Playing Nice at Biwingual Sites
By C.J. Sturtevant
(adapted from an article by this author in the October 2006 issue of HG&PG magazine)
George and I have been biwingual since the early ’90s, back when paragliders were a small minority at most flying sites. In those early years, when sites were first integrating, friction often developed between hang and para pilots simply through lack of understanding regarding what the “other side” needs or wants for safe and convenient flight. Typically, just a small adjustment in behavior makes a huge improvement in the stress level at a site that’s shared by both hang glider and paraglider pilots. A lot of our Northwest sites are biwingual. Here are some tips to keep everything running smoothly and safely when both types of wings share the space.
|Stefen Mitrovich at Saddle Mtn. Photo by Chris Amonson
· Lay out your glider and clear your lines in the setup area, never on launch unless you’re the only one there.
· If you’re on launch but conditions are too strong for your liking and there are hang pilots in line behind you, invite them to move ahead of you—chances are they’ll be off and away in moments.
· Check site protocol before toplanding at an unfamiliar site.
|Launch, Iquique, Chile. Photo by Chris Amonson
· If lots of hang rigs are on top without drivers, and toplanding is a comfortable option for you, (or if you decide not to launch at all) consider offering to drive a rig down to the LZ.
· On a day when you’re not going to launch right away, after laying out and clearing your lines bundle up your wing so it doesn’t take up space someone else might need for setting up.
· Learn how to provide a good hang check (that’s a pretty simple safety check). The next level of assistance to hang pilots might be to help with guarding side wires or front wires when conditions are gnarly on launch. You’ll definitely want to ask the hang pilot what he or she expects from a wire person before latching onto a wire!
|CJ on launch at Saddle Mtn. Photo by Chris Amonson
Hang glider pilots:
· Before setting up, check with local paraglider pilots to be certain your chosen set-up area is not their prime toplanding area.
· Paraglider pilots require a wider launch area than hang gliders do—be sure you’re setting up or waiting to launch at what the para pilots consider a safe distance.
|West launch Blanchard Mtn. Photo by Chris Amonson
· At a site where there’s a hike-to-launch option, offer to drive paraglider wings to the top if you have room in your vehicle. Lots of para pilots enjoy the hike considerably more if they’re not carrying a 40-pound pack!
· On a hot day when everyone is waiting around for conditions to improve, invite paraglider pilots to share the benefits of hanging out under your big “umbrella.”
|CJ and George at Saddle Mtn. Photo by Chris Amonson
In the air:
All pilots: Keep in mind the difference in flying speed between hang gliders and paragliders, and be extra vigilant in clearing turns and observing rules of the ridge and thermaling.
|Flying at Baldy Mtn. Photo by Chris Amonson
· Don’t kite your wing in the LZ after landing—hang pilots come in faster and need more room than paraglider pilots, and having to dodge your pylon may be a recipe for a whack, or worse. Drop your wing immediately and move off the field.
· Stay vigilant throughout your setup and approach. A faster-moving hang glider may suddenly appear in your pattern.
· Be clear about your landing intentions—a hang glider coming in behind you will need to know on which side there will be room to pass you on final glide.
· Check for hang glider traffic before crossing the LZ on foot, and keep in mind that hangs come in fast and cannot easily or safely swerve to avoid a moving obstacle.
|Landing at Chelan Falls Park. Photo by Chris Amonson
Hang glider pilots:
· Be sure paraglider pilots—especially at a site with student pilots—are aware that you will be coming in to land in synchrony with them. Try to make your presence known before you both turn onto final.
· Once you’re in the area and at the altitude where people will be setting up landing approaches, don’t try to scratch out a few more minutes of flight. If you can’t get up and out with a couple of turns, get down.
· Ignore the landing “spot” on busy days. There’s no glory in nailing the spot and thereby being the cause of an accident, yours or anyone else’s!
· If someone is coming in to the LZ right after you’ve landing, it may be better to stay still and let them fly over or past you, rather than trying to run off the field with your wing.
· Pack up your wing well clear of the area where pilots will be landing, or where they may need to divert to if a conflict develops on final approach.
· While you’re packing up or just hanging out, keep an eye out for spectators/kids/dogs/oblivious pilots who might pose a hazard to incoming pilots (or themselves) by being out in the field as someone is landing. A good attention-director: Shout “incoming!” and point to the approaching glider.
|Low Flying Aircraft. Photo by Chris Amonson
A note regarding spectators: Aside from the non-pilots who are part of our flying community, most spectators on launch or in the LZ have no conception of the damage that can be done by a hang glider or paraglider that’s run amok due to pilot error or wacky weather. Make it your policy to be aware of spectators, and to politely shepherd them out of harm’s way whenever you’re not focused on your own safety. A good rule of thumb: No spectators within a wingspan of any set-up glider, in both the setup area and on launch.
|Spectators in Tiger LZ. Photo by Chris Amonson