Safety Notes August 2022

By Brian Stewart on  August 31, 2022 09:11

Base of Support.

If you’re a subscriber to Cross Country Mag, you may already have viewed their two recent Masterclass presentations by SIV and Glider Control guru Malin Lobb. They may appear on YouTube sometime, but don’t seem to be up yet, except for this excellent snippet:

In the full masterclasses presentations, he goes into a great deal of detail about glider control in adverse situations – these alone are worth the magazine subscription I think. In this excerpt he describes the importance of your ‘base of support’ and how to use your harness to keep your body under control when your glider is trying to throw you around. Basically, maintaining your back support by carefully adjusting your harness, tucking your legs, and spreading your thighs to give you a firm base while reducing your moment of inertia (less risk of a twist).

Elsewhere in the talks he constantly refers to this, keeping your body firmly place in the harness, reducing the temptation to use your arms as levers or balancing aids. There are two main problems here:

  • ·Waving your arms around to try to maintain balance. It’s a natural thing to do when you’re trying to walk a tight rope, but your brakes are in your hands, so you are putting random brake inputs into the glider, which is a very bad idea when you are trying to rescue any departure from normal flight
  • ·Using the risers to hold on to. Again, very natural if you are on a swing, but it delays your ability to react quickly and make the accurate control inputs needed. I found this out in an earlier SIV course when I was getting collapses doing wingovers. It was Johann that spotted I was grabbing the risers, which affected my timing. It took some practice to stop doing this, as I wasn’t aware I did it at all.


We sometimes share some very crowded bits of space with our neighbours from the Bowland Forest Gliding Club. Their sleek fibreglass aircraft can appear very quickly and be almost invisible head on. It shouldn’t need saying that keeping a very sharp lookout is essential whenever they are operating (and when they’re not). A recent incident was reported that one of their single-seaters came very close to a paraglider, and took avoiding action. Clearly close enough to cause a lot of concern to those who saw it.

What is really good about this incident is that rather than start up a social media debate about rights and wrongs, the pilot affected contacted me as Safety Officer. After a discussion with my BFGC counterpart (who is also a PSC member and very experienced HG and PG pilot) a meeting was arranged between the two pilots. Both were able to put their concerns to each other in a very measured and constructive way. From the sailplane pilot’s point of view, he was able to see how being so close would cause concern, while the PG pilot got an insight into just how manoeuvrable sailplanes are and how quickly they can change height and direction. As a bonus he got a flight in a sailplane and was able to see the view from the cockpit, sharing thermals with some PGs and doing the Totridge run. Sailplanes, hang gliders and paragliders have been mixing it in the Parlick bowls for decades now – it’s worth remembering that only the more experienced BFGC pilots are allowed to enter these places when there are foot-launched aircraft flying, unless they are under instruction.

They can change height and direction much more rapidly than we can, but it is always the responsibility of both pilots to avoid getting into a situation where a collision is possible, so both need to keep a sharp lookout and think further ahead when flying together due to their much higher speeds.

Safety concerns every one of us, and it’s good to know that we can have these discussions without pointing fingers, laying blame or shouting at each other. Next time you get cut up in a thermal, or think another pilot has endangered you in some way, please take time to think about it before launching into aggression or uploading your video. Every day should be a school day for all of us, we can all learn something from every event.

We’re planning a joint ‘Sharing the Sky’ event with BFGC in which we can all get together (PG, HG and sailplanes) to learn about the similarities with and differences between each other’s sports. Coming soon . . .

Safety Notes July 2022 - Part deux

By Brian Stewart on  July 18, 2022 15:43

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

Safety Notes July 2022

By Brian Stewart on  July 6, 2022 10:18

A couple of things to write about this month, a bit of a long read so strap in . . .

First up – Pre-flight checks.

We all know we need to check very carefully that every bit of our flying machine is in perfect condition for every flight (including ourselves . . .). We all do this every launch, don’t we? Here’s a report from an incident that went well but could have ended badly. Not me, but a very experienced and skilful pilot, and I don’t need to add anything as he has carefully analysed what happened and offered very useful tips on how to avoid this.

This was a typically busy day at Col de la Forclaz take off. I had launched from here earlier in the day where other pilots had told me to hurry up, so there was a certain amount of pressure.

On this launch, I unpacked and checked my glider and lines in the pen behind the launch area, clipped in and bunched the glider up to walk to launch. I did not observe any knots or issues with the lines. When a space was available in the launch area, I laid out the wing and prepared for launch as quickly as I could, due to the time pressure. I did do a test inflation ("building a wall") but this wasn't sufficient to fully check the status of the lines.

I then carried out a reverse launch. After turning and braking the wing, I did notice the right brake felt stiffer than normal. However, I was committed to the launch and did so. Once airborne I noticed a knot on the right hand side involving an A, C and brake lines. The inner portion of the right hand side of the wing was braked (trailing edge deflected), but fortunately this did not generate a large turning moment and the wing was stable and controllable.

