Managing Safety In Your Paragliding Activities
By Jeff Greenbaum - Air Time San Francisco Paragliding School
Once you decide that you are going to paraglide and become a pilot, you need to prioritize your flying activities with safety as number one. This sounds easy and obvious, but all too often people become jaded and forget that all other priorities stack up below this. I have been saying for a very long time that the most dangerous part of paragliding is how easy it is to get started. Because of the ease and short time it takes for people to get airborne, sometimes the proper respect does not happen by itself. Perspective of safety is something that gets forged stronger and stronger over time, but can become inherent if you choose to make it such from the early stages.
Safety is a giant topic and needs inclusion in every aspect of paragliding. Before each flying session, it involves preparatory research on the flying site and on the weather forecasts for that day. Prior to that, it involves finding the right instructor to teach you and help you build systems and techniques to manage safety. As you grow as a pilot, safety requires the elimination of ego and callousness. Good instructors will inspire the student pilots with many ways to look after themselves.
Habits need to be built with the preflight that you do each and every time you fly. It is easy to get complacent about such, but if you keep your priorities straight, then it will be far less of a burden and something to take pride in.
Feeling vulnerable is a good thing in any high risk endeavor. It helps you make safety the priority and this can aid your decision making. Some say that it is not possible to teach a good attitude. Ultimately, attitude comes from the inside, so I would agree to the limits of how much can be taught. However, I would also say that instructors can help to mold and build a better attitude in a student. A student can be guided to look at flying with the emphasis on safety rather than on technique as the key. Attitude and perspective are really the keys to a pilots being able to look after themselves.
It is not possible to impart a good attitude about safety management via one article. I can provide some perspective though, on how to begin building an attitude where you become self reliant and can look after yourself. Attitude is the envelope that drives all of the subparts of paragliding. A student who has all of the talent of the world, but is not great at tempering their skills and, thus, will have a tendency to be more at risk. Another student might have much less physical talent, but knows how to manage their growth and safety. The good attitude will overcome skill growth every day of the week. Skills can grow over time but bad attitude or judgment can result in an instant catastrophe.
Another take on safety is that it is not always the big and giant mistake that causes the accidents. Often it is the more subtle, less obvious situations where accidents can occur. For example, kiting does not seem near as dangerous as flying. But, if the wind is strong and somehow you get dragged or pulled by the wing, the ground is right there and injuries can happen. I see pilots sometimes kiting without a helmet, displaying a lack of respect for safety. Safety in such a sport mean that you need to use your peripheral vision to look out for the unexpected situation. Nobody plans for an accident, they can come from unexpected situations or lack of preparations. Tunnel vision for only the larger situations can leave you vulnerable for something sneaking up on you.
Some sayings that I have created and some that are common in the Paragliding world follow:
Leave assumption out of your preflight routine!
Launching is optional, Landing is MANDATORY!
It is better to be on the ground, wishing you were in the air rather than in the air, wishing you were on the ground!
Eliminate "maybe" and "probably" from your paragliding vocabulary and thinking
In other words - Stick with certainty!
When a flying decision is at all GRAY, WALK AWAY!What this means: Whenever you are making decisions about flying, if you at all feel any factor is not definitive, listen to this and choose not to fly or venture away from the choice. If you are "on the fence" about a decision related to flying, get off the fence and back on the ground.
Experience is the best teacher, but let the other guy be the one who flies through the rotor.There are some things you really cannot afford to play with in a paraglider. This expression is not specific to rotors, it is talking about any of the hazards that we need to manage while flying. Learn how to prevent any hazardous circumstances by seeing them prior to them biting you like a snake. The following list is just a few of the bigger hazards that we need to avoid and prevent while flying:
Each Flight has 4 basic rules that go above and beyond any others:
Some General Guidelines Follow:
Each Flying Day: