Flying Alone

By Brian Stewart on  July 1, 2020 16:37

Shouldn’t be done? But many do, and not only when we’re alone on the hill . . .

Maybe you’re the early riser, catching the rising sun on the east-facing slopes; or you’re snatching a quick sunset flight after the rain clears, and there’s no-one else daft enough to be out there. Or you may be out on a vol-biv adventure or visiting an out-of-the way spot that’s not popular with the crowds as it’s a long hike to get there.

You can also be ‘alone’ on a crowded site: if you’re new to the area and nobody knows you, or you turn up late after everyone is in the air, or you were first there and take off before others arrive. So, by ‘alone’ I mean a situation where maybe no-one will notice should you crash in an obscure hidden spot. We all look out for each other on a normal day, but it’s easy not to notice a stranger, or assume someone is with another group of pilots.

· Ideally, go with others, have an outline of each other’s flight plans and how you will keep in touch in the air and on the ground. Check radios are working.

· If you’re alone, make contact with others on the ground, get to know each other, try to share radio frequency and flight plans

· Use a flight tracker, and make sure someone at home knows how to follow you and what to do if you’re in trouble. Satellite location services work just about anywhere but cost money; even a simple app like AirWhere can broadcast your position to sites like or LiveTrack24

· At the very least tell someone responsible where you are going, and what your plans are. But be sure to let them know when you’re back on the ground to avoid worry or false alarms.

Also, be mindful of others on the hill who may be flying ‘alone’, they may not have anyone else looking out for them.

Pendle Crash Analysis

By Brian Stewart on  June 6, 2020 11:52

Listen to yourself. . .

I thought I’d write a few words about my crash on Pendle, early June. The video and commentary can be seen here:

Many pilots contributed their thoughts on this incident, and I’m grateful to everyone for their input to help make sense of events and try to learn and prevent future accidents.

The pilot, as always, is the major factor in PG incidents. As has been pointed out, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to go flying at that moment.

Currency? The UK was just coming out of lockdown. I’ve been particularly concerned about this, shielding someone at home, so hadn’t flown for over 3 months, and only have a few hours since October. So, currency very low, and a bit anxious about mixing with too many people.

Too eager to fly? Last chance before the weather turned bad for a long spell. I was hoping for a short flight just to get back in the air, early doors. We ended up waiting around for the wind to start and come on to the right direction. Not being current isn’t just about flying – it’s also how acutely our senses are tuned to assessing the conditions. I knew all about the probability of rough turbulence on such a hot sunny day with dry air, visible stability, wave clouds, wind across the hill . . . Definitely too eager. It’s not like me to be first off the hill but I thought I have to go now, expecting not to find much lift and to go down to the landing.

Misjudging conditions? Take off was fine, wind swung onto the face. Light lift all the way across to the gully, then gentle sink on the way back. Nothing to raise alarm bells. That went well . . .

Dealing with the collapse? The thermal that hit me was like a rocket, and the vario peaked at 7.8 m/s, looking at it frame by frame on Ayvri (great tool for analysing flight). Possibly it was so small that only the left half of the wing, closer to the hill, was in it, so the right side was either in still air or even the sink outside the thermal. Whatever the cause, I just had time to anticipate that something bad was about to happen before the right side completely went – looks like 70% or more on the video. But instead of turning towards the collapse and taking me away from the hill, the wing turned violently left 90° to face the hill, and surged violently, the lines almost horizontal. I don’t clearly remember doing it, but I must have braked sufficiently to catch this – thank you SIV instructors – as without inputs, this would have gone much worse.

As I swung back under the wing, you can see from the video that it stalls, and the tips almost meet.. Probably excessive brake, but possibly the horrible air I was in. Whichever, this turned out to be the best possible outcome, as I descended at about the speed of a reserve ride to land on my back without even bursting the camelback. I hardly felt that impact, just the horrible whiplash effect on my neck as my head bounced around like a loose button. There was enough wind about to start dragging me, and this felt like I was being pulled along, and slightly down, the slope. More evidence of some horrible turbulence as it had been almost calm all morning.