I did attempt to undo the knot with brake input, a decision I regret as it could have made things worse, but fortunately did not. After I got over this urge, I took better actions by flying away from terrain, heading straight for the landing field and only carrying out left hand turns to reduce the risk of spinning the wing.

The landing at Doussard was uneventful, and the knot released as soon as the wing was unloaded, so I could not inspect it! I checked the lines and glider for any damage, but there the lines were fine and ground handling the glider was normal. I flew again later that day and all was well. I felt very lucky, it would have only taken one more realised hazard to have created a more severe incident or an accident.

Lessons I've considered:

- I had never had a knot in my lines in flight, so it shows complacency and that past success does not equal continued success

- Never rush pre-flight checks no matter what external pressures there are

- Check lines much more thoroughly before inflating the wing, particularly when launch conditions do not enable ground handling of the wing before committing

- Abort launch if something isn't right

- If knotted, don't try to recover it by pulling lines as it is unlikely and potentially risky

- I've changed how I bunch up the wing, by putting each loop of lines between the next two fingers and releasing in the reverse manner, making it much less likely to become knotted. From the rest of the trip, this has worked well.

Thermalling and Ridge Soaring

I’ve been asked to write something following some conflicts between pilots circling and ridge soaring. Both are essential skills and both are equally important and neither the ridge soaring pilot nor the circling one have any special rights. If everyone joins the thermal, and turns the same way, no problem. If it’s a ridge soaring day, provided some sort of order is set up about which beat is closer to the hill, equally problem-free. The issues arise when someone starts to turn in a thermal, close to the hill while others are using ridge lift. It’s easy to get focused on using the thermal to climb, that’s what we all want but the turning pilot needs to be fully aware of those who may not want to join in at that moment; a glider turning a circle close to the hill suddenly presents a massive obstacle to a ridge soaring wing. Equally the ridge soaring pilot needs to be aware that if a thermal comes along then pilots are going to turn in it, and mustn’t just blithely continue beating back and forth. No-one has priority, except to avoid a collision. It’s all part of being a pilot, and being aware of what everyone else is doing. I’ve been pointed towards the excellent 50k or Bust by Nigel Page – I have a copy and refer to it a lot, and several of his sources are in the public domain, and there is a wealth of good advice in there about this topic.

Tight lines, everyone

Safety Notes May 2022

By Brian Stewart on  May 11, 2022 12:38

Sadly we have had a serious incident involving serious injury to a paraglider pilot on Parlick, who unfortunately died a few days later, and our thoughts are very much with Philip’s family and friends and indeed all who were involved on the hill.

There will be a formal investigation into all the circumstances, and this is not the place to get into speculation about what happened, but I want to make some initial thoughts about what we can learn about managing incidents on the hills once they have happened. All of those dealing with it can hold their heads high for the exemplary way in which it was handled from start to finish, so now is the time to put together what might be useful guidance for such incidents in the future.

This will be a long and detailed message, I hope you will take the time to read it and consider what you could do immediately and what you could plan to do in the future to improve your chances of dealing successfully with a serious incident. We will shortly distil this into some succinct cards that people can carry in their wallets as a prompt list for emergencies.

Initial actions

If you are first on the scene, or witness a crash, remember the DRSABC mnemonic:

D – DANGER: is there danger to the casualty, to you, or to any third party? Think steep slope, power lines, flapping glider about to re-launch spontaneously (I have seen this happen to an unconscious pilot who then flew for several minutes more before the inevitable 2nd crash, producing much more serious injuries) water – waves or currents – and any other possible sources of peril. This is not a definitive list – each scenario will have its own dangers. Don’t grab flapping gliders by the lines with bare hands, grab the fabric; anchor hang gliders by the nose; don’t go jumping in and adding to the casualty list.

R – RESPONSE: this is the first step in establishing the level of consciousness of the casualty, but this is not the place to go into first aid training. Please consider going on a course every couple of years to keep up your skills.

S – SEND FOR HELP: Radio, Phone, Shout, Satellite.

ABC: this is covered by First Aid training – have you booked yourself on a course yet? The ability to recognise serious life-threatening conditions and possibly alleviate them could make all the difference in the first few minutes.

D and S imply that it is best not to rush straight to the scene of the incident, but to take a moment to consider DANGERS involved and how to SEND for help, but R requires you to get there quickly in case you are dealing with a blocked airway or other catastrophic condition such as massive haemorrhage or a need to stabilise a spinal injury. So, it’s a compromise between supplying aid quickly and taking enough time to prepare yourself for the task.

So, you’ve made it safe to approach, the casualty is breathing and not bleeding profusely. How will you call for help? Did you stop for a moment to collect your radio and phone before rushing to the victim? Her radio may be smashed. It’s a natural human response to want to get there asap, but it can save precious time if you can quickly gather them together to take with you. The radio and shouting can summon other pilots (and bystanders) to your aid.

