Gentlemanly Behaviour

Steve Purdie's picture

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.

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.

In the early days of paragliding, once paraglider performance had advanced to the point where soaring was commonplace, 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?

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gentlemanly behaviour

its down to all of us to look out for each other newbie or sky god .Regarding the comments about "weekend pilots" ,it is difficult to get the air time in if you are not self employed or very rich but i have allways found the club to be very helpful ,most "sky gods" are very keen to help ,especially if you ask. The fact of the matter is our sites are crowded because of thiere location,and if you are a "weekend pilot" ( i definitely am!) then you have to observe air rules (like everyone) ,ask advice and use common sense ,if you are likely to miss a thermal then try not to get in the way of the guy who is going to get it.
its supposed to be FUN as well as challenging !

Beanie's picture

Hi and welcome...

When I was new to this sport I realised very quickly that if I was going to learn quickly I had to make myself known to the coaches or anyone else I thought could offer advice. I can honestly say that I always received support and guidance which proved invaluable in my first year. I learned quickly with their help and even the sky gods and most experienced pilots were happy to help me stay safe and learn from their experience. I was a qualified football coach for years and free coaching is not something I’ve ever before…

People are only too willing to share their experience and knowledge but sometimes you might need to ask.

Catch me on the hill and say hi next time you’re out.

Yes that would be nice, as a

Yes that would be nice, as a newbie pg pilot i am looking to gain experience, instead i find myself on a crowded hill with no one willing to talk to me or give me advice.

I sit there with everyone else waiting for the conditions to come in and when it does eveyone is so quick to launce that the sky is crowded and i dont feel confident in myself that i can keep out of the way of 10 other people. as a result i do a top to bottom pack up and leave and dont fly again for months.

There was one person i saw going on this forum about weekend pilots, i apologise for inconveniencing you as i am such a pilot. I have a job in the week that i have to do to earn money so i can get to do the things i enjoy, i understand that this seems to be a rich persons passtime but that doesnt mean its for the rich only. sounds to me that some people need to crawl out of there own behind, this is a vibe i get from many on the hill too, especially on week days if i do get to fly them.

Maybe pilots should look out for beginners with there red ribbons and give them some time of day and a little bit of flight time and advice so they can gain experience become better pilots so everyone can mix rather then it just being a free for all and crapping on the little guy left standing there looking up like a kid asking for pocket money then getting told no.

Scowlers and smilers

I'm one of the smilers - feel free to come talk to me. There are plenty of scowlers in the club, just make sure you're not one of them ;¬)

It's a huge club (the SHGC) and that has all kinds of problems like over-crowding and a lack of comradeship.

Back in the day I'd fly early mornings (flying the dyke at 6am) and top-to-bottoms etc. and just keeping at it. You'll do fine and try not to take it personally. This time of year it's mental as we're all dusting off our wings ready for the season (apart from those hard-core or newbie pilot winter flyers). It'll setting down.

There is a clique, I'm not part of it; who cares.

There are lots of indredibly nice people in the club and they more than make up for the miserable f*ckers; I've been overwhelmed by people's kindness.

Lastly - my pearl of wisdom: Slow down in lift, turn in lift, stay in lift! Seriously. Obviously taking due care blah blah.

Mr Flibble's picture

good point

"Back in the day I'd fly early mornings (flying the dyke at 6am)"

When the sea has warmed up a bit ( may have already looking at xc weather this morning), there is often a land breeze overnight and a forecast with north in it will give beautiful smooth and consistent soaring condition early in the morning , sometimes from 5am .
The dyke, bo peep or firle will be perfect for low air time or nervous pilots , most will still be in bed so no crowding, but this being the southern club you can bet there will still be others there to ask advice.

Andrew, it`s a bit concerning that someone has asked you which site to go to in an easterly , we only have one easterly so the choice is quite limited :)

"Andrew, it`s a bit

"Andrew, it`s a bit concerning that someone has asked you which site to go to in an easterly , we only have one easterly so the choice is quite limited :)"

But when the first inquiry arrived, it was too far ahead to know it was going to be easterly. Besides, in accordance with your point about land breeze, the website now says "08:54 Bo Peep OK: scratchy"!

In the last week I've had an

In the last week I've had an email and a phone call from a new member, asking where to go tomorrow. I'm not out myself, but I've suggested High and Over, warned that it might be strong and rough, and urged him to talk to experienced pilots there. I hope that increases his chances of having fun and staying safe, but no one can promise that High and Over will be easy to fly tomorrow -- it may be crowded as well as rough. At least it's easy to go down and land at the bottom there if you're having a bad time (and not far to walk up).

