Towing Info by Dixon White

From the DVD “Paraglider Towing” with Dixon White – Additional notes by Had Robinson


Pre-Flight – Pilot must take responsibility for his own pre-flight check.  

Hook Knife – Not required if you are a new student pilot.  

Release Practice – Pilot must practice releasing from the tow bridle on the ground.  

Release Cord Access – Release must be in easy reach of the pilot while in flight.  

Radio Skills – Radio communications must be effective between tow crew and pilot.  

Release Signal – Pilot indicates he wants to be released by doing a sidewise double scissor kick with his legs.  Pilot must NOT release from the tow until he feels the tow pressure go slack unless he is 100’ AGL or more. (A premature release under full tow pressure could cause a potentially dangerous surge of the pilot’s glider.  – Had)

Glider Flying Angle – Pilot must ALWAYS keep the glider perpendicular to the part of the towline that is directly in front of him.

The towline can be curved up to 90 degrees or more a long distance from the pilot. Pilot must scan constantly from the towline in front to the wing above and back.  It is easier to check the wing tips than the center of the wing.  To check it about every 5 seconds would be sufficient. Lockout can easily happen if the glider gets off the perpendicular to the towline.  The forces increase exponentially as the angle increases.  It is extremely dangerous not to correct the glider's direction when needed.  

Lockout – The moment the pilot senses he is in lockout, he should release immediately.  If he is unable to release, then he MUST use his hook knife to cut the towline/bridle (only for experienced pilots doing special maneuvers during tow).  If the tow operator observes the beginning of lockout, he will release the tow and, possibly, cut the towline.  

Thermals – Pilot can release early if he feels that he is in a thermal in which he can climb out with (P2 pilots or greater ONLY)  

Surge Control – When pilot releases from the tow bridle, he must be ready to exercise some surge control, especially if there is substantial tow pressure.  

Flight Gear – mandatory

Equipment: Helmet, Ankle protective footwear, Reserve parachute (non-student pilots only), Flotation device if flying over water, Unzip airbag in harness before towing (if it has one) when flying over water  

During Tow – Pilot must stay off the brakes except to steer.

Glider will have plenty of energy in case of some event, like a strong thermal coming through. Makes the tow easier and the pilot will climb higher.  

Water emergency landing:

Pilot should undo all straps holding him to the harness before landing in the water. Get the hook knife in your hand so you can use it if needed! When his toes start to drag through the water, he should slip out of the harness and fall in the water. Let the glider fly past and overhead. Do not try to rescue any gear!  Pilots have drowned rescuing gear.  (Note: Is there not time to do any preparation for a water landing, the moment you hit the water hold your breath, face down, and then try to unbuckle your flight deck and THEN your harness.  Your harness, if unbuckled, will force your head down.  Hope that the water is still and that the rescue boat is near by. I almost drowned once because of an incompetent tow operator. – Had)

Tow Operator

Release tow on Signal – Instruct pilot that he is NOT to release the tow unless there is an emergency.  The pilot must signal the tow operator if he wants to be released.  If the tow operator needs to release the pilot, he will release most of the tow pressure. – Had R.  

Glider Angle – He must always be sure the pilot’s glider is perpendicular to the towline – this is his job!  

Stop Tow Signal – Tow Operator needs to let pilot know when he is going to stop the tow so that the pilot can release.  (Note: The pilot should let the tow operator know when he is going to release, not the reverse. – Had)  

Tow Angle – Tow Operator wants to pull the pilot up at about a 45 degree angle.   

Clear Tow Area – Make sure tow area is clear and safe from obstacles and traffic.  

Emergency Preparedness – Make sure you have "911 ready" cell phones in case of an accident.  

Practice Tow – A practice tow using a couple of instructors can be useful.  (This should always be done. – Had)  

weak-link Spec – For the weak-link use 205 leech-line.  A loop of line around two quick links with a single overhand knot breaks at about 90 lb.  A single line with a knot breaks around 60 lb.  

Cross Wind – Don’t tow if the air is more than 25 degrees cross to the tow direction (for new pilots only).