement to fly. Again, he did not follow his own advice. "The wind was on the stronger side and more easterly than I would have liked".
I would submit that when flying a passenger, conditions have to be perfect. Not just "do-able". Launching when it's just "do-able" should be for solo flights only.

Wayne

Alex said...

I am glad people are taking the time to actively participate in this discussion. I don't think any of the comments are out of line, including the anonymous one backing up Ray's comment about hiking down: of course Peter feels bad, but the safety questions raised are the real point of an incident report. Thanks to Peter for posting it! I urged Peter not to feel defensive about any of the comments - I think they all have a constructive point. But as I said above, I just don't think anonymous postings are helpful. The second anonymous poster above contacted me and requested that I delete that note, and Peter asked me to delete his response to the first anonymous post. I talked to Peter and gave him my two cents about the incident on the phone, but I'll repeat it here as well:

Many pilots get away with a limited grasp of weather and conditions, because they know they can usually just ask other pilots, or wait until another pilot with a better understanding shows them that it's working somewhere. It's nice to have weather gurus among us, but we all need to develop a basic understanding of weather and flyable conditions at our sites, especially if we're going to fly alone, and even more especially if we're flying with a passenger.

We consider Cactus to be launchable only on the very lightest of days at Makapuu. By the numbers, we have found that an average of 3-5 mph at Bellows (or the LZ) makes for perfect launches at Cactus. On the strongest day I ever launched Cactus, the Bellows sensor was reading an average of 8 mph, and that was a day I needed Reaper to anchor my launch.

The 4 am forecast yesterday told us that the trades had come back ahead of schedule, and the wind sensors confirmed their arrival: when I go back and look up yesterday's wind sensor records, I see that from the first reading at 6 am, the wind at Bellows never averaged below 13 mph.

Peter has been working on his kiting skills lately with noticeable results. I would love to see him work on improving his assessment of weather and flying conditions. For my part I'm happy to share my limited understanding with anyone that asks.

I am glad that yesterday's incident has only cost Jennifer a broken toe, and I hope she recovers fully and quickly and continues to pursue her interest in learning to fly.

Nick said...

Minor correction to previous post...

Anonymous,

You are way out of line. Peter specifically asked responders to be considerate in their responses. Considering his post was completely voluntary and unsolicited, his request should be honored.

There is a time and place for tough love, brutal honesty, etc. That time and place is usually "live on location". This venue (blogging) is one of reflection and to deliver such harsh criticism based on events described by the author (ie. You weren’t there) is rarely effective in molding a better pilot. I could go on and on about teaching methods (yes, I have been formally trained.. .abet years ago), but that's a topic for a different day. I will close by saying that your statement, that "feelings are hardly the point" cannot be further from the truth. One recent example is Jetflap, he felt that he was treated badly on this forum and consequently withdrew from this forum of knowledge and experience and will go about his flying without its benefits. Fortunately for him and us, he stills flies with us regularly and not all is lost.

In this sport of Type A personalities and high risks, everyone had better be in a sound state of mind when they fly!

firedave said...

Hey Wayne, I know that tandem pilot you talked about, that was fun, let's make sure not to do it again! Especially disturbing was your bro' wedging his shoulder into the rocks against a powered up tandem. Bob is still my hero.
The thing is we now live in this blogosphere where everything, no matter how small, gets reported.So whereas a couple of years ago it might have been the talk of the active pilots for a couple of days, now it makes headlines for all.
Incidents happen, and will continue to happen, just as cars are safer than ever but we crash more and more each day. We can make things safer, and knowledge is key, but you can't make this sport risk free, try stamp collecting. Drinking and driving, now that is a high risk activity that many people have no qualms about engaging in.
I think what makes paragliding and other "action" sports interesting is not the danger, but developing the skills to minimize any risk and danger. To put it another way to make the dangerous, less dangerous.

I'm going bowling!

Raimar said...

Hey Pete, sorry if I hurt your feelings, that was NOT my intention.... I wrote my comment at 5 something a.m. and on a rush before leaving to go to work... I just wanted to be straight forward. First of all, thanks for sharing the story. We all can learn from others experiences. It takes guts to do it and I admire you for that! I am sure other pilots will respect and care about a concious pilot and that is the reason why so many people are taking the time to write something: we care about you and want you (and all pilots reading it) to evolve (there's always room!).
The second point, and not so happy one, is that it should be no doubt at all at launch (zero, nada, zip). When in doubt, don't go out! Hiking down is a lot easier without injuries (and more pleasent).

Unfortunatelly, some people repeat old mistakes.... I hope it won't be the case with you, and if you (or any pilot) have any uncertainty [I hope] they will choose the safest answer for their doubts.

with LOTS of aloha,
Brazilian Ray

Christine said...

s Nick says - amongst Paraglider there is probably a higher percentage of Type A personalities than many other sports. I don't see the typical paraglider as a shy, timid person, more so as a person with a lot of passion (for the sport), willing to accept the risks, which undoubtly goes with paragliding, a good portion of courage (or innocence) is required as well. After learning more about risks of this sport, I had wondered about tandem flights and whether passengers are aware of that they might bent a part of their body (I was definitely NOT aware when I took a tandem flight a year ago in South Africa) - Nowadays we are signing waivers for everything, so I didn't even think twice that taking a tandem flight can possibly be more risky than any of the other thousand things I had signed waivers for before. So, I agree, being a tandem pilot takes a tremendous amount of responsibilities, the need to be extra conservative in decision making, high skills and judgment abilities... On the other hand: When one of us makes the wrong decision (which we all probably do a lot, some more than others, but most of the time luckily without any bad consequences), we rather want to just bury it into the learning experience corner, hope nobody noticed it and hope nobody mentions it. Sharing a mistake, a wrong decision, any mishap, especially when you feel extremely bad about it already is courageous and needs subsequently replies which consider a bruised, now very vulnerable ego. When we share nevertheless it is an opportunity for others to learn from it. Especially when we make a decision which makes us feel bad, injures someone or ourselves, we don't really want to discuss it and others to discuss it, we’d rather turn the time back and have it not happen. But we can't. I understand that Pete (and Jetflap at the time) became vulnerable to comments.

