Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Object Fixation

Well, someone has to start posting new articles here - we are all going to miss Bob in so many ways, but I know he would want us to move on.

A great day at Kahana was enjoyed by eight monkeys: The King of Kahana, both of the Earls, Ray, Phil (one of our newest monkeys but soon moving to Alaska), Maui Doug, Don Ike, and me. It was a bit windy, but no problem for the King & the Earls, and good launches were had by all. Several attempts to cross the bay were made, only to be met by turns back to the ridge. The soaring was good fun - this is so addicting.

As most have seen, there are Iwa birds that like to soar alongside us, but for Don's last couple of flights at both Kahana and Makapuu he has had one really close. One of them was so close that he almost got crop-dusted by it. So for now and maybe as long as we fly, these Iwa birds that get super close will be known as Bob.

Ok, now back to the title. Jeff landed and spread out a very colorful target for us all to hit. Over the radio, I heard "Hey, there is a target you can go for down here, you need a few spot landings for your next rating." I was on flight #32 - my launches are better, I'm more comfortable up in the air, and I have had great landings at the beach. I am soaring, doing some spirals, but now I keep looking at the LZ - I want to hit that target.

I watched a few landings but none had hit the target. I was the last one to come in so I had plenty of coaching. I kept hearing: no you're too high, too deep, too right, but I did not listen, just kept staring at the colorful target. With my landing gear down, I bobbed and weaved, getting closer, and then I heard, "He might make it." My only goal was to hit that target. I was just about to step on it, just a little more brake, OK, flare . . . oops, remember it is windy. I missed the mark, by just a little. I had a twisted landing on one leg, fell to my knees, and my wing started dragging me back. It flipped over and I tried more brake . . . wrong, its upside down, got dragged some more, then finally stopped with the wing on top of Jeff's wife and his daughter. Gladly & luckily no injuries occurred. My worst landing at Kahana, and still the first thing I could say was, I missed the mark.

OBJECT FIXATION - during debriefing I was schooled on the fact that a safe, proper, controlled landing is more important than hitting the mark. Alex then told me, after a Torpedo, that all but Ray had missed the mark and had not so good landings, due to the object fixation, so it is not something that you grow out of with experience. I also learned that many accidents have occurred due to this desire to hit the mark.

This should be a lesson to all as it was for me. Landing safe and controlled is the goal, and if you happen to hit the mark, then it's a bonus. I remember Bob coming in for landings and the long slipper-clad landing gear would be out at 60'. Let's fly and land safe: "Be Like Bob", except for the slippers - boots are safer.


Alex said...

Thom, thanks for the post and picture! A great example of an easy and casual post after a great flight. I hope more of our fellow flyers will be inspired to file a quick report after a good flying day. It doesn't have to be long, and it doesn't have to be literature - just a few words and maybe a picture.

By the way, object fixation is generally used to describe what happens when we're trying to avoid an object - focusing too hard on objects we want to avoid often guides us right into them. It's a counterintuitive trick played on us by our common hard-wired psychology.

Spot landing errors represent a different psychological hurdle - more like walking and chewing gum. Yesterday, we all focused on the spot that Jeff set out for us, and some of us got pretty close to it, but in order to get as close as possible, many of us threw our usual landing skills to the wind. I came in on my knees, trying to hold my legs up away from the ground to glide a few extra inches. Others came in on their butts with legs outstretched to reach forward to the target. Either way, those landings were ugly. Ray's friend (Colleen?) didn't know we were aiming for a spot, and she was obviously appalled to see what she thought were several terrible landings in a row.

As I mentioned during the debriefing, spot landing attempts are a good way to guarantee poor landings. Generally they're just entertaining and not actually dangerous. Maybe in the future we should make it clear that a spot landing doesn't count unless you land on your feet and remain standing, with extra points for keeping your wing flying overhead as you stand there.

JeffMc said...

I read on the Paragliding Forum one time that, in the UK especially, there is an "accuracy circuit" and they hold "Accuracy Competitions" w/ championships etc. They get towed up just for the spot landings.


MauiDoug said...

Great article Thom! Ya, I was one of the butt landings. I also learned a good lesson yesterday. Don't forget to put the landing gear down! I will focus on a controlled kiting landings from now on. Thanks for the great post flight insight from the King, Earls and Zen Master.