Calling emergency services – we should all know the drill: 999, police, mountain rescue, fall from height, remote location etc. But where are you? You may have a note of the postcode where the cars are parked, or the location of the usual takeoff, but this is of little help if the casualty is miles away from there. Your flight deck may give you a precise location, but it may be ½ km away on your harness. If you do have it, do you know how to obtain your location in a form that emergency services can use? PRACTISE THIS NOW: on your phone. Make sure you can quickly get your location as:

  1. What3Words (W3W) Install What 3 Words on your phone, so you can quickly supply this information to the emergency controller if requested. This was asked for on this occasion and seems likely to be required more frequently in the future. Even without a data connection, you can obtain the W3W address. You will need a signal to be able to share it, but you may be able to use your radio to share it with someone who has one.
  2. OS 2-letter and 6-digit grid reference. OS Locate is an excellent app which can give you this, plus altitude, and allow you to share it via text or email. It also incorporates a compass if you have the right chip in your phone. Other apps are available.
  3. Lat Long in both decimal and degree/minute format. This seems less likely to be used by emergency services these days, but still worth having the ability to determine it. Pressing and holding your location pointer in Google Maps will display this. Presumably iPhones have a similar feature.
  4. Register for the 999 text messaging system. This enables you to send a call for help where the signal may be too weak or intermittent for a voice call. Simply send the word REGISTER to 999, wait for the reply and you will be able to use this service, or it will tell you that you are already registered. DO THIS NOW, don’t wait until you need it, it costs nothing and doesn’t use up your phone memory. Send a brief text stating: WHO you are; WHAT has happened (problem, state of casualty, number of injured); WHAT is needed; WHERE the location – use W3W, OS Grid, Lat Long if known; WHEN – how long ago. You should get a response text in a couple of minutes. If not, assume it hasn’t gone through and find another way to get help, maybe just a different phone.
  5. Consider a satellite communication device, especially if you and your companions are going anywhere where poor reception is likely. Garmin, InReach, Spot etc devices can enable you to call for help from virtually anywhere with a view of the sky. A few years ago, one of our own found himself in a serious situation on the deck, out of sight of human habitation with no signal or radio contact. Fortunately he survived the impact uninjured and could walk out, but in the circumstances any immobilising injury such as a broken ankle could have had life-threatening consequences. This wasn’t far away from our sites.


Ideally dealing with the emergency services should be undertaken by someone not directly involved with dealing with the casualty. Listen carefully to their questions – they have a script to follow. If possible, have someone else’s number available, ideally on a different network, to pass to the authorities. Try to write down information as it is given or record it on your phone.

This should be a team effort: the best organiser should do just that, the best first-aider should deal with the casualty and direct those supporting; send a fit pair to meet rescue with radio and phone. Support each other all the time with reassurance – keep an eye out for signs of stress.

Keep an eye on the casualty too, monitor their condition constantly, are they deteriorating or getting more confused? Are the helpers/bystanders OK? These situations are dynamic, and what was OK a few minutes ago can quickly go bad.


If a road ambulance is despatched and mountain rescue are able to transport the casualty over land, then spare bodies to carry equipment and assist in the rescue may be needed – try to gather some able-bodied helpers for this.

If a helicopter is incoming, it’s essential to try to clear the sky of pilots and secure all loose items on the ground. The heli may approach from any direction, and if it’s one of the big coastguard jobs it will have a massive disruption effect in the air, and Foreign Object Damage is a very real threat to aircraft. Radio and shouting may be the only way to communicate with pilots in the air – delegate this task to someone with a loud voice.

If you’re near a glider field or other aerial activity site, try to alert them of incoming helicopters.


A serious accident inquiry will require all the equipment – wing, harness, helmet, instruments to be secured for inspection. Someone should take responsibility for the kit, if only to ensure its safe return to the owner. Vehicles are another issue, if someone is taken to hospital, having their car taken home or to a safe place, is one less thing for them to worry about.


It is vital for learning from these experiences that incident reports are completed. A seriously injured pilot may not be able to submit theirs until later, but anyone can complete one. This doesn’t cause confusion – subsequent reports are appended to the original one, and it makes the task easier for those doing the investigation. So, if you saw it, or were involved afterwards, fill one in, even if you can only complete some of the data. The more people that do this, the more complete the picture becomes. Don’t assume that someone else will have done it, and do it as soon as possible while the memories are fresh and before they get corrupted by time and other opinions – trust your own recollections, try to be factual and avoid speculating on what might have happened.


Don’t neglect yourself. Traumatic incidents have a habit of coming back to you later, and can be very distressing. Don’t just push it aside, telling yourself to Man/Woman up. Maybe just talking it through with others will be enough, but be aware that you may need to look further for help. PTSD is real.

Still awake? Do these now:

  •  Install What3Words
  •  Install OS Locate or similar app to get Grid Reference
  •  Practise finding your location using your navigation software
  •  Register for 999 SMS
  •  Consider satellite comms
  •  Consider 1st aid course