Summer 2011

Steve Purdie's picture

Sorry, but this Safety Briefing is anything but brief and is really a concoction of several missives I have posted over the last few years, all of which remain painfully relevant today:

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?

It has been notable how close together everyone is flying nowadays.
Please do try to give each other more room.

Also it is important to 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.

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.

A number of pilots have 360'd into the hill recently. Fortunately
they had very nearly completed their turn and so got away with little more
than a suprise stop. I would hazard that in most cases this was not caused by
inexperience, but by a little rustiness from the poor weather. Do
take extra care flying at rising ground and remember that your skills will atrophy
suprisingly quickly if you don't fly every day.

Also, 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 maid out wing you
just trashed. With a paraglider it is never to late to be able to turn into wind,
just to late to choose to do so. In the same vein, don't attempt to land anywhere
near rigged hang gliders. The current batch cost an absolute fortune, which your
insurer would not be keen to pay.

Mind the Ice Cream Vans!

Collision avoidance:
1. If it is too crowded for you, don't launch.
2. If by launching you will make it too crowded for the pilots already airborne, don't launch.
3. Overtaking. It is the absolute responsibility of an aircraft performing an overtaking manoeuver to maintain clearance from the craft being overtaken. No pilot is expected to look far behind them before executing a turn. Try that on a 747 and see how much you can spot. The pilot is of course expected to check that a planned turn will not endanger another aircraft, but only by checking the space ahead, to the side and astern as reasonable. The vast speed differential of a hang glider compared to a paraglider can cause the hang glider to 'appear out of nowhere' to the perspective of a PG pilot being overtaken. Hang glider pilots should also be aware that the view of a hang glider flying straight at you is of a very thin white line and the top of someone's head, not the most visible of profiles.
4.If it is too crowded for you and you are in the air, make your way to an immediate safe landing.
5. Fly-on-the-wall landings are potentially very painful and expensive and should be avoided unless you have absolute confidence in your ability or no alternative option.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Hang gliders invariably find themselves overtaking paragliders if they are being flown together, imagine flying in a forest and you get the idea. For this reason the hang glider pilot needs to be doubly sure of their abilities before venturing into a cloud of paragliders. If there is a mid-air collision, evidence has shown that the hang glider pilot will normally come off worse, usually fatally so.
9. 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.
10. We used to also operate a hang glider half hour/paraglider half hour separation system. This has not been required of late because there have been few inexperienced hang glider pilots flying when the paragliders are present. If, as it would appear, we are now seeing an increase in the number of low airtime hang glider pilots then I see no reason that this system should not be re-instated, unpopular as it was...
If the system is reinstated, then any pilot can call for it to be brought into play. I'd suggest referring to a coach as there are plenty of them about now.
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.
The last SHGC mid-air collision between a hang glider and a paraglider occurred when no other gliders were in their immediate vicinity. (There were three gliders above them and no other present)
They were both working the same thermal and had been for a short while
with apparently acceptable separation.
The paraglider may have entered an area of stronger lift, climbed into
the path of the hang glider, who was unable to take evasive action
within the time available.
The hang glider struck the trailing edge of the paraglider with his
control frame and became enveloped/attached.
The paraglider pilot deployed their reserve, after which the craft
separated, with the hang glider inverted.
The hang glider pilot was able to regain control and make a safe
landing. The paraglider pilot landed with a significant downwind element
(Their main may have been providing some lift in that direction) and was
arrested by the barbed wire fence behind launch.
Neither pilot suffered any immediately apparent major injury.
The hang glider was not visibly damaged.
The paraglider suffered significant damage.
A couple of comments/lessons to be learned:
Paragliders are prone to involuntarily 'stopping' in mid-air and rising
violently in thermic conditions. Consequently hang gliders should avoid
thermalling within a short vertical separation. The same can be said for
Hang gliders have limited control in roll and yaw; paragliders should
avoid forcing them to explore those limits.
The hang glider pilot should really have deployed his reserve. It was
high enough to have deployed had he been able to throw it beyond the
disturbed air caused by his inverted wing. Having chosen not to deploy,
in this case, generated the best possible outcome. That would not
usually/necessarily have been the case. Certainly research has shown
that most fatal paraglider accidents could have been avoided by
deployment of the reserve.
When did YOU last pack your reserve? I recommend 3 month cycle - it
makes a huge difference!
This is the first HG/PG midair of which I am aware in that the HG pilot
survived... This was as a result of the high structural integrity of
the king-post-less glider when inverted and the consummate skill of the
pilot in recovering the situation.
This report does not seek to apportion blame.
The 'glider falling from the sky into me' scenario has troubled me for
years. More by the grace of God than anything else, this seems to be a very
unusual occurrence, even in competition where separation in thermals is
miniscule. I suspect that in part this is because we tend not to thermal
below people who are not in good control of their wings by virtue of
out-climbing them, but this is not a given.
I clearly recall tucking a HG in a thermal and losing several hundred feet,
while watching the PG below me perform a similar exercise and hit the
ground. Had he not done so, there is every possibility that I would have
taken him out anyway. There really is no safe distance to be below another
glider when thermalling, but the duty of care has to rest with the higher
pilot, who should at least scream if they are falling into another...(!)
As for an enveloped HG pilot being unable to deploy their reserve: In the
example in question, I suggested that the reserve could have been deployed
once they had separated and he was inverted. In the case of an enveloped
pilot, yes it would be very difficult to deploy. Therefore great care must
be taken to ensure that there is no mid-air collision in the first place!
To a hang glider pilot, paragliders are effectively flying trees. Given the
great disparity in speeds, the PG pilot can take little effective action to
recover an imminent collision with a HG. Therefore, they should exercise a
little respect and if there are HG struggling to climb out, they should give
them space. Equally, the HG should fly with consideration to the flying
characteristics of the PG.
Since the demise of the HG half hour, flying at the Dyke has become far less
stressful - If PG pilots do not give the HG guys a little space when needed,
then perhaps we should consider returning to this system?
- Desperation
Probably 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
at their 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...
- Sea Breeze
The sea breezes are well established now. 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. For this reason, you don't really want to be in the air flying at Mt. Caburn when the sea breeze actually arrives unless you are competent to go over the back with the convergence. 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. There have been numerous accidents over the years because of this.