Jenni Fleming's picture

Have you asked for help?

Hi Paul

It can be intimidating at first when you turn up on a busy hill. But whenever someone comes up and introduces themselves and asks for a briefing, they always get a warm welcome. But you do need to ask - not everyone wants people coming up and giving advice, so people are reluctant to do it unasked. Also, with 500 pilots in the club, there will always be people you don't recognise and with the distractions of flying, you're unlikely to go around and speak to all of them.

And with 500 pilots, there will also be people who say things you don't agree with - just rest assured that you won't be the only one reminding them that not everyone's as lucky as they are!

Mr Flibble's picture

I`m a grumpy old man

"Maybe pilots should look out for beginners with there red ribbons and give them some time of day "

"Yes that would be nice, as a newbie pg pilot i am looking to gain experience, instead i find myself on a crowded hill with no one willing to talk to me or give me advice."

They are called club coaches, you can find them under People then club coaches on the menu just to the left of these posts!

There are pictures of them and their phone numbers too, so no excuses!

rant over.

( never ever even had one call and only one email from a low air time pilot all the time I was a coach)

"As a newbie pg pilot i am

"As a newbie pg pilot i am looking to gain experience, instead i find myself on a crowded hill with no one willing to talk to me or give me advice."

I'd be willing to talk to you and give you advice, and so, I'm sure, would be plenty of others, more experienced and knowledgeable than me. In the last few weeks I've given a few new pilots briefings about sites that they hadn't flown before. I have a patch on my flying suit, when I'm wearing it, saying "Coach". Come and ask me anything, or ask anyone who looks as if he or she knows what they're doing. (Just don't do it as they're clipping in or launching.) I know it's not easy when you're new getting air time and feeling safe while you do it, but you will get a friendly reaction if you ask for help. Unfortunately, none of us can make the sites bigger...

Carole Sherrington's picture


Here's a link to Waz's hang glider flight.
Spot the failures-to-give-way.
Take-off: 2/10
"We should all have our heads examined"
"That's rule number four!"

Newbie HG's 2p

Hi, I think I flew that day too, but maybe earlier (there seem to be fewer PGs and spread out further in front than I remember).
First I just wanted to apologise to anyone I inconvenienced/gave concern to, I definitely got in a couple of awkward situations, especially earlier on, once or twice having to dive down to turn away after seemingly becoming boxed in (whether this was my fault or not I couldn't say). Just a few impressions I got, hope I'm not being condescending:
- Especially in light conditions, PGs can cruise around just as fast as a HG, so it seems vital to 'think 3D' and plan where your path will go relative to those of people around. (Probably obvs, but I remember once a PG turned close to fly along in front of me, so I had to go round, a little bold I thought!)
- HGs can be hard to turn, especially if there's some inconvenient lift under one wing, games of chicken with giant fishing nets are defs not fun
- Please consider if you'll box someone in, I mentioned having to dive away, PGs don't have that luxury
I don't mean to lecture or accuse (I'm sure I wasn't flying especially well), just a few thoughts from an 'educational' flight - some of it I definitely don't want to repeat. If anyone specifically remembers me (black+purple HG) any constructive criticism is welcome!

Mr Flibble's picture

All as bad as each other

Scary video ! hg overtaking on the outside and not looking where he is going ( looking at the ridge instead ), I flinched watching when the first pg passed very close on the wrong side :(

PS yes I have flown a hanglider

Carole Sherrington's picture


I'm not really sure that he could have passed on the inside given the relative positioning of gliders and hill, particularly as he was intending to turn but when the camera picks up the sound of a passing paraglider, then they were close!
I'm going to stick my neck out here: As I understand it, the ridge rules are modifications of the rules for avoidance of collisions and apply when gliders are on converging courses. If the gliders are not on convergent courses then you don't need to deviate from your course just to pass on the inside, and beyond a certain lateral separation you wouldn't consider a turn away from the ridge by the target glider to be a significant risk. The trouble is, that's a judgment call.
When I was buying my glider, I went up to Avian in Derbyshire to look at the Rio2. Steve Elkins was good enough to fly it near the Blue John caves to demonstrate. There were maybe 20 paragliders airborne processing along the ridge with metronomic regularity, close in one way, further out the other. All flying at the same speed. My other half looked at me and said, "Is that it? You want to do that? What's the point? I've never seen anything so boring."
I wholeheartedly am in favour of safe and considerate flying, but it would be a great shame to take the freedom out of free flying.

