How to Thoughtfully Anticipate and Manage Risk
On Friday, May 8th we held a Zoom call to present tips and advice on flight planning for Hang Gliding and Paragliding pilots. Several experienced pilots came together to share their knowledge on the best ways to manage risk and ensure safe flights. Our panel included Wolf Gaidis, Billy Vaughn, and Jonny Thompson of Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School, Willie Vaughn of Lookout Mountain Flight Park, Heath Woods of Morningside Flight Park, and John Gallagher.
From Wolf Gaidis
- Know your site. You should walk the landing zone (LZ) and launch. Talk to local pilots. Understand any unique weather phenomenon and terrain in your planned flight area.
- Know your equipment. Understand that different wings perform differently. Pack essentials and emergency equipment such as: ID, phone, dental floss, hook knife, space blanket, and flashlight or lighter.
- Know yourself. Take time to reflect on your emotional state. Make sure you have the energy and stamina for your flight. Also, be realistic about your abilities and whether you are able to fly in the given conditions.
- Know your weather. Study and understand the conditions. Do I have the experience to judge the forecast?
- Know what you want. Establish the type of flight you want to have. Are you learning, teaching, having fun, or giving yourself a challenge? Where are you going? Have a second (and maybe a third) option if you cannot make it to the landing zone.
From Willie Vaughan
Do a mental preflight. Keep up with your gear. Check through all equipment before heading up to launch and make sure it’s in working condition. Pack water and sunscreen for when you’re waiting for your ride. Look for any and all wind indicators. Some sites don’t have plenty of windsocks and it’s important to walk the LZ prior to launch. What kind of flight do you want? How long do you plan to be up? Are you prepared to adjust your flight plan if you sink out, or the forecast builds? Have a strong support crew, both drivers and wire crew on launch. Make sure your driver knows your secondary/bailout plans.
From Heath Woods
There is no one way to prepare for all flights. Have specific types of “kits” ready for the type of flying you will be doing such as: cross country(XC), beach soaring, or traveling. Your gear will not be suited for every location. Parachutes need to be checked and repacked regularly. Understand the weather and talk with local pilots. Be prepared to fail in all of this. Be prepared to turn around. Make good decisions and don’t fly just because of the time and resources it took to get you there. Don’t add too many new accessories at once – they could become distractions. (Cameras, Bluetooth headphones, etc.) Use the rule of sevens. If your comfort is on a 1 to 10 scale, where 10 is being absolutely terrified, you shouldn’t surpass a 7 when launching/flying. Keep current on your skills.
From Jonny Thompson
In addition to the above information, never stop making decisions. Every second counts, so don’t wait to make an important decision.
From Billy Vaughn
The biggest part of your flight is the direction you turn on launch. A flight plan is just a basis for change. Keep adapting and don’t be afraid to alter your plan in the moment. Expect the unexpected. Compare your weather to the forecast. Go evaluate your conditions in person for yourself. Get as many data points as possible.
From John Gallagher
Study meteorology. Check the weather at different altitudes along your flight path. You can never dress too warm, especially at higher altitudes. Pack a whistle and a portable battery supply. Even if you can’t fly in certain conditions, go to the flying site and observe. You learn a lot from being around other pilots. Practice pulling your reserve just to know what it feels like.
What are the best tools you have found to help you make your flight plans?
- Local pilots – people experienced with the area will always be your best resource
- Asking questions – acknowledge that you are always learning and hearing from other pilots’ experiences will make you a better pilot.