Fly Safe August 2018

By Brian Stewart on  August 3, 2018 19:53

Fly Safe!

August 2018
Gnarly Air

It’s August already in this amazing season of sunshine and XC record flights. Many pilots have been out enjoying the long hot days on the hill and completing amazing flights. However, as Kirsty Cameron pointed out in UK XC News, it’s been a pretty elite group of highly experienced pilots who have been able to maximise the potential of these conditions; the downside being that there have been some serious accidents and multiple reports of horrible air, especially close to the ground. It’s well worth reading this and the discussion thread. Please remember that it’s supposed to be fun. (

How good are you at falling over?

If you are caught out by turbulence close to the ground, then your last defence against injury, apart from the protection of your harness and helmet, is your ability to absorb the impact - either with a PLF or what the French call roulé boulé. How often do you practise? I like to think I’m pretty good at falling over without hurting myself (if you watch some of my landings, you’ll see I get plenty of practice). However I’m currently out of the game nursing a dislocated shoulder - not paragliding related - failing to recognise early enough that I wasn’t going to recover from my stumble, and leaving it too late to get into the right shape and hit the ground with the point of my shoulder. Ouch. Just a thought, but some tumbling practice might be a worthwhile activity for the winter, if you can find a gym with a soft floor.


“There’s not enough coaching in the Pennine Club”. This has long been a refrain, and this is not the place to debate this, but coaching on the hill is a safety issue, and good coaching can make the difference between a pilot making safe progress in the sport and giving up. The club needs more people to step forward to train as coaches, and there will be a coaching course in November. Please consider signing up for this, whatever your level of experience, and do so right away - there is a long lead time on setting something like this up, and in fairness to the trainers we need to commit soon. If there isn’t enough interest, then we will have to cancel it. It’s your club; this is your chance to put something in to it.

Tight lines . . . Brian

Gliding awareness for non-glider pilots

By Carl Fairhurst on  July 18, 2018 21:07


This message aims to help pilots become more aware of our gliding activity and is based on Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) Yellow 083/2011 linked from the NATS Aeronautical Information Service website. That AIC is highly recommended reading!


Gliding is a weather dependent air sport and although most active from March–October the activity takes place throughout the year during daylight hours.

The vast majority of gliders launch from sites clearly marked on half and quarter mil maps.


Details of gliding sites are also available at

In the UK, the longest single flight distance is 1100km, gliders routinely fly closed circuit 300 km cross country flights at average speeds of around 100 kph and gliders routinely climb above FL100 near mountains and hills.

There are around 7000 glider pilots operating some 2300 gliders at 86 clubs flying around 130,000 hours and covering about 1M kms per year.

In addition, our Air Cadet colleagues carry out a huge amount of training in winch and self-launched gliders from a number of sites throughout the UK.

How to See and Avoid?

By design and similarly to other composite aircraft, most gliders have a small frontal area and are usually white in colour. It’s a fact that in certain conditions any low frontal area, white aircraft can be difficult to spot. It’s been found that the apparently tempting idea of applying patches of colour sometimes just breaks up the shape and doesn’t in reality help with airborne detection

This puts a real premium on effective lookout technique (CAA Safety Sense Leaflet No 13). However gliders rarely fly wings level for long periods and when manoeuvring they become easier to see.

Likely places

Lookout is also enhanced a lot by knowing where gliders are most likely to be:

  • Within a © 5nm radius of a gliding site (intense training activity and winch cables!)
  • Below cumulus clouds (in particular under lines of cumulus clouds)
  • On the windward side of ridges (often at low level)
  • Upwind of or above lenticular clouds (mostly at high level)

Electronic Aids

A significant number of gliders are equipped with FLARM, an electronic aid to effective lookout that provides visual and aural warnings of closing traffic that is equipped with the same technology. This relatively low cost equipment has to date been almost exclusively fitted to gliders – but can be fitted to any aircraft.

The RAF are fitting FLARM to some of their aircraft. The recent development of Powerflarm allows any aircraft to detect both FLARM and transponder equipped traffic on a single instrument.