"We should all have our heads examined"
"That's rule number four!"

nic browne's picture


Hi is there a vid of a target flying at bo peep a couple of weeks ago when it was realy busy as that was probably me?.

Mr Flibble's picture

Your problerly right

It was very scary to see the closing speeds , especially when the PG had the ridge on the left and cut across the front of the HG instead of letting him have the ridge on his right :(
If I see a HG struggling I let them have the ridge side , I can slope land and kite back up in a minute, they have to go to the bottom , de-rig , get the car, go back to the top and re-rig :(

ps if its just ridge lift and the Hangies take off its probably time to land any way , due to the wind speed ( no fun gale hanging ) and its very scary flying the ridge with something pointy, hard and very fast !

Unfortunately guys all this

Unfortunately guys all this advice and warnings falls once again on deaf ears ! The weekend numpties (lets keep it clean and call them that!) don't read these forums or have anything to do with the club because they belong to the Self Preservation Society !
Maybe the club should double the annual fee and reduce it only after each pilot joins a safety seminar day and passes an exam. The club could hold several throughout the year and pay a qualified pilot to take them. Once passed they get a refund and a different club sticker. If anyone is seen flying in a dangerous manner then they must take a course before flying again in crowded skies, however I'm not sure how this would be policed except maybe to increase their subscription the following year !
Until then I will only fly week days !

Blue skies


ScottD's picture

site marshals

seems to me the CP exam and its mandatory requirement that you get the collision avoidance questions right sets the correct tone...

if it is understood that people flying our sites are not behaving in accordance with these rules then is it not incumbent on our committee and our safety officers to figure something workable out that does not rely on someone reading this forum

its my feeling that if pilots felt that they were being observed and that there would be sanctions if they dont observe commonsense in the air then things would stand a chance of getting safer

in my old sport of skydiving if you acted in a dangerous fashion you were grounded - no arguments

seems clear from my short experience flying the southern sites that airmanship is a hit and miss affair so it follows that to do nothing we are all therefor just waiting for someone to die in which case other solutions may well be forced on us whether we like them or not by the land owners and our governing body

Jim's picture


I was in Borso del Grappa, Italy a few weeks ago. As I derigged, a midair between two PGs happened about 100m behind me, apparently the two pilots (not just the wings) colliding at speed. Both deployed, one ended up in a tree (luckily), the other in the hospital (impacting hard apparently, alive but not moving much). And that was before the busy season.

The wheelchair doesn't care whose thermal it is, or who's planning a 100 miler, or who's a bigger numpty.

It does seem to be getting worse...

Bo Peep was pretty rammed but there's no excuse for the way some people are flying. Personally I always try to play it safe (and bottom land if it comes to it).

I was scratching along, with the ridge on my right (just a few feet off the ground, as it was pretty scratchy at the time); a guy was coming straight at me (Ozone Rush 2) and just didn't pull round me, until the very last minute.

We clipped wings (only slightly thankfully), which is utter madness. I asked him about it afterwards and encouraged him to act a lot earlier and give more room (plus reminded him of the ridge soaring rules). He said he thought I was giving a hand-gesture, that I was planning to pull out (although of course I was simply keeping pressure on the outside [windward] wing to keep me flying straight along the ridge). Daft and could have been dangerous (although if I'd have had an option I'd have got out his way regardless of the rules of the air).

At Caburn the previous weekend a guy turned hard'ish towards me, on an impact course and was merrily looking behind/below him with not a clue (I'm not sure what wing maybe an AirCross but not Windy John of course). I shouted out and strongly suggested he procreate somewhere else.

We seem to be "getting away with it" so regluarly that I desperately hope someone doesn't get severely punished for it.

Common-sense and politeness seem to go out the window with our sport, compounded by the huge number of pilots in our [Southern] club.

flying sparks's picture


It is only a matter of time.It's all most carnage sometimes , but not quite.luck is on our side......but only for a while! people get complacent until something shocks them into realization of how bloody dangerous this game that we play really is. lets hope its only a near miss that makes the majority wake up and that the learning curve continues and it isn't all in vain.

