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Safety reminders for the coming season - 3rd February 2005 - View the entire paragliding news archive

Always a new way to mess up
The trouble with flying is that it can be very unforgiving if you make mistakes. Just as you think you know it all a new way to screw up reveals itself. Familiarity breeds contempt. Many hours of flying and hundreds of trouble free launches can lead you to think you have finally reached a level of competence that protects you from error.

Think again!

Throughout my flying career I have made or witnessed many of the common errors that people make. Here is a list of just a few to watch out for. This list is by no means exhaustive. Pilots around the world strive (on a daily basis) to discover ever more creative ways to screw up.

The list (in no particular order):

1. Sitting down too early. (See Video here and here) This is very popular with new pilots. Basic execution involves sitting down at the first opportunity, regardless of whether or not your wing is up to flying speed. With an engine this often results in a broken prop. Without an engine this can result in a sore bum and a skid/tumble down the hill.

2. Turning the wrong way after a reverse launch. This one is not too much of a problem with a paramotor, because you simply abort the launch. It can be interesting when paragliding though. The important thing to remember is your top priority is to avoid the hill. I managed to take of with my risers completely crossed once. Fly away from the hill, let go of the brakes and spin under the wing until you are straight.

3. Cravat. A cravat is where part of the wing tip gets caught up in the lines. Launching with a cravat is more dangerous than you may think. It often occurs during a forward launch when there is less opportunity to check the canopy before committing to the take off. The problem is easily fixed with a proper inspection of the wing and line layout before launch. This is something I have experienced. The cravat was big enough to cause a substantial amount of drag on the left side of my wing. I had to apply right brake to maintain a steady course and try to pump out the cravat with the brake. The trouble was that this slowed my forward speed to such an extent that I was concerned that I might not reach the landing field. To compensate for this I applied the speed bar. Once I was happy that I would reach the landing field I tried again to pump out the cravat. Fortunately it popped out and I landed safely without incident.

4. Line under. Similar to a cravat a line under occurs when one of the lines is routed around the wing. It is impossible to miss this on a reverse launch. It most easily occurs when the preflight check is not completed thoroughly on a forward inflation. With a paramotor you are unlikely to get air born in the first place. With a paraglider this can be extremely dangerous if you manage to leave the hill. The dynamics of the wing can completely change under such situations. Your priority should be to land IMMEDIATELY before you gain significant height; better still, never get yourself into this situation.

5. Forgetting to do up one or more of your harness straps. (See Video here) Crazy as this sounds I have seen this on a number of occasions, often when people are chatting while setting up for a launch. Failure to do up leg straps is very serious; Donít panic though. If you are in reasonably stable air it is unlikely that you will fall out of the harness. If you are able to, fly away from other pilots and try to secure the harness. If this is not possible land as soon as possible.

6. Taking off with a full twist in the risers. This often happens when pilots have not checked that the A lines are running straight to the leading edge without any twists. This is nothing to be too concerned about. The wing will fly virtually identically to normal flight. The stresses on the karabiner will be different, so it is something to avoid if possible. My opinion is that there is no immediate danger and the flight can continue. Just remember not to do it in future.

7. Tripping on the speed bar during take off. Your speed bar should be tucked away or disconnected during take off. Tripping on it during take off on a mountain launch can be extremely dangerous. Just as you are running down hill you induce a full frontal collapse leaving you tumbling down the hill or worse. Definitely one to avoid.

8. Line snags. This involves lines unexpectedly being caught up on things. I have seen lines snagged on speed system karabiners and webbing stitching on the risers, but the possibilities are endless. If you attempt to launch and your wing does something completely crazy and unexplainable, chances are itís a line snag. I guess many of these incidents get attributed to other things. Watch out for it, this one can cause major problems (See Video here) with the flight characteristics of your wing. LAND IMMEDIATELY.

9. Holding on to the brakes while trying to get yourself seated in the harness. This can be spectacularly dangerous. Some pilots seem blissfully unaware of how close to serious injury they are with this one. The basic execution of the manouevre goes something like this:

Immediately after take off the pilot attempts to get comfortable in the harness by grabbing the seat and shuffling into it. This is fine so long as you let go of the brakes. If you remain holding on to them you run the risk of inducing a full stall precisely when you have the least height to recover from it. The easiest solution is to tighten your leg straps before take off so that you are more likely to settle into a seated position after take off or just let go of the brakes.

10. Twig in the lines. Depending on where you fly you will likely pick up some of the local flora from time to time. This is usually harmless, but can sometimes affect the geometry of your wing and alter its flight characteristics. Nine times out of ten this sorts itself out. Just keep an eye out for things tangled in your lines. Sometimes the smallest twig can spoil the shape of your wing if sufficiently tangled.

11. Leaning forward on take off Ė Paramotoring. This forces you into the ground as soon as you apply power and can cause you to stumble and fall. You are unlikely to hurt yourself, but it might cost you a replacement prop.

...and this from Arjan
12. Flaring too early. Lots of pilots (sometimes I think about 80% of all landings) are too obsessed with landing `at a spot`. This results in very risky landings where pilots flare way too far, way too early and way too high. Sometimes I see the brakes at the height of the hips (about 90% braking) when pilots are still between 4 to 8 meters high. The most dangerous risk ofcourse is stalling the glider where people fall backwards to the ground, break spines or compress vertibrae.

.... and the list goes on.

Maybe you have a few classic ways to screw up that you can share? Discuss in the forum

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