Safety Notes September 2023

By Brian Stewart on  September 19, 2023 11:30

It’s been a fairly quiet year as far as incidents go so far . . . Probably tempting fate by writing that, but I don’t believe in that nonsense, so there.

Equipment Checks

We all do these, don’t we? Daily inspection, pre-flight checks etc. One of our members received a harness with his reserve re-packed back from a well-known PG service centre. During a pre-flight check the bridle zipper was seen to be starting to open and was re-closed. This happened again at the next flight. Further checking showed a mistake in re-packing the reserve and closing the container. AFAIK this is still unresolved between the pilot and the service centre. This shows the importance of doing your own inspections and checks every time you launch. You know it makes sense.

Another recent incident involved a near-miss for a member when one set of risers became trapped inside the carabiner of the opposite riser. Fortunately, he was sufficiently aware to abort the launch before getting lifted too far, but still got dragged. The carabiners in this case were the screwgate type, not the more common twist-lock gate, which require two separate actions to unlock the gate (slide and twist). The screwgates on both carabiners had not been tightened up to lock, so were both free to open. Again, this shows how important it is to include such a check in your list if you have these carabiners. Also remember the advice about replacing carabiners every 5 years or 500 flight hours. As they are subject to repeated load cycles the alloys used in them will work-harden over time and become brittle.

Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team

Earlier this year the CVSRT got in touch to find out more about our sport and the equipment we use. It’s the eastern sites like Blackstone Edge, Nont Sarah’s and Pule that are more likely to be within their region, and it’s the recent increase in use of these sites that has brought us to their attention. They had a couple of calls from concerned members of the public reporting PGs in distress. Despite searching, including with helicopter, they found nothing but wanted to know more.

Mark Shaw, BHPA Technical Officer came up to their Mytholmroyd HQ las week and gave them a presentation about our sport which I attended, covering all aspects from speed flying to powered hang gliding. It was interesting to find how little they knew of what we do – the outsider’s view that we’re a bunch of reckless thrill-seekers wasn’t so prevalent (much more respect for us as fellow users of the outdoors) – but the realisation that we actually fly distances was quite an eye-opener for some. A useful lesson learned that our activities are not confined to specific locations. Their HQ is very impressive, and the team all turned out in their mountain rescue kit – they are a very professional organisation with 45-50 registered responders with a wealth of medical knowledge and expertise between them. One subject that we discussed at length was the issue of alerting soaring pilots to the arrival of a helimed. The MRT members all carry smoke flares – these are deployed to guide the heli to the spot and indicate wind conditions. The suggestion that one could be set off as soon as the heli was requested will be carried forward by Mark to the BHPA with a view to establishing a code of practice.

This was a very useful evening, and was great for making contact with the people who do such great work on the ground saving lives.

Tight lines, everyone

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