Managing a Cravat
by Had Robinson
PPG pilot Tom Bird launched with a cravat in his left wingtip. With modern paragliders, this can easily happen because of the almost invisible upper cascade lines which are about the thickness of fishing line. Combine this with forward inflations in dead air, it is difficult to notice a cravat. Thankfully, it is a rare event.
The size of the cravat is the critical factor. This one involved less than 5% of the wing's area. The glider is a modern PG glider, LTF B class.
As a cravat increases in size, the drag increases. If the drag gets beyond a certain amount, the pilot is unable to prevent the glider from going into a spiral dive no matter how much
opposite brake is applied. But too much brake and the glider will stall. While huge cravats are rare, such an event requires immediate action. Can I undo it? If not, I must
immediately deploy my reserve before the glider enters an out of control dive.
Below, Tom assess the seriousness of the cravat (minimal) and now must attempt to undo it. It took a minute or two of pulling on the stabilo (the line which runs to the tip of the wing). Sometimes, the pilot must pull on other lines. If he had been unsuccessful in getting the cravat undone, it would have required him to land immediately. Flying with even a small cravat requires significant opposite brake which, in turn, lowers the safety margin per getting the glider closer to stall. Having a cravat at low altitude (less than a few hundred feet) is particularly dangerous because throwing a reserve parachute is useless.
Tom flying away after a successfully removing the cravat. It is extremely important that a pilot never panic when he realizes that he has a cravat. Fix it or deploy the reserve? This is what must be decided quickly. Nice work, Tom!