A couple more things to write about this month, as a sort of follow up to the earlier notes. Your safety officer has once again been out there, up there, trying out all the various ways in which a paraglider pilot can get into trouble. This is an entirely free service on behalf of the members of the PSC.
Last issue dealt with what can go wrong when your pre-flight check fails to reveal a knot in your lines, so to go one better I tried not one, but TWO knots. This came about after a sweaty hot morning sweltering on Bradwell waiting for the day to get going. The bemused faces of the shorts-and-T-shirt wearing walkers seeing 50 odd potential heatstroke victims, dressed in polar exploration layers, balaclavas, thick gloves etc were a sight to see. After my third clip-in, sweat-out, strip-off I was ready to go, but my wing wasn’t – during all the moving around it was in a bit of a state, but I built my wall and all looked good. First gaggle had already launched and were climbing, so time to get off the pot . . .
Gentle lift of the A’s, wing comes up and immediately rolls and yaws to the right, so I had to hop a few steps to correct it. Another look at the lines, all seemed OK, so maybe just me being clumsy (not unusual), or a bit of a change in wind direction, Error number 2 (Error 1 was not noticing anything wrong before launching). Off we go, turning right along the hill, all OK until I wanted to turn back, left brake a bit heavy, glider unwilling to go that way without me hanging out of the harness. Error number 3 was not landing immediately as there was something wrong, even if I couldn’t see it.
I found a bit of lift along with Simon, who was shouting at me, but I couldn’t see why as I wasn’t in his way. We climbed a bit and while I knew the glider wasn’t right, it all seemed controllable, and I started looking around the harness and riser to see what was wrong. Once away from the left-turning thermal, I was able to get into a right-turn mode, and the glider was fine, if a little bit too enthusiastically diving into the turns, so I carried on, bumbling over the back until I climbed out at Hathersage/Curbar joined by Jacob.
Now we’re cooking, an expert XC pilot to follow. Top of the climb off he goes, so I follow. Now I know he’s a much better pilot, on a better wing, but that didn’t explain why he left me standing. Have another good look at the lines, oh yes, there we are: wing tip brake lines tangled in 2 places, still not easy to see but I should have spotted them right back at the start. So, crippled glider that doesn’t really want to fly, and thoughts in my head about the consequences: recipe for landing, which all went fine, no issues. And of course the knots resolved themselves as soon as the tension came off the lines.
In my defence, I don’t recall ever launching with a knot in the lines, so didn’t really know what it would feel like. Anyway, here’s my suggestions for avoiding this issue in the future:
· When building the wall, have a really good look at all the lines, not just a casual glance
· As you launch, look for any unusual behaviour. Yaw or roll, or reluctance to rise could all be due to pilot input error or a change in wind speed or direction, but they could be signs of knotted lines.
· To avoid being hoofed up by an unflyable wing, kill it at the first sign of trouble and start again.
· If it does get to the point of being above your head, have another really good look before committing
· And if you get into my situation flying a wing that is compromised, head for a nice safe landing spot sooner rather than later.
I was given a tale recently about a pilot losing height away from the hill, and slowly descending to land in a field some way out in front, not a normal place. The pilot didn’t move, left the wing laid out in the field for long enough for those flying to become extremely concerned. Radio calls went unanswered, so someone went to investigate only to find our outlander having a power nap.
Please everyone, when you land, whether in the landing field or away, first job is to gather you glider up. You never know who is watching, concerned for your safety, so gathering up your wing and walking away, just a short distance, is a clear signal that all is well. Radios are not perfect, but much better to have one, tuned to a frequency that at least one other person on the hill can receive. Referring to my own incident, several people tried to warn me by radio (and shouting, but that never seems to work) that I had a problem, but it seems I have a connector problem that intermittently silences my earpiece. Not the first time it has caused a problem . . . .
Tight lines, everyone