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Paragliding and Fear – Dealing With It And Still Enjoying Your Flying
Fear can bind you in a web of limitations that washes away the joy of the sport you once loved. Often you don’t even know you’re scared, your only sign is that the fun has evaporated like a cloud over the desert.
‘What? me? afraid? I’m a daredevil, I’m beyond weak!” But deep down, you know. You’ve probably thought about some of the points below. First base Second base is understanding fear, third base is mastering it, and finally, letting it go, and you are home, free.
1. What happens if my paraglider collapses and I can’t fix it?
All modern paragliders undergo rigorous aerodynamic testing, which focuses more on stability than performance. Adapt your paraglider to your level of experience: a DHV1 for training, a DHV1/2 for leisure flying (or less than 50 hours of autonomy), a DHV2 for regular experienced pilots and cross-country flying, a DHV2 /3 for experienced/competition pilots only. The paraglider should recover on its own, if left completely alone for a few seconds. In addition to this, you can practice instability maneuvers in a structured training program called an SIV course, or safety course. You will learn how to repair your glider from every possible collapse. Keep practicing after class, to keep your edge.
If your paraglider is unclassified then see the next question, as there is a strong possibility that the paraglider may not recover properly from certain situations.
2. What happens if my equipment breaks down?
The load tests are very severe. For a glider to have obtained an AFNOR or DHV rating, it must be virtually indestructible under the loads that the pilot may induce during flight. The failure of the equipment is therefore likely due to negligence. It is your duty to ensure:
Regular factory checks – at least once a year send your complete kit to your agent/school.
Daily equipment inspection – before you fly, check every part of your aircraft.
Pre-flight checks – before each take-off, methodically check the vital elements (protection, harness, suspension, canopy, weather and air traffic).
Reserve parachutes provide immense psychological comfort and will catch you if all else fails.
3. What happens if I get sucked in and can’t get down?
It is quite easy to bring down a paraglider. A stall on line B induces a descent of about 7m/s. A spiral dive varies between 10 and 25m/s, depending on the sail and your aggressiveness. A full stall – 15m/s. Only when severe cumulus clouds develop or extremely strong winds will you find lift strong enough to overwhelm your descent attempts. Thus, the danger of disappearing into the skies becomes more of a danger of not seeing the Cumulonimbus cloud develop. They do not appear instantly – be vigilant, everything will be fine. A simple rule: do not fly when there are clouds of ‘Cumulonasness’ developing within 30 km of where you are flying, or the weather forecast warns of embedded Cunims (cells of thunder hidden in an overcast sky).
5. What if I have a mid-air collision?
It takes two pilots to have a collision. You are one of them. The principle is defensive flight. All paragliders travel at very similar speeds. By varying the amount of brake you use, you can synchronize your speed with the riders around you. The easiest way to avoid traffic problems is to follow the glider in front of you, at a safe distance, as if driving on the road. It creates a space around you, a safe space in which to fly. Indicate your intention to shoot. Check around before you do anything to alter your route. It helps maintain your space. If someone insists on driving like a drunk and the collision is unavoidable (meaning you can’t fly or land), a reserve parachute is vital. Throw it away.
6. What if I panic?
The panic is caused by an overwhelming lack of experience in an extreme situation. Doing the wrong thing in an emergency can only make the problem worse. Fly the glider no matter what’s on it. You are the pilot, no one else is. By practicing instability maneuvers on your paraglider, you gradually increase your experience of extreme situations. Take an SIV course. They are designed to enhance your safety, not reduce it, and should help you get to grips with extreme flight dilemmas.
7. What if I crash?
Take-off accidents are invariably caused by poor ground skills. The glider starts flying you, instead of the other way around. Clean, open strips of land can be found in any town, if you look closely. All you need is a wing and a wind. Go practice your ground handling. Shoot with a single riser. Pull up. Shoot blindfolded. Pull up with twisted risers. Then keep the glider there, never let it fall back to the ground. Get him around the obstacles. Release the brakes, only use your run to balance and steer. Go play in rough air (behind some trees). Then start again on a friend’s wing.
Landing accidents can be mitigated by using PLF (Parachute Landing Fall). It is a fantastic method of absorbing the impact of an accident. Practice this at home, first on a mattress, then on the grass. It is not a natural body response, so regular practice is essential. The other type of skill you can farm is the landing setup skill. Choose a stone or marker on your landing field each time you land. Reward yourself if you land within a meter of him! This skill can be invaluable when you only have one clear patch in the forest to land on.
8. What if I break down and no one sees me?
Every pilot’s nightmare – crashing into a remote ravine, out of sight. First – carry a radio, so you can contact other pilots. Bring a cell phone – emergency services are just a phone call away. Carry flares – a universal distress signal, in case other methods don’t work. Fly with friends, they’ll know you’re missing out, especially if you clarify your intention by discussing your flight plan before takeoff.
9. What if I land in the middle of nowhere?
Always carry food (cookies, dates, energy bars, glucose) and water when traveling. Today just might be the day you hit that boomer and whistle in the back, landing 50km away, lost, happy and far from civilization. With a little food, huge walkouts are possible – ask Bob Drury about his 5 day walkout in the Zanskar range on his Himalayan bivouac adventure! They may be uncomfortable, but you have nothing to worry about – you will live.
10. What if I get too rusty and forget to do the right thing?
Humility is your best friend here. Adopt the mantra “there is a lot to learn”. If you haven’t had more than one theft a month, then you’re definitely rusty. Imagine your license has been downgraded – if you are a cross country pilot you are now an intermediate pilot, if you were a newly licensed pilot you are a student again. Find the appropriate guidance, let a more current pilot offer assistance. And just get airtime in mild conditions. Keep it simple.
11. What if I just get beat up?
The risk of being crushed by a freak gust is assumed, in exchange for the reward of freedom. We all have this fear, to a greater or lesser extent. But the gust is very rarely a monster – bad air is normally caused by something. Either by airflow obstructions, shear turbulence or thermal turbulence. Increase your meteorological knowledge by reading so you don’t get yourself in the wrong air. There are very few abnormal situations that will overwhelm all pilots, but they do exist. This small random risk of being in the air and the random risk of human nature is seen by some pilots as a beast called Sink Monster. If you think it’s to get you, all I can advise you is to go to church on Sunday.
I hope the approach will help you. In each case, you are not ignoring the fear, you are acknowledging that you have it, that it is a legitimate concern. Then to understand it, you have to explore all the angles from which it comes, and all the information available on the subject. If you lack information, ask an experienced pilot. If the answer you get does not satisfy, ask another. Mastering fear means that you have contained it, answered all its questions. It hasn’t disappeared, but it no longer controls you. You are now ready to let go – to move beyond the fear, having put in place all the protection in your power.
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