Pete B's picture

It Is getting worse

You beat me to it Shauny. Last Sunday was a bun fight and the outcome is going to be bad for some poor sod/s, 4 or 5 times I was blocked in a 360, 3 times by the same pilot who had no business being there. The ridge soaring was equally hazardous, I've got the ridge on my right low down and scratching when 3 gliders come at me line abreast, o.k I'll turn left or maybe I won't because another glider decides to tag along just behind and to my left, WTF do you want me to do? switch on the anti gravity unit I keep in my harness for these special occasions.
I replyed to a post on here way back about rules being for the obedience of fools etc. Cummon people, let's have a little more thought about what we are doing. I appreciate that some of us will be rusty and some of us will be newbies but sometimes there seems to be an awful lot of numpties. My dream is to climb out and 4-5 hours of XC later be sitting on Margate Beach with a beer in one hand while I pat myself on the back with the other, don't spoil it for me. Amen.

It was too busy

It was too busy. I had a mid air at the Dyke a few years ago where we were both very lucky to walk away. It was crowded but I thought I was up to it. Trouble is all it takes is a momentary lapse of concentration on a busy day and that's it.

I too was at Bo Peep last Sunday and had a go while there were only 7 in the air. I landed after about 5 minutes as i felt there just wasn't enough room for me to enjoy myself. I later counted 12 on the ridge before it got thermic, whilst I busied myself ground handling quite happy to be on terra ferma.

If it's good and thermic then by all means stick with it trying to get high, but if it's just ridge soaring give someone else a go and get some landing practice in.

It seems that most pilots

It seems that most pilots feel the same way here so what is going on? After all none of us wants to be hurt and we all want to lark about in the air dont we? There are are few things we can do to improve things.

Arrive early. I took of at 8.00am on that sunday at bo peep and had the entire ridge to myself for an hour in good conditions. ok so its too early to get away from the hill but lets face it, most people dont anyway most of the time but just boat about in the bowl. If you are a low airtime pilot this is a perfect chance to get some miles in before the mob arrives. Now I know that it is often too light to stay up first thing but it works both ways. I have often had the sky to myself for two hours only to find it blows out when the mob arrives.

Use the whole ridge. On this sunday about two miles of the ridge was soarable and where was everybody? yup in the bowl. As soon as it got busy I flew over the car park to the other side by the trig point. I was joined by four others and we had a great time for about three hours. I have lost count of the number of times this happens, either at the dyke or either of the firle sites. It realy is ok to leave the bowl guys.

Finaly I would also like to say that shouting and swearing at people is unnecessary and unpleasant. We are all human after all and sometimes people get in our way by honest mistake. Lets all give each other a bit of slack and a bit more room.


Sometimes there's room for n gliders in the air. I think there are some pilots who think that, if there's room for n gliders in the air, it's flyable, and I'm going to be one of the gliders in the air, and I'll just hope that the rest add up to no more than n-1. But sometimes the rest add up to n, or even n+x (where x=lots).

matt pepper's picture

The good old days

 when I  walked onto the hill as newbie I knew I knew jack shit. ( due to involvement in other adventurous sports) oh and Purdie telling me so...

 I knew to learn, I had to shut up and listen and not piss off the more experienced pilots as they were the guys who would throw me vital, some times critical points of advice when I needed it. I listened to what they said and learned from them. I understood why we have two ears and one mouth. Remember Back then there wasn't as many courses as there are now.

Flying with the more experienced pilots was a bit daunting at times, they had what you needed, knowledge and skill in something you knew nothing about that had the potential to break you very easily. You didnt want to get in their way let alone risk yours and their safety. If you landed after thermalling with the likes of Ghandi Tefal purdster carlo and  wagga watts and got the nod or a positive comment you knew you were moving towards being respected as a pilot by your peers,  In the good ol days there was a undeclared  hierarchy  i guess, but it regulated behaviour. Now shit piloting goes unchallenged and has made some potential very dangerous incidents common place. 

The practice of blocking thermalling pilots is common now  due to pilot ignorance . That is why I look for climbs out the front where the climb can only be shared by a competent pilot who is also away from the hill. I also very rarely fly in the winter when I have to share the ridge. 

Paragliding has become much safer and the performance has improved too giving people the chance to get in the way on mass.. I came into the sport as things were getting safer but I respected the activity enough to know I couldn't mix it up with people in climbs when I didn't have the skills to get close safely. I had someone flying at me the other day and their avoidance plan was to not look at me and hope I'd disappear!

It's a decline in pilot attitude with a splash of ignorance, now it's official I'm a grumpy old git!

Apologies for the rant but you started it steve. 

In defence of newbies

I agree with all the above. But...

Sometimes experienced pilots are happy to 360 near the ground, but others may not want to complete a 360, and should not feel pressured into doing so. They may also be afraid of going too far behind the hill.

Sometimes pilots can't turn back to avoid a thermalling pilot because it's too crowded behind them.

