Safety Notes March 2023

By Brian Stewart on  March 6, 2023 16:43

It’s a new season, so here’s some wise words gratefully borrowed from Wayne Smith, DSC Safety Officer.

As the weather is giving opportunities to fly again, you're probably thinking it's time to end that Winter lay-off (if you haven't already). Some safety musings before you head out to try and find somewhere remotely near Parlick to park…


· You’ve repacked your reserve, yes? Your reserve should be checked \ re-packed at regular intervals as outlined in manufacturer’s manual. In absence of this, BHPA recommends every 6 months.

· Servicing – your glider should be checked \ serviced at regular intervals as outlined in manufacturer’s manual. In absence of this, BHPA recommends every 12 months. Your harness, too – make sure the mice haven’t taken up residence in it.

· Remember your pre-flight checks


· Spring time can produce strong thermals due to cool nights and warm days.

· Be aware that turbulent air can also be caused by wind shear and marked boundary layers.

· When you arrive at the site, you’re not simply checking if the conditions are flyable – are they flyable for you? Better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than in the air wishing you were on the ground...


· Try to get some ground handling in after the Winter layoff. This will help re-awaken your muscle memory and get your “feel” for your glider back.

· Be prepared to help out fellow pilots – e.g. if they’ve fluffed launch and are being dragged, grab a wing-tip to get the glider under control

· We’re all fallible - give yourself and others extra space for errors on take-off.

In the air

· Pilots in contention both turn right, unless hampered by geography, in which case…

· Give way to the pilot with the ridge on their right

· Join a thermal in the direction of rotation of pilots already established in it

· Don’t turn aggressively in thermals close to the ridge

· Monitor your position over the ridge – if drifting back, be ready to use speed-bar while you still have plenty of height to get back into ridge lift


· You checked whether your landing site is affected by lambing closures before you launched, right?

· Give yourself more height than usual over the landing site – height = time & options

· When planning a top-landing, fly the ridge first to evaluate the air you will be landing in

· You’re down! It’s been an epic first flight of the season. You’re stoked. Amazing. Now clear the landing field as quickly as possible – pack up at the side to give others room to land

Usually, there will be Club Coaches on the hill – speak to them, for they’re a lonely \ lovely bunch and will be happy to offer advice and assistance

Have a great start to the season and fly safe

Tight lines, everyone

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