Safety Notes March 2022

By Brian Stewart on  March 23, 2022 17:13

Spring Thermals

It’s spring again, time of rough, broken bullet thermals popping off from a hill near you. Do be especially careful on those sunny days after a frosty night when the lapse rates will be extreme and you can get caught by these ground-to-air missiles, particularly after a long winter lay-off. Turbulence close to the ground can lead to unrecoverable situations, so active flying is essential. If you are rusty or have limited experience, avoid the roughest times of the day – seek advice from coaches and more experienced pilots

Thermalling behaviour

Sites are going to be busy, with hordes of keen pilots itching to get up and away; old-timers and newbies mixing in close proximity. We’ve already had a very near-hit between a hang glider and a paraglider on Parlick (video on Flight Club if you haven’t seen it). I’m aware of some sub-prime thermalling techniques too, and while the individuals concerned have had discussions there are some lessons for us all as we polish our flying skills. Without going into the rules of the air (you know them off by heart, don’t you?) the ultimate responsibility is for all pilots to avoid a collision.

Joining thermals: turn the same way! Always. No exceptions. Approach around the outside and merge in well behind other gliders at your level.

Observation: swivel head, swivel eyes, look around constantly, anticipate others’ manoeuvres. If someone is flying unpredictably, then the smart thing to do is to get out of there, and try to educate them over a pint later.

Converging thermals:, if your thermals start to merge, this is a moment of extreme danger if you are both turning the same way; as your circles start to overlap you will be flying head-on to each other! You need to be hyper-aware of circles closing like this and be prepared to straighten up as you approach the other circle, to merge around the outside. Don’t blunder on thinking ‘this is my thermal, I was here first!’

Jacob shared this video (not his own!), neither pilot was hurt , but there are so many learning points to take away from this, and the discussion following.

Changing conditions:

Last Friday was a good day on Parlick, once the inversion lifted but there were traps for the unwary. One pilot got caught behind Wolf Crag in the east bowl with too little altitude and had a turbulent landing on the moor. Wolf can be a rough place even in front of and above the main ridge, and is almost certain to generate rotor and rough air behind the edge. The moors at the back can be great sources of lift, but you need the height to clear the rotor.

Later there was an outlanding to the west of the official landing field, when a pilot, trying to find some forward speed in the increasing wind went too far west of the hill, and couldn’t get back against the easterly component. We’ve all been there, but it’s vital to keep your eye on conditions as they evolve, and have plenty of options.

Tight lines, everyone.


First Aid Day

By Brian Stewart on  January 30, 2022 11:36

A dozen of us were treated to an excellent day of first aid training in the Chipping Village Hall on Saturday 29th Jan. Dave Watt, a front-line paramedic with decades of hands-on experience of dealing with the whole range of medical emergencies gave us a full day of practical guidance on how to keep our fellow pilots (and others) alive. All agreed afterwards that it had been a brilliant experience, and even the ‘old hands’ learned a whole load of new things. There is no substitute for days like this for keeping your skill levels up and reminding you of the priorities when faced with an emergency, and the PSC are happy to support all members taking these steps to update their skills for the benefit of us all.

There will be another course on February 26th. This is almost full but if you want to go on the waiting list, email as soon as possible.


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.


Pilot Lecture 2 – 17th January 2022

By Brian Stewart on  January 18, 2022 16:46
Pilot Lecture 2 – 17th January 2022

Metoerro, Mereteology, Meterelegy Weather

An excellent turnout of Pilot candidates attended a presentation at the Sea View as part of our series of talks preparing members for their exam. Our own Jacob Cleverley treated us to a thoroughly-researched presentation on the complex topic of weather, or ‘met’ as real aviators call it – Jacob should know, he works with the best.

This is a demanding, complex area of theory and Jacob’s presentation cut through the dense scientific theory to make it understandable by everyone and will have given all who attended a very thorough grounding. Highlighting several of the topics, Jacob was able to give practical examples relating to local sites and his own experiences flying them. However, the old hands in the ‘naughty corner’ at the back of the room could have done without being shown what the East coast looks like from 3500’.

A big thank you from the club and especially the Pilot candidates. We look forward to reading of their successes in the near future.

Download presentation as PDF