Jocky Sanderson has done a useful YouTube video about getting back into the air.
Jocky Sanderson has done a useful YouTube video about getting back into the air.
It's been a strange and frustrating year for everything; work, home, injury and particularly sport (in
case you are wondering I'm looking for excuses).
I used to climb 2 or 3 times a week, since lock down 3 times total.
Weather during lock down great, since then not so.
I have also managed to find a talent that I thought I had lost - missing the best conditions, usually
limited to weekends anyway but recently it's been “you should have been here 2 hours ago” or “it
got good just after you left”.
So I'm suffering from frustration, much luckier than many people at the moment so really no
excuses, but it's there.
So flying is what we love and we all know it can be dangerous but for me the rewards far out-way
the risks .
It is still worth looking at things we do that put us at risk and frustration is one.
With hindsight, for me the first indication that frustration was starting to over-rule good sense was a
really good forecast on Longridge. I was there for 8am, not wanting to miss anything. For people
that don't know it, Longridge is long, over 3k. Take off faces north but the main face at the east end
faces NNE. The topography also seems to allow the main face to work better, quicker, especially in
The wind was a bit light and off to the east but I got ready and started ground handling. The first
stronger bit that came through was too tempting and I went for it, trying to get along to the main
face. More patience would have been sensible, I went down near the bottom of the main face! By
the time I packed up, struggled up the steep face through waist deep heather (I've got short legs),
got ready and launched, the first of the sensible people were just soaring round the corner onto the
Two really pleasant flights and over 3 hours in the air later I packed up just as conditions went
ballistic and a number of pilots were hoovered up to cloudbase, some soared up the side of the huge
convergence cloud that had formed. As I pulled into my driveway at home my wife was pointing up
at a green and black Artik 5 cruising over my house at cloudbase – how could you do that to me
5 days later, a reasonable forecast led me to book a day's holiday. The night before there was some
chat on Whats App and I did say “it might be a bit breezy”. Come the morning and I was up and at
the hill reasonably early. It felt breezy and after a false start with my big wing, I walked up with my
One of our most experienced pilots, Simon B was already on the top, harness and wing out but the
wing still in its bag. We had a chat about the conditions and Simon's comment was that with my
mini wing I probably had the correct wing for the conditions at that time.
Parlick east face has had a number of accidents over the years, some very serious. Where we launch
is a flat section next to the south face that has a sharp edge onto the main east face. To the left is a
shallower slope that runs all the way to Wolf Crags at the north end of the ridge. Out front is Saddle
Fell which is ideally placed to generate wave type effects on Parlick. All of these have the potential
to create unpredictable winds, especially around the launch area.
I wasn't sure about the conditions but I didn't want to walk back down and miss another chance to
fly so decided to ground handle on the top to 'check' the conditions.
I set up about 20 metres back from the edge, pulled up with no problem and it didn't feel too bad,
then it went a bit squirrelly so I collapsed it. I was pulled back as I dropped the wing so was now
about 40 metres back from the edge. I said to Simon I didn't think it was going to be flyable as it
was too strong and gusty but that I would have another go to check.
I pulled up easily, turned to face forward and was immediately snatched up and off to the side by a
huge gust. In a split second I was 15-20 feet up and being pushed back and out over the south face. I
managed to turn into wind, hands up to maximise air speed. I was then slammed down, still going
backwards. I thought 'this is going to hurt', got my legs ready for the impact and prepared to kill the
wing as soon as I hit. It did hurt and I was dragged back a short distance before the wing settled.
Lying there on my side in the quiet my first thought was 'I'm alive that's good, but what damage
have I done?' Simon arrived and made the wing safe, I checked myself over and luckily the only
significant damage was a badly sprained ankle. With Simons help I was able to get me and my gear
off the hill and back home.
OK, so this is the important bit, lessons learned:
As a footnote, it was flyable a couple of hours later that day and a couple of weeks after my
accident, another of our pilots was airlifted off the hill from a similar incident in almost the same
place. So, please be careful, especially on Parlick east in strong or gusty conditions and if you are
feeling frustrated and desperate to fly.
Also, a big thanks to Simon for the calm and caring help he gave me, it made a big difference.
Safety Notes September 2020
Does the Peter Principle apply to Paragliding? The idea of the Peter Principle comes from a satirical book written by Raymond Hull, based on Laurence Peter’s research. Simply put, it states that in hierarchies, people will be promoted to their level of incompetence, where they languish until they leave or retire. So, you do well at making widgets and get promoted to chief widget maker. If you continue to do this well, you might rise to a position supervising all the widget makers. But your widget-making skills don’t help you in your new HR role, so you are judged to be a rubbish manager, and go no further.