So, I walked away from it intact, but I wouldn’t dare to refer to it as a landing. Big thanks to Tim Gridley and Andy Elliott for landing nearby to assist, to everyone on the hill for their support and encouragement, Mark Wilson for helping carry my glider bag back to the car and to everyone who contributed words of wisdom.

See you in the air.

Brian Stewart

Midweek Flying–no excuses

By Brian Stewart on  June 1, 2020 17:06

Midweek flying risks a close encounter of the high speed kind with fast and slow aircraft of the RAF kind. It’s always been a requirement to post flying plans on CANP the night before, so that pilots can get a heads-up in the briefings the next day.

Now it’s easier than ever: Head over to

Fill in the required fields, tick the site you’re registering and you are good to go. Remember to look out for the response, to ensure your post got through.

Save this site as a favourite so you can always find it, and get your notification in before 8PM. Apparently duplicate notifications aren’t a problem, so don’t just assume someone else has done it.

Accidents and Incidents

By Brian Stewart on  May 18, 2020 16:40

Accidents on Hang Gliding and Paragliding sites are an unfortunate part of the sport. Summarised below is some guidance in case you should encounter one.

Your first priority at the scene of an accident is to carefully assess the situation. Exactly what has happened? Where is the casualty? What injuries have occurred? Is outside assistance required? If you cannot be sure (if, for example, you are flying when you see a glider crash on a remote moor) it is safer to be pessimistic. A false alarm is better than leaving a casualty lying for hours in the open. Accidents are often highly stressful environments, and in such situations it is very easy to miscommunicate information, forget vital details and devote your emotional energy in unhelpful directions. So make every effort to assess the situation carefully, act calmly and communicate slowly and clearly.

If someone is injured you have two priorities, to protect the casualty so that their condition does not worsen, and to alert the emergency services to ensure prompt transfer to proper medical care.

Calling the emergency services

The best way to do this is to dial 999, when asked what service you reqiure say “Police”, and tell the Police you need Mountain Rescue. In the majority of our flying accidents Mountain rescue are by far the most effective service. They are familiar with the terrain, have a knowledge of our sport and the type of injuries we’re likely to sustain and have the skills and capability to safely extract casualties from remote areas.  They are also very well equipped for our kind of accidents.

When you call make sure that you know the location of the casualty , and give enough information for the rescue services to find them. Most accidents happen in remote areas far from roads or towns, so having an OS Grid Reference to hand is ideal and the primary navigational system used by Mountain Rescue teams. Apart from dedicated GPS devices, number of smartphone apps (like OS Locate and Viewranger) now provide instant OS grid references. The club also provides safety cards which list grid references for popular DSC take-offs and landing fields.

When speaking to the Police report the nature of injuries and the casualty’s condition. It is usually helpful to describe the cause, such as “a fall from height” – which often adequately describes the type of accident. Emergency services will approach by road, so it is extremely useful to nominate people to go to the nearest road so they can direct rescuers to the scene.

If you see an accident from the air, land and use a mobile phone. Otherwise fly to the nearest farm or telephone box, or if you have radio, pass a message to someone on the ground, get them to read it back as a check. On the hills Peak Park or National Trust Wardens can make an emergency call by radio, or if you are alone use your whistle (you SHOULD ALWAYS fly with one) to send the mountain distress signal – this is six blasts in one minute, then wait one minute and repeat.

Helping the emergency services

You can help the Mountain Rescue or Ambulance Service by sending someone to meet them at the roadhead or car park and guide them to the scene. Stay where you said you would be until the Ambulance or Mountain Rescue arrive and DO NOT start to try to evacuate the casualty yourself. It may be necessary to stay in a location away from the casualty to maintain mobile phone contact as the rescue controller may wish to call you back to discuss the situation.

If a helicopter has been summoned it is vital that everyone LANDS IMMEDIATELY. Failure to do so puts the casualty and aircrew’s life at risk (as well as your own). Be alert for radio messages, vehicle lights or horns, crossed glider bags or flares/smoke as ground signals indicating that you are required to LAND – not fly away to the other end of the ridge.

