Base of Support.

If you’re a subscriber to Cross Country Mag, you may already have viewed their two recent Masterclass presentations by SIV and Glider Control guru Malin Lobb. They may appear on YouTube sometime, but don’t seem to be up yet, except for this excellent snippet:

In the full masterclasses presentations, he goes into a great deal of detail about glider control in adverse situations – these alone are worth the magazine subscription I think. In this excerpt he describes the importance of your ‘base of support’ and how to use your harness to keep your body under control when your glider is trying to throw you around. Basically, maintaining your back support by carefully adjusting your harness, tucking your legs, and spreading your thighs to give you a firm base while reducing your moment of inertia (less risk of a twist).

Elsewhere in the talks he constantly refers to this, keeping your body firmly place in the harness, reducing the temptation to use your arms as levers or balancing aids. There are two main problems here:

  • ·Waving your arms around to try to maintain balance. It’s a natural thing to do when you’re trying to walk a tight rope, but your brakes are in your hands, so you are putting random brake inputs into the glider, which is a very bad idea when you are trying to rescue any departure from normal flight
  • ·Using the risers to hold on to. Again, very natural if you are on a swing, but it delays your ability to react quickly and make the accurate control inputs needed. I found this out in an earlier SIV course when I was getting collapses doing wingovers. It was Johann that spotted I was grabbing the risers, which affected my timing. It took some practice to stop doing this, as I wasn’t aware I did it at all.


We sometimes share some very crowded bits of space with our neighbours from the Bowland Forest Gliding Club. Their sleek fibreglass aircraft can appear very quickly and be almost invisible head on. It shouldn’t need saying that keeping a very sharp lookout is essential whenever they are operating (and when they’re not). A recent incident was reported that one of their single-seaters came very close to a paraglider, and took avoiding action. Clearly close enough to cause a lot of concern to those who saw it.

What is really good about this incident is that rather than start up a social media debate about rights and wrongs, the pilot affected contacted me as Safety Officer. After a discussion with my BFGC counterpart (who is also a PSC member and very experienced HG and PG pilot) a meeting was arranged between the two pilots. Both were able to put their concerns to each other in a very measured and constructive way. From the sailplane pilot’s point of view, he was able to see how being so close would cause concern, while the PG pilot got an insight into just how manoeuvrable sailplanes are and how quickly they can change height and direction. As a bonus he got a flight in a sailplane and was able to see the view from the cockpit, sharing thermals with some PGs and doing the Totridge run. Sailplanes, hang gliders and paragliders have been mixing it in the Parlick bowls for decades now – it’s worth remembering that only the more experienced BFGC pilots are allowed to enter these places when there are foot-launched aircraft flying, unless they are under instruction.

They can change height and direction much more rapidly than we can, but it is always the responsibility of both pilots to avoid getting into a situation where a collision is possible, so both need to keep a sharp lookout and think further ahead when flying together due to their much higher speeds.

Safety concerns every one of us, and it’s good to know that we can have these discussions without pointing fingers, laying blame or shouting at each other. Next time you get cut up in a thermal, or think another pilot has endangered you in some way, please take time to think about it before launching into aggression or uploading your video. Every day should be a school day for all of us, we can all learn something from every event.

We’re planning a joint ‘Sharing the Sky’ event with BFGC in which we can all get together (PG, HG and sailplanes) to learn about the similarities with and differences between each other’s sports. Coming soon . . .