I think it is very important that we don't destroy this very valuable tool of sharing. We all should feel confident that we can and should share an experience (we rather didn't have at all). We share it not to indulge ourselves in our uncomfortable feelings; we share to give other pilots and ourselves opportunities to learn about our mistakes and bad decisions.
It would be different if there was one of us who posts an experience to brag about something which he/she should really be scolded for rather than sharing to give others the opportunity to learn from their mistakes or even to just let everyone of us know that (s)he knows (s)he messed up and regrets it..... Christine

Christine said...

One more thought: I think Ray’s comment at 5am was mainly meant to re-inforce a healthy rule of thumb to all paragliding readers:
If either our Judgement (considering wx conditions, launch conditions, the way you physically feel as you stand up there (headache, bad attitude, sick, or wonderful, good attitude etc), or a fellow paraglider, who may advise you not to go, or our “6th sense” tell you “Don’t go” listen to the no-go decision. Sometimes it is more difficult to listen to the no-go in you than to the “go” (the desire to fly, not wanting to disappoint a passenger, not wanting to hike back down or even peer pressure). There are so many factors to make a "go - no go" decisions and I think Ray just wanted to remind ALL OF US (rather than just you, Pete, because you realized and expressed this already) that it is important for Paraglider pilots to listen to the "no-go" part in our decision making.
- Christine

S. said...

Pete, thanks for posting up even knowing that you were going to take some shots. All professional pilots, and now with that "T" rating you qualify, have suffered from "getthereitis" at one time or another. Recognising it takes a while but knowing of it's existence is the first step. When I was flying up in Alaska, there were many days I'd get called for a trip, walk out to the plane, look at the sky, and say, "screw it. Nobody's going to die if they don't get their Soda pop/mail/whatever today." And, go back inside and drink coffee and play dominos. It was even harder when there were 6 Eskimos that wanted to go back to their village. Giving the nogo call is a lot tougher than just launching, but that's why we're paid. No real damage was done but that's hefty scoop out of the luck bucket and into the experience bucket. The trick is to get the experience bucket filled before the luck juice runs out. :)

Another thing I think many people don't recognise is that Cactus is one of our toughest launches. Sure, there aren't lots of snags and you're setting up on level ground, but that leads to it's own set of problems. As you know, the safe window is very small, but even trickier is that it's level. The footing is poor and the glider gains a lot of energy when it's coming up. I overshot and frontaled many times before I figured that out. My ankle still hasn't recovered fully from that learning experience. :(

Anyway, glad you're both fine and call it a cheap lesson. Remember, passengers are paying for your judgement, not your flying skills.

--Scot

~Jennifer~ said...

Aloha!
Jennifer here :) For what it's worth here's my 2 cents on the issue:
As many of you know Johan had been together for a couple years, it was during our first week together that he got his new wing and harness. I quickly learned all the lingo and my duties on the ground
#1: have beer ready
#2: be prepared to retrieve him out of a tree
#3: he may have taken off at Kahana, but somehow I will always pick him up at Punalu'u

It always looked like so much fun, but Johan would not let me try it. Something about being strapped to anther guy made him a little un easy,lol.
When Peter had told me that he was flying tandem I jumped at the chance to finally fly! The day came and the weather was beautiful. Of course Makapu'u still is difficult for me to see, but life goes on.
The hike up was great and Peter gave me the whole run down of how this goes. I helped him get the wing set up and we waited for the right conditions. Of course you all know what happened next. But this is an extreme sport and I knew all too well what can happen up there. Peter was great--I highly recommend crashing with a Doctor if you have to crash :) It was a very s-l-o-w trek back down the mountain. I knew something had broke because I heard a pop. Its amazing what you can do with adreneline!
The hospital took it time but when all was done, I had a broken toe. So no skating for a while.
Now that I have had a day to rest my body is slowley coming back normal. I have a pretty wicked bruise the size of a sallad plate on my hip, my toe is close to black now and I have an assortment of scratches and bruises all over. Other than that Im doing well.
I asked Peter if that counts as my 1st flight ( we were technically in the air for a moment) He told me I can be a P-0.5 ! This little incident did not kill my desire to try this again..in fact it fueled it! If I gave up every time I fell on the ice trying a new jump I would have never gotten that far. Same applies here. So as soon as my body is back together I fully intend to try this again soon!
~Jennifer~

paliglydr said...

Let's make it an even 24 posts! Pete, thanks LOADS for publishing your experiences for all of us to learn. It was a courageous thing to do given this forums sometimes, ahh, harshly critical members(?). I don't think we can ever emphasize enough how important it is to correctly judge the flight environment, both external and internal. Each experience we can share is valuable in helping hone both our analytical apparatus, and that inner voice that tells us whether to fly or not to fly as we stand on launch. Our challenge is to learn to accurately assess, and then >>>listen<<< to that voice! Pete, Jennifer: hope to see you in the sky again soon.

Russell