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

Repack 27th March 2022

By Carl Fairhurst on  March 28, 2022 12:14

A big thanks to Barry Sayer for organising this at the Chipping Village hall on Sunday.

We had a morning and an afternoon session with Guy Richardson from Ginger Nomad who gave us all the benefit of his expertise to have a repack session.  His guidance in interpreting the sometimes unclear packing instructions and a combination of instruction and demonstration ensured that everyone was able to get their reserves ready for the new season.


Safety Notes January 2022

By Brian Stewart on  January 18, 2022 18:35

Happy New Year everyone

Cognitive Bias

WTF’s that? In simple terms a cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them and affects the decisions and judgments that they make. Whenever we launch, this is the culmination of a sequence of decisions that may have begun with a weather forecast several days ago. While we are flying we are constantly taking in information, processing it and making decisions and judgements based on this data, so some understanding of how cognitive bias can leas us into bad choices may be useful.

Attentional and Anchoring biases will lead us into fixing on the first bit of information we get – e.g. the forecast for 3 days ahead shows light winds, and not looking again; or only paying attention to some things and ignoring others – such as a nice 10 mph breeze on the hill but not looking at the 20+ mph wind at 45 degrees 500’ higher. A Confirmation Bias can lead us into only looking at sources of data that confirm our original judgement.

Optimism Bias is fairly self-explanatory, and links with the Dunning-Kruger effect which describes how people believe they are smarter and more competent than they really are (we all know that person, don’t we?), leading to over-confidence.

Halo effect – when you see your favourite skygod having fun in the sky doesn’t mean it’s OK for you.

Do you attribute your mate’s great flight to just luck, while your success is pure skill; or your bomb-out was someone else’s fault for distracting you? If you shout at another pilot for being too close, are you always sure you’re in the right? Or if you are the one getting the abuse, do you analyse the situation calmly afterwards to see if you could have done something differently?

This is just a sample of the complex web of biases that psychologists study to try to guide people into better decision-making.

Challenging your biases. Even the psychologists accept that despite knowing all about them, they are just as likely as anyone to be led into their traps, but the ability to recognise them goes a long way towards being able to remove the from your decision making. What are some factors you have missed? Are you giving too much weight to certain factors? Are you ignoring relevant information because it doesn't support your view?  Thinking about these things and challenging your biases can make you a more critical thinker. Be aware of your over-confidence – can you dispassionately analyse your own strengths and weaknesses? Identify the risks you take – have they become just bad habits that you’ve got away with, so far? Set aside time to consider your decisions – good and bad.

Here’s a link to a video of a flying encounter. The pilot doing the filming later spoke to the chap on the blue and yellow wing who said he thought there was plenty of room based on his “20-years’ experience relative to an obvious novice”. I leave it to you to think about the cognitive biases that may be in play here.

Tight lines, everyone.


Getting Back in the Air

By Carl Fairhurst on  March 19, 2021 11:44

Jocky Sanderson has done a useful YouTube video about getting back into the air.