23 December 2011

Blissful flying in the Dolomites

This has to be on the list as a place to visit! This short video of flying in the Dolomites is really worth 6 minutes of your time.
Have a great Christmas.

19 December 2011

One reason you should consider SIV in 2012

I have just found an excellent video of a guy on an EN D wing showing what not to do. After an unremarkable 50% assymetric collapse, he pulls too much brake on the open side and spins the glider. As he fought the ensuing cascade, the glider did its best to fly. At one stage he had a full stall with a fairly neat tail slide but missed that opportunity to recover. With height running out, he did the right thing and threw his emergency parachute. Thankfully he landed unharmed, if in a rather precarious place on the mountain.
What the video shows is the importance of having the feel for you glider when piloting out of a collapse and also having the ability to identify when to do something and when to do nothing.
My belief is that we should do regular training to hone our canopy handling skills. You will see courses termed SIV, Pilotage, Control Courses etc. Try to get someone with an established reputation and who will analyse and build your skills.
I didn't go on a course in 2011, so am itching to get "over water" again in 2012!

15 December 2011

Role for PMA or DHV in certifying Comp Gliders?

Two really thoughtful posts from Ulli Prinz on PG Forum got me thinking.
There is pretty wide (though not universal) agreement that some sort of certification of competition gliders would be a good thing. One of the many problems is that the EN certification, whilst working well for grades A-C, does not appear suited to competition gliders. Too inflexible, test pilot too passive, 5 year change cycle.
So is there a role for another body testing just the top end gliders; i.e. complementing the work of the EN testing houses?
If the paragliding world can get this sorted we can keep pilots of all levels happy. We have vibrant a Serial class and Competition class and the research benefits continue to feed into the development of the other glider classes.
As an aside: Ulli is a very knowledgeable talented and successful PWC pilot, who I had the privilege of meeting and flying with in September in Annecy.

12 December 2011

Stalemate at meeting of the PMA and testing houses

We are not out of the woods...

The testing houses are sticking to their role as objective testers against the EN standards. They make will make no distinction "classic" EN D wings and the new "race" EN Ds. Either a wing passes EN D or not. I got all excited on Friday when I read the CIVL Task Force Interim Report and blogged about it soon after. Many of us are disappointed by this latest statement, as sorting this distinction out could be an important building block for sorting out the competition chaos.

I still hope that we can save the Serial Class. It is great stepping stone to the top level and is also the resting place of many exceptionally talented pilots who choose not to fly the most challenging gliders. If Serial class morphed into something else, for example EN C gliders, pilots would face a massive leap to the top level. Can that be a good thing?

09 December 2011

CIVL Task Force on Competition Safety Reports

The task force has just published their wide-ranging interim report on safety in paragliding competitions. Whether you are a recreational or competition pilot there are implications for you. The report is a first step in sorting out the mess in PG competitions and the knock on effects on the rest of the sport, which has been deepening ever since the tragic events at the World Championships in Piedrahita (May 2011).

The interim report findings.

The report recognises that a range of factors contribute to safety and agrees with my view that competition level wings are often not the primary cause of accidents. However, in combination with other factors, such as type of task, pilot skill level and high stakes competition, the wings do have to be considered as an important part of the mix.
The damage which is being done to the sport as a whole and in particular to competitions during this period of uncertainty has been recognised. I hope that across CIVL there are a lot of people waking up and and lot of coffee being smelt!
The situation has been changing almost by the day with events like:
- the emergence of the "race EN D" certified wings emerging which are in no way suitable for the regular EN D pilot
- the suspension of EN D testing by the testing houses following Allan Zoller's high G spiral into the water during (pre) testing of a potential race EN D glider.

I am in no doubt that a healthy competition scene has a massive contribution to make for the good of the sport of paragliding.

Some of the recommendations:

- Take steps to safeguard competitions and improve safety for 2012. This includes separation of the "classic" EN D gliders from the race gliders whether they are EN certified or not.
- Educate competition organisers and task setters to develop a wider range of tasks which do not put excessive emphasis on speed and/or risk taking.
- Improve standards of pilot education and skill.
- Make huge improvements to incident reporting and analysis in competitions.
- Structure competitions in a way which includes and rewards pilots who are not at the absolute pinnacle of the sport. 

So what next?

The PMA and the testing houses meet today to try and make progress with some of the details, such as separating the genuine serial class gliders from the true competition gliders. Good luck!

CIVL ratify any changes at their Plenary meeting in February. This seems too late to me, considering manufactures and pilots alike are trying to plan for 2012. 

Please can the clever boys and girls who write the firmware for my instruments develop something to help me glide to a conical goal end of speed section?

To read the full report, set aside an hour or so and go to:
CIVL Paragliding Competition Safety task force Interim report