Flying over Water

Steve Purdie's picture

A few days ago there were two pilots simultaneously in the sea at Newhaven. Thankfully nobody died...

The danger inherent in a water landing cannot be overstated. It is usually better to fly into practically anything, downwind if necessary, rather than risk a dunking, unless fully SIV prepared with rescue boat, buoyancy aid and no back protection.

According to the BHPA Technical Manual:

Recommended Practice: Water landings should be avoided at all costs; experienced pilots anticipating flying
over or near to significant areas of water should ensure that a safe dry landing area is
always within reach
, wear suitable buoyancy aids and carry a suitable webbing cutting
implement.

Water landings - paragliders
Instructors must stress the probability, except within the most strictly controlled
environment, that a water landing is not survivable and must be avoided at all costs.
Pilots should, if flying near water, make sure that a safe dry landing is within easy
reach at all times.

If, however, it is impossible to make a dry landing (even with the risk of injury) then, the real
danger lies in the potential for entanglement with the paraglider suspension lines. It is
therefore imperative to get clear of the paraglider as quickly as possible. On approach sit
well back and unclip the chest strap and loosen the leg straps. On entering the water
release the leg straps (or riser-to-harness connectors) and FLOAT clear with the minimum
of movement. If an inflatable life jacket is worn it should be inflated.

If a modern seat harness is worn then sit well back and unfasten the chest and leg straps;
continue to lean back in the seat; just before entering the water draw the elbows well in and
tuck the head down. As the feet hit the water allow the body to roll forward out of the
harness, which should then be dragged clear by the still-flying canopy. FLOAT clear with the
minimum of movement. If an inflatable life jacket is worn it should be inflated.

Depending on the type of paraglider it should be controlled to land as far away as possible;
this keeps the suspension lines taut and away from you.

It is not advisable to drop from the paraglider before impact - it is often difficult to assess
height above water, especially if it is calm.

Water landings - hang gliders
Instructors must stress the probability, except within the most strictly controlled
environment, that a water landing is not survivable and must be avoided at all costs.
Pilots should, if flying near water, make sure that a safe dry landing is within easy
reach at all times.

A dry landing, even with the risk of injury, will always be the better option.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Frank_O's picture

Flying over water

Ending up in the water is surely something that everyone avoids. While not necessary to identify the pilots involved, it would be helpful to hear the circumstance and causal factors relating to the double ditching?

JTurczak's picture

BHPA incident reports

This is from the BHPA incident reports
http://www.bhpa.co.uk/documents/safety/informal_investigations/

"While attempting to soar coastal cliffs the pilot began to sink out. He then flew on to an area where he hoped there would be lift but continued to descend. The pilot landed on a section of exposed rocky beach. The glider came down in the water and became entangled on the rocks. As the tide was coming in the pilot was forced to abandon the glider and recover it later in the day at low tide."

"Pilot was attempting to soar coastal cliffs but was unable to stay up. He landed on a stretch of exposed rocky shore and the glider became tangled in the rocks. As the tide was coming in the pilot was forced to leave the glider and recover it later that day."