Yes, thermalling pilots should, as a public-spirited act, be given every possible chance to exploit that thermal -- but the fact that you're thermalling doesn't give you right of way over ridge-soaring pilots; the normal right-of-way rules still apply.

Being an experienced cross-country pilot doesn't give you right of way over Joe Bloggs. Your attempt to fly 50k is not intrinsically more important than Mr Bloggs's attempt to stay in the air for an hour (although it is, of course, helpful to everyone if you get up and away -- and if Joe lands for a cup of tea after half an hour).

Meanwhile, consider: the fact that lots of people are flying doesn't mean that it's safe for you to fly -- or even that it's safe for them to fly.

And I apologise for harping on about this again, but: I've been present at a fatal mid-air collision on a much bigger site than any of ours, when it was less crowded than our sites often get. Those two pilots aren't getting any more air time, or covering any more kilometres. It could so easily happen here. If it's too crowded, turn away from the hill, land at the bottom, and you'll soon be adding to your air time again.

paul plumber's picture

A bunch of 'individuals' is

A bunch of 'individuals' are probably the reason for this unsporting flying! Looked up last Sunday at bo peep from D Zoo and saw about 20 plus paragliders in one small thermal going up to about 1200 feet, all trying to avoid each other with a hope and prayer. Oh yes! and one hangglider trying to dodge through them all to stay in the lift band,at i say about 100 feet? It looked like a few didn't care about there own safety let alone any one elses.
Maybe worst is the ground handling.I basically got told to **** off last year when i asked two paraglider pilots not to take off at the dyke on the hangglider landing and take off zone, just below the ridge! I did take a picture of them both cos they pissed me off so much! Maybe i should download them? Another time, at the same place, a paraglider pilot just ignored me and tk off anyway, charming!! Must be related to my partner!!
Some one will get hurt obviously one day, hope it's not an innocent walker!!! Maybe we could do some summer club flying trip to get pilots into a group loved up feeling,

matt pepper's picture


Unfortunately the club is a collective of individuals.
With Many pilots flying in an ignorant and selfish manner.

That's why I rarely fly on southern sites, and if I do.. I'm way out front whenever possible.

Come up to the Dover and Folkestone sites one day stevie, or have a trip to Wales? And remind yourself of the good old days when being a minority made us a collective and manners went
Hand in hand with good airmanship.

I feel like a grumpy old man!

steveu's picture


Matt wrote:

Come up to the Dover and Folkestone sites one day stevie, or have a trip to Wales? And remind yourself of the good old days when being a minority made us a collective and manners went
Hand in hand with good airmanship.

If you come to the D&F you will hear/see some of the same attitudes about thermalling vs ridge soaring. Some pilots are "reluctant" to advance their own skill base and feel that those who have should be constrained to the same lack of opportunity.

Fortunately there are fewer pilots in Kent and once above them, they can be leeched off and used as thermal indicators.

The practice of blocking thermalling pilots is common now due to pilot ignorance . That is why I look for climbs out the front where the climb can only be shared by a competent pilot who is also away from the hill. I also very rarely fly in the winter when I have to share the ridge.

I agree whole heartedly with this.

Some pilots defend the "blocking" and whilst I accept that low airtime pilots need space to learn the skills, and we must give them this and other slack they need, I have little or no sympathy with those who over a period of 4, 8 or 10 years have made no effort to advance their skills to take in thermal flying. This is a soaring sport, and that's ridge and thermal and all pilots should be developing their skills towards all aspects of soaring.

Andrew wrote:

Yes, thermalling pilots should, as a public-spirited act, be given every possible chance to exploit that thermal -- but the fact that you're thermalling doesn't give you right of way over ridge-soaring pilots; the normal right-of-way rules still apply.

There's an interesting issue when a pilot in a right hand 360, at the side closest to the ridge ends up on a converging course with a pilot flying the ridge.....

Being an experienced cross-country pilot doesn't give you right of way over Joe Bloggs.

No one is saying it does, By the same token being Joe Bloggs isn't an excuse for flying without observational skills or doing the flying equivalent of snow plough on a narrow blue run blocking everyone else who wants to ski down the run.

Despite all this, the most important thing (which Andrew put very well) is avoiding the mid air - as he points out most of us who've been in the sport a while have either seen or worse been involved in dealing with a fatality.


Carole Sherrington's picture

Showing your age

This must have been before the Milton Friedman School of Pilotage became fashionable.
"We should all have our heads examined"
"That's rule number four!"

andyh's picture

John Maynard Keynes

lived in Firle

ScottD's picture

yes it would

be very nice indeed thanks