The UKAB advice

Is to avoid glider sites at all times. Only overfly them if you have timely, positive confirmation from the site itself that they are inactive.  When avoiding glider sites, beware of simply skirting the ground location by a narrow margin because there are likely to be gliders operating close to the site as they soar within gliding range. Even if a site has finished winch-launching for the day, it may have gliders returning from cross country flights, or motor gliders self-launching into the local area.

Pilots should not rely on seeing the winch launch happening as they approach the glider site.  A glider will go from ground to 1,000-1,500ft in about 20 seconds, so spotting it in the climb is too late to do anything about the conflict.

Nor is the danger passed once the glider is released from the winch. Pilots unlikely to see the cable itself and, depending on the winch-launch height, the hazard from these continues for at least another 20-30 seconds as it descends under a small parachute that is effectively invisible.

Some glider sites are capable of launching to altitudes of 3-4000ft, with associated increased cable descent times. Maximum launch altitudes are indicated on the 500K VFR chart with a forward slash and height. Lasham, for example (right), has a maximum winch-launch altitude of 3700ft, as shown on the attached graphic as /3.7.

So far, we haven’t seen an actual mid-air, either between a para glider helicopter or fixed wing aircraft or with the descending winch cable. But it could soon be a matter for the AAIB rather than UKAB.

Be under no illusion, such an encounter is highly likely to be fatal for those involved.”

UK Airprox Board
British Gliding Association


To improve your own as well as glider safety there are three big things you can do;

  • Lookout skills can be dramatically upgraded (CAA Safety Sense Leaflet No 13)
  • Be aware of when and where gliders frequent (AIC Y 083/2011)
  • Consider fitting an electronic aid to effective lookout that is FLARM compatible.


By Carl Fairhurst on  June 4, 2018 19:12

On Sunday June 3, the Bowland Forest Gliding Club had to suspend operations while a paraglider circled across their runway. Fortunately he was seen from the ground so the launch could be halted and there were no gliders in the circuit for landing. A senior instructor from BFGC, who is also a PSC member, came to our landing field and spoke to the PG pilot. This was done in a very professional and non-aggressive manner, and it was clear that the PG pilot was fully aware of his mistake and left their airspace as soon as possible. I have also spoken to both our pilot and the BFGC and while we are satisfied that this was a mistake caused by wrong decisions rather than ignorance of air law or any deliberate action, we will be taking steps to improve the education and awareness ofpilots flying Parlick.

We are fortunate to have a good relationship with BFGC and that we can approach these incidents on a no-blame basis and learn lessons for our future joint safety. I will be writing more on this and plan to amend the site guide with specific details on the rules regarding the airspace around the gliding field.

Keep safe out there everybody. . .

PSC Safety Bulletin July 2017 Flying with Sailplanes

By Carl Fairhurst on  July 12, 2017 19:09

Dear members, many of you may have been on Parlick a few weeks ago when a hot sunny weekend forecast drew dozens of PG pilots and Sailplane pilots from Bowland Forest Gliding Club (BFGC) to Parlick. The forecast was accurate in terns of temperature, but the inversion and high pressure meant soaring conditions were awful, and there was very  little chance to get above the hilltop. This led to very crowded flying. Thanks to those members who supplied reports and videos.

I have since had numerous discussions with the senior pilots at BFGC, not just about this particular day but about mixed flying in general. I am impressed by the very disciplined structure that they operate (see below for details), and I am also confident that they take this issue very seriously and deal with any incidents of aggressive or dangerous flying quickly and effectively.

We are working towards developing our already good relationship with BFGC to ensure we continue to enjoy our shared love of flying so look out for more details in future.

Please read carefully the notes below, which are specific to flying Parlick in the company of sailplanes from BFGC. It's also worth refreshing your memory on the characteristics of sailplanes, hang gliders and other air users in general.

