PSC Safety Bulletin September 2017
Fortunately, few incidents to report since the last issue - well done everyone.
There was a terrific response to the idea of a SIV course and several of our crew will be off to Turkey shortly to practice paraglider origami. Good luck to all and remember the quid pro quo of club support is plenty of feedback to the rest of us on your experiences: coming soon to a club night near you.
My inbox has been underwhelmed by an avalanche of emails reporting things that went wrong, or learning points for all of us, so I’ll continue in the self-confessional mode with another event of my own:
Parlick west face, forecast wind was spot on (I find that BBC forecasts at Chipping of double-figure mph values usually mean blown out) so it was strong and gusty. We’d been flying earlier and it was pretty thermic too, but had landed for a rest and the wind picked up a notch. A couple of gliders stayed in the air and while penetrating OK, it didn’t look like fun with lots of rock’n’roll going on. Later it seemed to calm a bit, so I clipped in to my balled-up wing, and walked down below the wall and laid out. Pulling up, the left wing tip came up much too fast, so the wing was rotating; I tried to stay with it, spinning round to face out but I was twisted and pulled off my feet, out of control. The wing stayed in the worst possible place - right in the power window so I was jerked backwards over the wall at high speed, missing it by not very much. Fortunately I hit the grassy slope above and was able to haul the brakes in to kill it. Phew!
- All takeoffs need thorough preparation, especially in strong winds
- Was I twisted - was I turned the wrong way while setting up, or failed to note which way I’d turned when I landed earlier?
- All takeoffs are stressful to some extent, but again strong winds amplify this: just when you need to be even more thorough, your brain is overloaded with stress signals, so mistakes happen more easily.
- As soon as the wing started to come up asymmetrically, I should have dumped it there and then. Trying to recover a poor launch was stupid in this situation.
More on sharing the air with Sailplanes, this time in the vicinity of their airfield.
I had a good discussion with BGC’s safety officer about the airspace above and around the glider field when they are operating. On the airchart, they are marked as having cables to 3600’ above sea level. In practice they can launch to 1500’ above the field, which means nearly 2200’ above sea level. As Richard said, ‘the cheese wire has never lost a fight yet’, so arguing with a launching sailplane is not going to end well. It is also likely that they will release in a thermal at the top of the wire, and immediately start turning and climbing well above that height.
So unless you are above 3600’ you are entering a dangerous area if you stray over their runway: even above 2200’ and out of range of the launch cable, you could still be in conflict with a climbing glider. Also it is impossible to judge from the ground how high you are, so the launch marshal will certainly have to delay any launches while you are anywhere near. The AIP (you do know what that stands for, don’t you?) strongly advises not overflying the airfield below the stated height. So while not a total ban on entering, it’s only for those who like the idea of swimming with sharks. Wearing a sirloin wetsuit. (Thanks Richard, for the metaphor).
Even if a sailplane is circling over the runway, don’t be tempted to join them (I did this recently, which resulted in the discussion with the safety officer). They are in radio contact with the ground and so will know if there is anyone waiting to launch; also they can clear out quickly if necessary.
Best if we regard the boundary of the airfield, below their ceiling as a total no-go area when the club are operating, and be aware of their circuit direction and approaches to the active runway direction. A pilot heading back to the runway low down will be focusing on airspeed and height.
As always, please give me some feedback on any points in these notes, and any contributions for inclusion on any learning points would be very welcome, as I’m in danger of hurting myself if I have to keep doing dangerous things to write about.
Tight lines . . .