Care of the casualty

In this guide we cannot teach First Aid, but PLEASE consider taking one of the excellent courses, such as those provided by the British Red Cross Society or St. John’s Ambulance. From time to time PSC run first aid courses, ask a committee member if you are interested.

The knowledge and confidence this will give you may be very valuable, and you are far more likely to encounter an accident at home, at work, or on the roads than on a flying site. Your employer may support your training as they have an obligation to provide trained First Aiders. However, even without this training there is much you can do.

  • DO NOT take risks with your own safety; you will help no one by becoming a casualty yourself. This is of particular importance with  power lines, water and crags.
  • DO NOT move a casualty unless they are in a life threatening situation (e.g. lying in water or have no airway). Always remember the possibility of spinal injury, which can be made much worse by incautious movement.
  • DO NOT give a casualty anything to eat or drink or you may delay medical treatment.
  • DO protect a casualty from the elements, and help them to keep warm by improvising a shelter – gliders and glider bags are useful in this respect. Support and immobilise any injured limbs and try to control any major bleeding, but do not attempt to improvise splinting or use a tourniquet.
  • DO speak to the casualty in a calming and reassuring way, tell them that they are in good hands, and that help is on its way. Even if they appear to be unconscious they may still be able to hear all that is said around them.
  • DO try to keep bystanders and spectators away from the scene, they may distress the casualty, or be distressed themselves. You might use some responsible people to keep them away, but also ask if there is anyone with medical skill if needed (although they will normally volunteer).
  • DO be especially cautious if there is no obvious injury. Look for the possibility of head injury (bruising, cuts, damaged helmet etc.). If you have the slightest suspicion that someone may have suffered any head injury or spinal injury, or if they have any loss of memory or have been unconscious, even for a second, they MUST be taken to a hospital for checks (do not rely on them promising to go).
  • DO call for Mountain Rescue assistance (999, ask for Police, Mountain Rescue) as well as ambulance if the casualty is located anywhere except at the roadside.
Power line accidents

If a casualty, or any part of their aircraft are in contact with power lines, or if cables are touching the ground, DO NOT APPROACH CLOSER THAN 20 YARDS until you are assured by someone from the Electricity Board that the power has been cut off. Automatic circuit breakers may attempt to reconnect the power several times without warning. In wet conditions stay even further away. To be blunt it would be distressing to watch someone die, but stupid to double the death toll by attempting a misguided rescue.

Informing next of kin

It is perhaps best if next of kin of a casualty can be informed sensitively by someone well known to them, but if this is not possible it should be left to the police, who are trained to handle this sometimes difficult job. You should also try to make sure that they do not find out accidentally, which might cause great distress, see the next bit…

Dealing with the media

If you are approached by a representative of the media be cautious about what you say. It is best to refer them to a senior member of the club committee who can make a considered statement later, but if you do speak to them, confine yourself to an eye-witness account describing ONLY what you saw, DO NOT speculate about events or causes, and DEFINITELY DO NOT identify the casualty.

Serious accidents & fatalities

In a serious accident you have an extra responsibility, which is to help any future investigation. Ensure that wreckage is not moved or disturbed until it has been examined, unless you must move something to aid the victim. If possible photographs of the accident scene may be useful, and if you have photos, video, etc. which show the accident, you should offer these to the investigation – this can be done through the local police.

After the event

Complete the online BHPA incident report form as soon as possible and remember to record full details of any witnesses before they depart. Send it to the BHPA office as soon as possible.

If you witness a serious but non fatal accident or incident, you must report it immediately to the BHPA on 0116 261 1322. If you are in any doubt as to whether an accident or incident has been reported, do it anyway. Don’t assume someone else has already done it- make sure, or do it yourself.

If you witness any serious accident or incident, please fill in an incident report form and report the accident to the committee via the club safety officer as soon as possible.

Fatal accident protocol

If you witness a fatal accident, you must report it immediately to the Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) on 01252 512299.

Telephone numbers

Power Line Accidents: please treat any electricity cables as if live, stay away and call emergency number 0800 31 63 105 (or just 105).

With acknowledgements to Derbyshire Soaring Club