Fly Safe May 2017

Following on from last month:

Last issue, I wrote about my reserve and the issue of not re-connecting the closing loops properly. It seems even after re-fitting the loops, I still had it wrong. Taking the glider out of the bag last Tuesday on Parlick, I saw that one of the zips that close the reserve container had burst fully open. This is what they’re designed to do, but only after pulling the big red handle . . .

What had happened was that when I put the loop back through the closing rings, I had allowed one of the bridle lines to go the wrong side of the loop. Where it passed through the zip, it was the wrong side of this loop and so compromised it, and the zip would inevitably work itself open. The mounting instructions refer to this but I had forgotten the importance of it.

The lesson here is to be completely familiar with every aspect of your reserve system, so that you can take care of issues like this on the hill. Even if you get your reserve professionally packed, it’s well worth spending the time to learn and understand how every part of the system works. Maybe have the manual on your smartphone.

Accidents.

It’s been a bad start to the season. After a year or so in which the bent upright award didn’t involve bodily injury, there have been two serious accidents on Parlick. Both required helimed evacuation and resulted in serious injuries to the pilots. Both are recovering at home now and I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing them a speedy and full recovery.

I’m not going to go into the accidents here, the pilots themselves have the best viewpoint and will be able to shed much more light on what led up to the crash. In both cases, it was clear to see the payoff from the first aid courses many of us have done over the years. There was no panic, in each case someone took charge of ensuring the rescue was coordinated - mountain rescue and ambulance called, persons directed to guide rescuers to the scene, pilots advised of the helicopter’s arrival, gliding club notified etc. The injured pilots were supported on the ground by those nearby, without turning the scene into a spectacle, so well done to all concerned, especially those first on the scene. One point I learned from this and previous incidents is the potential time saving gained by giving a precise grid reference for the location of the injured pilot. The grid reference in the site guide and on the safety card is a very useful fallback if it’s not possible to get the actual location, but since we all carry sophisticated GPS systems, we should all be able to give a precise OS reference or Lat/Long coordinates. Much better that the helicopter goes straight to the casualty and lands as close as possible than heads to take off, which could be kms away.

So as the season gets going, here’s a few questions to ask yourself, in no particular order, and without reference to either accident:

  • How current am I? Not just recent hours in general, but flight time in these conditions.
  • How long since I gave my wing, harness, reserve, helmet, etc a complete inspection?
  • How long since I did a SIV/Pilotage course? If I haven’t, why not?
  • I’m on a recent wing; am I flying it correctly? Lots of discussion going on about brake position and pitch stability on modern gliders - get yourself informed, ask other pilots.
  • Have I read the site guide and any warnings about today’s weather conditions? Parlick East is notorious for turbulence in certain conditions which has led to some very serious accidents; these conditions are clearly highlighted in the site guide, and each year it’s worth going back to this to refresh memories.

We all have to start somewhere after the winter lay off, and punchy spring conditions aren’t the ideal way to wake up sleepy muscle memories. Give yourself a much bigger margin of error than you may have been used to at the end of last season - not just closeness to terrain and other gliders, but closeness to stall/spin speed. Consider dialling down the conditions you’re prepared to launch in until you’re back in the game.

PSC are exploring getting a club SIV/Pilotage course organised, and we’re looking at ways to support members to do their first one. Look out for an email soon to gauge interest.

Tight lines . . .

Brian

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