Launching and Flying in Strong Conditions
by Had Robinson
We do NOT want to learn about flying conditions in the manner that these two pilots here learned. Read this a couple of times and say to yourself, “I will NOT launch without carefully checking the weather. If I am uncomfortable with conditions, I will NOT launch.” It is not worth the possible consequences. Also read Tips on Safe Flying. – Had
Jerry’s Story (from a post on Trikes_and_Flykes on yahoogroups.com)
If I may share a story with you that I'll never forget that taught me more than any book or video or instructor could have.
I had been free flying paragliders for about 5 years and had a P3 rating. One day I went to a ridge in the Bay Area after work to do some ridge soaring and a local site I flew regularly. The wind was rowdy and a bit gusty, but I was compelled to fly that day. I launched and had about 1/2 hour of trashy air and it was progressively getting worse. Unfortunately, I waited too long to get out of the air. When I top landed a nasty a** gust re-inflated the canopy before I had a chance to gain control of it after top landing, turning around and dropping it on the ground. The gust re-inflated it and started dragging me, it accelerated and I couldn't even pull in one side of the canopy to gain control over it. It was accelerating me faster and faster dragging me across the rocks and through the bushes until it ultimately slammed me into a barbed wire fence. My leg was first to contact the fence and the T-post brutally cut clean through both the tibia and fibula of my right leg, as the canopy then drug (sic) me across the top strand of the barbed wire fence shredding my back and legs in the process. I ended up face down in the dirt on the other side of the fence. The leg from the knee down was lying nearly parallel to my upper leg with blood squirting all over. The only thing holding my leg onto my body was the calf muscle. Fortunately, there were witnesses to the accident and the EMT's got me off the ridge and to the hospital. They thought the leg would need to be amputated but gave it a chance. Well, long story short, about a year later I was able to find a mountain down in Bakersfield and took my first free flight after the incident.
I learned a lot from that mistake in "judgment" and I paid dearly for it. Lesson learned: Don't fly if unsure of the weather or if the wind is too strong, too gusty, or too thermic. I would venture to say the majority of PG and PPG accidents are the result of poor pilot judgment or pilot error. Be careful and always listen to your "inner-voice".
Some more comments on the above by another pilot, Greg B.
Not as scary as Jerry's but still very fresh in my memory is a similar free flight incident I had about a month ago.
I launched in 15-18 MPH wind at a ridge/thermal site and quickly went to about 1500 feet above launch in thermals. When it looked like I couldn't descend by leaving lift (it was everywhere) I decided to come back down in big ears and worked my way back to a top landing. Now the winds were gusting over 20mph. I pulled big ears again to land and let them out (probably not evenly) when I was a few inches above the ground. This caused me to be lifted sideways and slammed into the ground. I was lifted, dragged and dropped three times before a friend came and jumped on top of my lines. I was able to walk away (with various pains) and the doctor said I was very lucky that nothing was broken (I went to get checked the next day.) My helmet was cracked in 6 or 7 places and the horrible crunching noise in my neck during the incident left me with strained muscles, etc. Various cuts, scrapes, and deep tissue bruises were all along my right side. My right little finger had a cut almost to the bone from a brake line I tried to grab to bring the wing down from one side.
Do not fly in conditions above your skill level and recognize what that skill level is.
Practice various methods to quickly kill the wing and ALWAYS be ready to use them when launching or landing. Kiting practice is a great time to do this. Also practice forward kiting and turning around/killing the wing from that position with the Bs and Cs, asymmetrically or otherwise.
Wear gloves! You will surely injure your hands from a line cut if you do NOT wear gloves. The best kind are leather because leather will not burn through like fabric-type gloves if a fine glider line is pulled across the palm of the glove.
Note: Ground handling is probably not as crucial to a quad/trike pilot, although landing in high winds that have come up after you launched may call upon skills that you have learned by kiting. Kiting also makes you familiar with the flight characteristics of your wing, and subtle control you may need, even in normal flight.