As a relatively low airtime hang glider pilot, seeing an obstruction in no way
prevents me from hitting it. Please don't mess about or launch from the paddock if hang gliders are present, and certainly not if the red windsock is displayed.

There have been a number of injuries recently following attempted paraglider slope landings, which turned into controlled flight into terrain events. To hopefully reduce the incidence of these needless injuries please refresh your slope landing technique:
- Never approach the hill at an angle greater than 20 degrees to the slope.
- Maintain a contouring flight path as you flare. Do not turn away from the hill as you flare as you could drift 5m or more away from the ground before the stall occurs. Do not turn into the hill as it'll hurt.
- Slope land on the into-wind leg or the into-wind section of the hill. I.e., if the hill starts falling away the leg may gain an increasing downwind component.
- ALWAYS STAND PROPERLY WELL BEFORE THE LANDING This applies to all landings and means sliding off the seat and adopting a PLF position, with ankles directly below the shoulders and hips and the knees slightly bent.
- Under no circumstances lift your legs to land on your backside. EVER!
- If the landing looks too fast then turn away from the hill and continue flying. If this is not possible, be prepared to PLF.
- Having slope landed, if collapsing your wing is proving difficult, aim to fly it forwards in a controlled manner into the ground. Once on the ground and facing down, release the brakes to stop it flogging.
If you still have issues with slope landing, or for that matter, top landing, see your instructor or a coach.
Fly safe!

Exerts fromCAP 393:
Avoiding aerial collisions
8.—(1) Notwithstanding that a flight is being made with air traffic control clearance 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.
(2) An aircraft shall not be flown in such proximity to other aircraft as to create a danger of
(3) Subject to sub-paragraph (7), aircraft shall not fly in formation unless the commanders of the
aircraft have agreed to do so.
(4) An aircraft which is obliged by this Section 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.