Please also let me know if you have any concerns over the behaviour of any pilots of any aircraft; video, photo and witness evidence is particularly useful to help sort these issues out. This example has shown that we can deal with these incidents before they turn into accidents if we approach each other calmly and professionally, looking for solutions rather than blame.

Flying with Sailplanes at Parlick

We nearly always fly with other aircraft - other PGs, hang gliders, models, drones and sailplanes. Each has its own characteristics, and it is each pilot’s responsibility to understand these and fly their own aircraft appropriately. The rules of the air are clearly defined in your training syllabus.

Sailplanes fly much faster than us, they are bigger and heavier. Their exceptional glide means that they maintain altitude in very light lift and can explore the terrain well away from the hill. However in poor thermal conditions, they suffer the same problems as we do - needing to use the dynamic lift close to the hill. On busy days, this causes problems for them and us.

Flight Patterns

Approach: BFGC rules state a minimum of 700’ QFE Chipping or 1300’ QNH (you do know what these letters mean, don’t you?) This means a sailplane may be low if they fail to find lift after release from the tow. It will be approaching at high speed (60+ kt) towards that part of the hill closest to them - the SW or SE ‘noses’ on either side of the S face. A PG launching from these locations presents a serious hazard, as it is likely to be launching into lift; from the sailplane pilot’s point of view they are closing at high speed, low and with little room for manoeuvre. Be aware of this, and make looking towards the glider field part of your pre-launch observation check.

Circling: The BFGC rule is no circling below 500’ above the hill top: this means that they should be flying an S or figure-8 pattern until above this height. You need to be aware of this pattern and anticipate likely courses of action; even if a sailplane finds lift near the bowl, it will have to continue S-turning until high enough.

Choke points: these can occur in marginal soaring conditions where a glider may be low on Fairsnape (or beyond Wolf Crag in the East) and turn back to find several PGs at a similar height. They may face the difficult choice of threading their way through them or going across the bowl, possibly back to their field, at less than optimal height - both stressful courses of action.

Who is in the air?

BFGC operate a card system where the Duty Instructor on the day takes the first flight to assess conditions. Following this, limitations are placed on where pilots may fly, depending on their experience. There is always a duty instructor in charge of flying. Conditions assessed, as well as wind, thermal strength, turbulence etc, include the presence, number and location of paragliders on the hill. This means that less-experienced sailplane pilots may be excluded from the hill in marginal conditions or crowded situations. They may also restrict their flying to remaining out in the valley.

Pilots flying sailplanes in the ‘bowls’ at Parlick are either very experienced or under instruction. They are not allowed to fly in these places, or with PGs in the air until they have received appropriate training and been signed off by the CFI.

What are the main hazards?

Relative speeds: are significant: a PG can appear stationary to a sailplane pilot, and to us they look like fighter planes. Less experienced PG pilots can find this intimidating, so it is best to get used to this gradually: take short flights while sailplanes are in the air; watch them flying while on the ground and get used to what they do. With experience, you will get used to it and start to enjoy flying with them, appreciating their skills. Thermalling together can be a joy with the PG turning much more tightly, so the sailplane with its higher speed stays further out on opposite sides of their respective circles.

Visibility: We both have blind spots: The wing blocks our view immediately above, while Sailplanes are restricted looking down. Be aware of this.

Communication: it is frightening if you think the other pilot hasn’t seen you. Making an exaggerated turn of your head towards the other pilot or giving a wave is very reassuring.

Turbulence: a fast-moving aircraft leaves vortices trailing behind which could disturb our canopies. My personal experience is that I have never noticed this but it is a potential hazard.

We are very fortunate to share such a valuable flying site with the pilots of BFGC. PSC are engaging with them to foster good relationships to promote safe and enjoyable flying together. We are currently discussing some reciprocal activities where our members can take a sailplane flight to see the view from their cockpits, and we’d like to be able to offer them some tandem flights in return. So if you are a suitably qualified tandem pilot who’d be willing to do this, please let me know on

Safe Flying

Brian Stewart

Safety Officer PSC