Summer 2014 - Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose!

Steve Purdie's picture

This is again largely a concoction of old material, which is becoming more relevant again.

Once upon a time in the Southern Club there was gentlemanly behaviour in the sky. And it was Good.

Pilots on the ground were aware that they are the lowest form of aviation and justly gave way to all those above them. They even looked to check.

Pilots thermalling were given right of way and ridge soaring pilots would turn back before interrupting the thermalling pilot's 360. The thermalling pilot would however not impact upon the soaring patterns of the ridge soaring pilots as he would know that he was more skilled and was better placed to avoid them.

When it was seen to be getting too busy, pilots would either thermal away or gracefully bow out after a few minutes ridge soaring to allow others the chance to do so. We would often land unbidden to allow a waiting group of hang glider pilots free use of the sky. It would usually take only a few minutes before they were high enough to permit usual service to resume.

Wouldn't it be nice if those days returned?
It has been notable how close together everyone is flying nowadays. Please do give each other more room!

Fly predictably and telegraph your next move as clearly as possible. I'm not saying give hand signals, though providing you are flying in accordance with the ANO that is not a bad idea, just make it obvious where you are planning to go and try not to make erratic course changes when other are in close. Also try to predict what other pilots may want to do. 

Please don't sit just behind and outside a ridge soaring glider as this effectively prevents them from turning back, almost as if you were overtaking them on the outside. If you are closely following another ridge soaring glider, aim to be directly behind or better still towards the ridge.

When top landing, get your glider pointing into wind, even if you have already landed. This will slow your progress across the ground significantly and may save you having to explain yourself to an irate pilot who's laid out wing you just trashed. With a paraglider it is never too late to be able to turn into wind, just too late to choose to do so.

If it is too crowded for you, don't launch. If by launching you will make it too crowded for the pilots already airborne, don't launch. If it is too crowded for you and you are in the air, immediately make your way to a safe landing.

It is common courtesy for paragliders to slope land if there are hang gliders airborne and struggling to maintain height. The inconvenience of stopping your flight for a few moments hugely outweighs the inconvenience of being forced to bottom land a hang glider, with the attendant hour or so of de-rigging and rigging.
ANY pilot can call for a red ribbon half hour. You don't need to seek anyone's permission, though of course you will be expected to justify your actions to the growing angry mob of pilots waiting to launch. If in doubt, ask a coach.

Beware of the gust fronts associated with approaching rain showers and land in good time.

Low sun is a major hazard at this time of year. Pilots must be aware that if they are approaching another aircraft from 'out of the sun' it is probable that they will not have been seen.

If we don't resolve conflicts due to overcrowding then it is almost inevitable that we will have ANOTHER FATAL MID-AIR COLLISION. It is the responsibility of ALL PILOTS to behave as educated adults and to avoid exposing themselves or others to this risk.

When did YOU last pack your reserve? I recommend a 3 month cycle – it makes a huge difference!

The biggest hazard, as always, is the human factor. You may have had a long lay off waiting for flyable conditions at the weekend. Consider watching the forecast and planning a midweek day flying. At this time of year the forecasts are pretty useless though, so be prepared for last minute changes of plan.

When you get to the hill, if it is too windy don't push your luck, the hill will still be there tomorrow! Remember, if you break yourself, you'll miss much more flying than a few minutes gale hanging...

The advancing sea breeze is often, though not always, betrayed by either a clearing of cumulus development towards the sea or by an advancing line of from curtain cloud to fracto-cumulus again with little or no cloud on the seaward side. The sea breeze can be very rough when it first arrives and is usually stronger when it first comes in, settling down after half an hour or so.  As always, if you see a linear cloud feature approaching, if you are at all unsure, land and wait for it to pass.

At inland facing sites such as the Dyke or more so Ditchling, the advancing sea breeze will tend to back up behind the hill, then pour over in a big turbulent rush. No pilot who doesn't enjoy being tossed about like a cork in a storm wants to be in the air when this occurs.
Avoiding Aerial Collisions
 (CAP 393 Air Law, as opposed to conventions and BHPA rules)

It shall remain the duty of the commander of an aircraft to take all possible measures to ensure that his aircraft does not collide with any other aircraft.

An aircraft shall not be flown in such proximity to other aircraft as to create a danger of collision.

An aircraft which is obliged to give way to another aircraft shall avoid passing over or under the other aircraft, or crossing ahead of it, unless passing well clear of it.

An aircraft which is being overtaken in the air shall have the right-of-way and the overtaking aircraft, whether climbing, descending or in horizontal flight, shall keep out of the way of the other aircraft by altering course.

When two aircraft are approaching head-on, or approximately so, in the air and there is a danger of collision, each shall alter its course to the right.

When two aircraft are converging in the air at approximately the same altitude, the aircraft which has the other on its right shall give way.

An aircraft landing or on its final approach to land shall have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or on the ground or water. An aircraft shall not overtake or cut in front of another aircraft on its final approach to land.
 [But the other pilots need to know that you are landing! Get out of your harness and dangle those legs. S.P.]

If two or more flying machines, gliders or airships are approaching any place for the purpose of landing, the aircraft at the lower altitude shall have the right-of-way.

Move clear of the landing area as soon as it is possible to do so after landing.

Rules and Conventions

The glider with the ridge on the right has right of way.
(He should still move as close to the ridge as he feels comfortable with, but you are not the judge of how close that may be. There could easily be something behind you causing him to fly further out than you would like. Tough!)

When thermalling, the inside glider has right of way. This convention is contradictory to 'on the right is in the right' but is designed to prevent a glider being forced to spin and to cover putting a wingtip into the core and being involuntarily straightened up.

Join a thermal tangentially.

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RichardG's picture

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose..

Hate to be pedantic, but that's how the expression actually goes.

davem's picture


That's not high class pedantry - it should be 'plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose'...

Hairy Dave's picture

Been flying Devil's Dyke on a Westerly weekend in the summer?

If you want to get really scared and angry, why not try the Dyke this weekend. It's a bank holiday so it should be extra dangerous!

ChrisTownsend's picture

Funny old day

Thanks for that Dave. You must have scared most pilots off because it was relatively quiet on Saturday. However, it was also rubbish compared to the forecast and I only managed two extended top-to-bottoms :o( After I'd packed up the second time and retired to the pub it got plenty windy enough for HGs to soar for an hour or so.