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. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/311219245657721/permalink/1670039029775729/)

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.

Coaching

“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 safety@penninesoaringclub.org.uk

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 safety@penninesoaringclub.org.uk

Safe Flying

Brian Stewart

Safety Officer PSC

Fly Safe May 2017

By Carl Fairhurst on  April 23, 2017 19:09

Following on from last month:

Last issue, I wrote about my reserve and the issue of not re-connecting the closing loops properly. It seems even after re-fitting the loops, I still had it wrong. Taking the glider out of the bag last Tuesday on Parlick, I saw that one of the zips that close the reserve container had burst fully open. This is what they’re designed to do, but only after pulling the big red handle . . .

What had happened was that when I put the loop back through the closing rings, I had allowed one of the bridle lines to go the wrong side of the loop. Where it passed through the zip, it was the wrong side of this loop and so compromised it, and the zip would inevitably work itself open. The mounting instructions refer to this but I had forgotten the importance of it.

The lesson here is to be completely familiar with every aspect of your reserve system, so that you can take care of issues like this on the hill. Even if you get your reserve professionally packed, it’s well worth spending the time to learn and understand how every part of the system works. Maybe have the manual on your smartphone.

Accidents.

It’s been a bad start to the season. After a year or so in which the bent upright award didn’t involve bodily injury, there have been two serious accidents on Parlick. Both required helimed evacuation and resulted in serious injuries to the pilots. Both are recovering at home now and I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing them a speedy and full recovery.

I’m not going to go into the accidents here, the pilots themselves have the best viewpoint and will be able to shed much more light on what led up to the crash. In both cases, it was clear to see the payoff from the first aid courses many of us have done over the years. There was no panic, in each case someone took charge of ensuring the rescue was coordinated - mountain rescue and ambulance called, persons directed to guide rescuers to the scene, pilots advised of the helicopter’s arrival, gliding club notified etc. The injured pilots were supported on the ground by those nearby, without turning the scene into a spectacle, so well done to all concerned, especially those first on the scene. One point I learned from this and previous incidents is the potential time saving gained by giving a precise grid reference for the location of the injured pilot. The grid reference in the site guide and on the safety card is a very useful fallback if it’s not possible to get the actual location, but since we all carry sophisticated GPS systems, we should all be able to give a precise OS reference or Lat/Long coordinates. Much better that the helicopter goes straight to the casualty and lands as close as possible than heads to take off, which could be kms away.

So as the season gets going, here’s a few questions to ask yourself, in no particular order, and without reference to either accident:

  • How current am I? Not just recent hours in general, but flight time in these conditions.
  • How long since I gave my wing, harness, reserve, helmet, etc a complete inspection?
  • How long since I did a SIV/Pilotage course? If I haven’t, why not?
  • I’m on a recent wing; am I flying it correctly? Lots of discussion going on about brake position and pitch stability on modern gliders - get yourself informed, ask other pilots.
  • Have I read the site guide and any warnings about today’s weather conditions? Parlick East is notorious for turbulence in certain conditions which has led to some very serious accidents; these conditions are clearly highlighted in the site guide, and each year it’s worth going back to this to refresh memories.

We all have to start somewhere after the winter lay off, and punchy spring conditions aren’t the ideal way to wake up sleepy muscle memories. Give yourself a much bigger margin of error than you may have been used to at the end of last season - not just closeness to terrain and other gliders, but closeness to stall/spin speed. Consider dialling down the conditions you’re prepared to launch in until you’re back in the game.

PSC are exploring getting a club SIV/Pilotage course organised, and we’re looking at ways to support members to do their first one. Look out for an email soon to gauge interest.

Tight lines . . .

Brian