Latest Safety Notices

Steve Purdie's picture

Safety Matters May 2008

Accepted wisdom is that a water landing is typically fatal, though this has been disproved on several occasions by our members, it is only a matter of time before someone DOES DROWN unless we all change our ways. The added buoyancy of the back protector in the harness usually holds the pilot face down in the water. Also the 400 metres or so of super-strong string is very effective at binding the pilot’s arms and legs to stop them swimming.

Whenever you are flying anywhere that there is a significant risk of landing in water you are well advised to wear a life jacket. Given the weather of this could be construed as every site we have, but really we mean the maritime sites. Locally this is Newhaven and Beachy, plus a few unlisted sites. Wearing a life jacket does not make a water landing acceptable, but it does improve your chances of survival. The best thing you can do is to never land in the water in the first place! To achieve this is quite simple:

• Don’t try to soar the harbour arm.
• Don’t fly out of reach of a safe landing.
• Don’t fly beyond the point when the wind is off to the south east.
• Don’t fly beyond the point when the tide is in, or coming in.
• Don’t fly when it is so crowded that there is not enough room to stay up.

Another hazard of cliffs and arêtes is of course the rotor. A new pilot was very lucky to escape with his life, let alone his legs unbroken recently when he strayed too far back and became pinned above the bungalows at Newhaven. A simple rule is that if you cannot see all the way down the face of the cliff to the beach, then you are too far back.

If you find yourself pinned in a hazardous position, then your best method for penetrating forwards is to:
• Point directly into wind; do not make any turns, swoops or other manoeuvres.
• Make sure that you have absolutely NO BRAKE applied – release any wraps.
• Consider using the accelerator while you are above any turbulent air. Big ears used in conjunction with the bar will allow you to fly fast in mild turbulence. Big ears alone will slow you down and seal your fate. Accelerator alone used low down in turbulence will also seal your fate.
• Get into the PLF position; the extra offset drag created will make the glider fly a little faster and if you do get a beasting, you may land on your feet and be able to PLF.

May, or even June will be with us by the time you read this. Allegedly we will be experiencing a warm but rather wet summer. If this is the case then we need to be aware of the formation of orographic cloud; wisps of cloud start to form very close to the hillside, followed by a very rapid blooming of cloud which can easily envelop the unwary flyer. If you spot telltale wisps then land immediately!

Given the very poor start to the year the biggest hazard is inevitably going to be rusty flying skills – I have flown on every possible day and I feel rusty, heaven help those who have not flown yet this year! Please give each other more consideration that usual and don’t assume that there is enough airspace left for you to fly.

Trees – the tree landing season will be upon us so remember, don’t risk falling out, make sure you are well and truly roosted.

You won’t live long enough to make all the mistakes, so learn from others.
Fly safe and keep having fun!
Steve Purdie

admin's picture

Spring Safety Briefing 2008 (was 2007!)

At last. It's that time of year again. The thermalling season has started!

We've already had some strongish thermal activity, though this has been limited so far by thin cirrus filtering the sun a bit - even Caburn at lunch-time in sea air has been relatively benign. But, look out for the next cold night and really clear day...

Things To Remember

Despite being at its warmest for years, seasonally speaking the sea is at its coolest now, so there may not be much of an early morning land-breeze to give you an indication of the impending wind; pay attention to the forecast and upper wind-speeds.

The air at night still gets pretty cold at this time of year, but the morning sun now has a bit of punch and will rapidly produce a shallow super-adiabatic layer with small parcels of air going both up and down quite fast. Within about half an hour this layer will deepen and flows will become more organised and suitable for soaring.

Surface heating will gradually raise the temperature to the point at which the wind can get down to ground level and, as you catch sight of the first cumulus of the day, a gusty surface wind will start. Thermals going up start to cause downdraughts coming down to fill the 'holes' and these sinking parcels of air bring their upper-level wind momentum with them adding to the gustiness and sharp direction changes of the air at flying levels. Average climb rates will leap from the 2-400 fpm of the last few weeks to 800fpm or more. Downdraughts will increase in similar magnitude.

Be prepared to get gusted off the ground during your launch or whilst ground-handling and don't forget to sit on a wing tip when parked. If you leave your glider, make sure it is securely bundled under the weight of your harness.

Crowded Skies

This is one of the seasons when over-crowding can get to be a real problem. Lots of pilots, all scrabbling for the same small thermals, some of them insufficiently experienced, others out of practice, others totally oblivious of the conditions. If you have the opportunity to go elsewhere to fly, now is the time!

The problem is not so much that there will be more fliers because the sun has come out, but is more due to increased instability and typically small spring thermals. In this kind of air we all need more room to allow a safe margin. Add a couple of wingspans extra horizontal clearance and do not take your vertical separation for granted; gliders can change height very rapidly. You can find yourself only a few feet away from someone who is climbing at over 1000fpm when you are literally falling out of the sky.

Allow space for the pilot in front of you to circle and centre in thermals. Make it clear that you are giving way by making a slight turn to one side, holding off, then joining behind them. They will afford you the same courtesy when it is your turn.

Sea Breeze Fronts

Spring sea breezes are generally patchy broken affairs, often more of a curse than a blessing. Onset may be sudden and with little warning, though there is usually a flurry of intensified thermal activity just ahead of the front. As the season progresses they tend to develop as more organised large-scale flows and may even stretch for some miles in straightish lines. In these conditions the wind will gradually back and decrease as a SW sea breeze front gets nearer, finally increasing sharply just before the front comes through. Look for vertical movement in the approaching curtain cloud. If this is rapid or disorganised, stay well clear.

As a rough guide, I would not recommend you to play with sea breeze fronts at low level unless you have some hundreds of hours and are current on your wing. If however, you have good height when the front comes through, go with it and enjoy!

Ian Grayland