Be Safe Out Here! A call for better safety practices….

Pilots please read: A dangerous pattern keeps emerging from our flying community out here in the Sierra. We are having more and more new pilots coming to the scene, and someone is going to get hurt/killed from (their own) negligence. It’s a rough thing to point out, but I hope through awareness of the subject, we will be become better safer pilots and avoid these probable injuries. Here is what I’m talking about…

Too many new/under experienced pilots are flying in our area without the basic understanding of flight mechanics, kiting experience, or proper instruction. I can give insight into what this means, as I too taught myself to fly back in 2010(mistake), and now understand what this means.

We have too many new, young pilots borrowing hybrid speed wings and paragliders, and taking high flights with them without a basic understanding of flight. Yeah, it might seem easy to take the FireFly for a spin, but it will come back to bite you as soon as you fly in bad conditons, encounter a deflation, or make a bad landing. I have seen too many ‘pilots’ around here recently who have never either opened a P2 booklet or studied flight mechanics, already hucking themselves from peak tops. Too many people going out without a basic knowledge of weather and forecasting ability, and then they call me when they are on launch and can’t figure out whats happening with the wind, or even how to check the wind. Or even pilots who fly only a few times per year, coming and making flights from the summits without having kited or practiced before hand.

I know from experience that this is going to lead to injury or death. I have already seen beginners get hurt out here from what I speak about. With my own eyes I have see multiple broken backs out here, and gruesome crashes every year. I hope to prevent more ‘accidents’ like these by asking for all pilots who fly out here to take it seriously, and become informed and safer pilots through education, training, and utilizing resources.

The Sierra is an extremely difficult location to fly safely, and anyone flying here needs to recognize this. You wouldnt throw your life savings into the stock market without proper research and a solid background in this industry I would think, so why are so many people willing to throw their life on the roulette table out here when it comes to flying? I pounded in twice in my first six months due to exactly what I speak about, so I don’t think that I’m just blowing hot air. I speak from painful experience.

I think it would be great to see all of these new pilots out here take flying more seriously. As an USHPA instructor I am in fear of what I see going on out here, and do not want to be associated as a contributing factor to this new issue. I am asking for change. None of these pilots have reached out to me for info, advice, study material, instructional videos, or lessons (this is not a plug for lessons). What I would like to see is all new pilots take the P2 course before they start high flying again. I’d like to see everyone be able to forecast the weather before flying from peak tops again. If you havent flown in six months, then maybe go kiting or fly from the training hill a few times, rather then just jump in the truck and head on up to the top with the XC pilots. I’d like to see people stay injury free. Please.

All of the resources for change are already out there- instruction, books, videos, internet, mentors, training hills, kiting locations, and of course- USHPA! Everyone (including the intermediates) please take a look at how you fly, and how you could probably be safer about it.

Now I am going to ask the more experienced pilots who are reading this to please share your opinion on the subject. Feel free to comment (or share this post) about what I’ve just laid out. Is a proper, controlled, and informed systematic approach to learning flying a safer way then just going with the Bro’s to launch? Is your life or spine worth an unsafe flight from the peak today, or would it be better to go tomorrow when ready? I see the #1 reason out here to cut corners as financial cost, as many out here are living simply. Not a reason in my book- if you can’t afford to learn properly, then youre not ready to learn.

I am going to post this topic to the PGforum, my facebook account, and to group pages as well, so hopefully we will get some feedback. I’m not picking on anyone, quite the opposite. We need a higher level of competency out here before moving on to making solo flights from peaks.

It was very valuable to me to work for the winter/spring season for Eagle Paragliding down in Santa Barbara. I saw how a professional company progresses students through a comprehensive, complete training regime, and how this produces safer beginner pilots. Down in SB we make sure they have about 25 training hill flights before we ever let them fly from a peak. They must always have a radio on with an instructor, until they have graduated the P2 course. We taught the bookwork to the P2 course concurrently with the actual lessons. We made sure no one flew a wing too hot for them. None of this is being followed out here in the Sierra. We need to start looking at ourselves as safe, responsible pilots and what that means. We need to respect the process. Period.

Dave Turner
Mammoth Lakes, CA
sierraparagliding.com