11.—(1) Subject to paragraph (3), 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.
Approaching head-on
10. 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.
Order of landing
13.—(1) 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. [But the other pilot needs to know that you are landing! S.P.]
(2) An aircraft shall not overtake or cut in front of another aircraft on its final approach to land.
(4) If the commander of an aircraft is aware that another aircraft is making an emergency
landing, he shall give way to that aircraft.
(6) Subject to paragraphs (2), (3) and (4), 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
Landing and take-off
(3) If take-offs and landings are not confined to a runway—
(a) when landing a flying machine or glider shall leave clear on its left any aircraft which has
landed, is already landing or is about to take off;
(b) a flying machine or glider which is about to turn shall turn to the left after the commander
of the aircraft has satisfied himself that such action will not interfere with other traffic
movements; and
(c) a flying machine which is about to take off shall take up position and manoeuvre in such
a way as to leave clear on its left any aircraft which has already taken off or is about to
take off.
(4) Subject to paragraph (5) a flying machine shall move clear of the landing area as soon as it is
possible to do so after landing.

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Paul_Rankin's picture

Summer 2011... overcrowding & mixed flying

Thanks Steve for your important safety reminders about overcrowding and mixed flying. I fully support all your points.
After > 30years of hang gliding in the ‘Southern Zoo’, it seems more dangerous than ever in our, most crowded of UK sites. I agree, unless there some changes are made, a death is likely. A few points to add from a HG pilot’s perspective:
- A weekend day about a month ago I counted 25 PG wings flying different patterns in front of the Dyke hotel (the wind wasn’t on for the longer Truleigh ridge). This is simply stupid. Giving each other more space means less wings in the air. Although the conditions were reasonable at the time, any down cycle brings big problems. For a HG pilot, the thought of launching into this crowd is a nightmare. We’ve all seen photos of large numbers of pilots up together in competitions, BUT these are competition-level pilots in big air, not the mixed abilities in the Southern Club. It’s very hard to keep many wings’ trajectories at once in your head.
- Not everyone seems to know the right-hand thermalling recommendation from the current SHGC sites guide, page 7, “Rules of the Air”: “5 – Thermalling:
First pilot chooses direction and others follow. NB: Circle only to the right below 1500ft amsl on all SHGC sites to maximise safety in crowded conditions.” (1500 amsl, is about 800' above Dyke. But, of course don't join a thermal against the R or L direction that has already been set up!)
- Mixed PG and HG flying is now more prevalent. While rigids soon get above all PG’s (and HG’s!) the increased performance of modern PG’s means that HG pilots find it more difficult to outclimb them in lighter conditions.
- Overtaking during ridge soaring: the preference is that the overtaking pilot does so on the side closer to the hill (so the other pilot can always turn out from the hill). As the faster HG pilot, it’s a big worry that the PG pilot may not be aware at all of the HG coming behind and turn in to land back on the hill, ie in the path of the HG. (If there’s a HG up, the PG pilots’ need to be constantly checking on its flight path is appreciated).
- Scratching in light winds: With only one type of wing up, a soaring circuit along the hill, out and back is usually set up. In mixed flying, often PG pilots appear to the HG pilot to hover in the best patches of lift. It’s then very hard for the HG to get any sniff of ridge lift during a pass along the hill to stay up.
- On the last mid-air which Steve mentioned: Both pilots share the blame for any mid-air or close encounter, esp. in this case in allowing more vertical separation and anticipating the other wing’s difference in performance/limitations. In this case, both HG and PG were initially thermalling diametrically opposite in wide 360 circles about 80’ above the hill in light conditions, with the HG above the PG. It’s possible that the PG pilot then instinctively radically tightened his turn to core the best lift, so gaining height rapidly. The result was that the HG pilot suddenly found the PG facing away in his path, with only 2-3 secs to react, despite constantly looking round over his shoulder (c.f. driving on the motorway and having a car pull out at 10mph in front of you). The HG pilot, control frame enveloped by the top of the PG canopy, had no clear air to throw his reserve until separation after the inversion/loop, with the HG then up 90 deg. on a wing, heading VERY fast towards the hill, lower wing tip 20’ above the top. Survival, let alone without injury, was a miracle. Normally it must be stressed that throwing your reserve must be the FIRST response. In this extremely singular case, it would not have opened in time and deployment may have been disastrous.
I welcome more discussion on these topics and proposals to make Southern Club’s flying safer and so more enjoyable.

one for teh mag

Steve please submit this to the SHGC mag, that way every member will read & hopefully digest this important info