When it comes to buying paragliders, there’s a tendency to promote yourself to the next level of wing. You leave the school with your beginner wing, get on with the local coaches and soon feel ready to step up to a B. Wow! What an improvement in performance – suddenly you’re leaving the hill, but then start fretting about not keeping up with the others. Solution: a C or even a D wing. Maybe that will be fine, and you’ll be ok with this, but what if your skills aren’t ready for this step? Potentially, this could mean a bad accident; or maybe you scare yourself enough to stop flying.
At some point we will all reach a level of incompetence – whether that relates to the wing we fly or the conditions we are willing to tackle – even the sky gods aren’t invulnerable. The hard part is recognising our own limitations and choosing our equipment and risk margin accordingly.
We’ve had some very strong winds lately, and it’s good to see that there are many pilots prepared to walk back down the hill even when there are paragliders in the air. Paragliding is truly a sport where you are responsible for your own decisions, and acquiring the mental attitude that you won’t be sucked into launching by peer pressure is a vital part of your skill-set.
On that note, one of our members was flying in the strong winds on Parlick on Monday 21st. Finding he had very little forward speed he opted to go to the landing field after half an hour. Finding he was still going backwards as he set up over the road at the junction, he had to abandon his plan to land in the corner of the correct field and put down on the other side of the road, in the Wolf Hall field. All was fine, but he knew he shouldn’t be there and quickly bundled everything up and threw it over the gate into the landing field and started packing, just as a quad bike roared up the lane, and its rider spent a few minutes looking around, before giving up and riding off. Maybe coincidence, but it seemed that he was looking for whoever had just landed. So, please take note: set up early, assess the wind speed while well upwind, and don’t push yourself into a tight corner by the road. And if you do overcook it, get out of the wrong field ASAP or prepare for an awkward conversation.
Radios – who needs ‘em? Distracting chatter, something else to go wrong etc. Well, there I was focused on tagging cylinder 9 and getting low. Since it was a busy day, I thought all I had to do was look around to find someone going up, and go to them…. Where is everyone? Then I saw the red helicopter approaching the hill from beyond the glider club. My first thought was ‘why did no-one radio’? The realised the wire dangling from my headset wasn’t actually connected to anything. So, 2 black marks for the safety officer: 1. Not completing my pre-flight check (Radio connected and checked is No 6 on my list) and 2. Not having a functioning radio when it could have been critical to clear the air. Fortunately, no harm done as I was as far away from the helimed’s approach path as possible on the day, but it could have been very different if the medics had been unable to land.
The incident itself raised a couple of issues. The walking party called 999 but there seems to have been some confusion about their location and some delay before one of our pilots was able to talk on the phone to the operator and give a precise location. This emphasises the need for someone to take charge at an incident and direct the flow of information to a delegated person capable of communicating with the relevant services. We will be putting on a First Aid course over the winter (social distancing rules permitting) and one of the key elements of this will be organising an incident scene.
The current restrictions seem to have coincided with a rash of new faces on our sites. Many of these are seasoned pilots who can no longer travel as far as they used to to fly, but some are relative beginners and unfamiliar with busy sites. Be aware that some of these may hold no pilot qualifications or third-party insurance. Such individuals are a perennial issue, and we hope that all our members can do their bit by persuading them that the benefits of joining BHPA and PSC are worth the modest cost. On the day of the incident there were maybe 50 gliders in the air at times, and there were plenty of examples of downwind slope landings, blow-backs over the bowl and careless turning. It’s in all of our interests to do our best to ensure that everyone with whom we share the air has at least CP-level of competence.
On strong days on Parlick, it’s common for PG pilots to launch below the top, sometimes well below the wall. Please remember that HG pilots will still be launching from the top or possibly over-shooting a failed top landing. A conflict between a HG and a PG popping up vertically in their path doesn’t bear thinking about. Part of everyone’s launch routine should be a good look around to ensure that the air is clear. This applies to both PG and HG pilots – we don’t have launch marshals, so it becomes a personal responsibility to make sure you are taking off into clear air without threat of conflict with another aircraft.
A member reported getting bitten above the ankle on Tailbridge, which resulted in very painful swelling and immobility for some days. Be aware that ticks lurk in the grass waiting for some tasty flesh to pass by, and ticks can carry some pretty horrific diseases including Lyme disease, babeiosis and tick-borne encephalitis. Keep your legs covered, check yourself over for ticks at the end of the day, and report to a doctor if you feel unwell after getting bitten.