FAI / CIVL Safety Articles
BHPA Safety Articles (United Kingdom)
HPAC Safety Articles (Canada)
(1) Pre-flight glider
Walk 360o around your glider, checking key areas; bolts, ropes, wires, battons, wing tips, etc. Run your hands along the leading edge to verify there are no LE mylar bends, check for symmetry. Pre-flight harness ropes/straps. Repeat if interrupted.
(2) Hang Check Routine
Either hook-in your harness as part of your glider set-up (best method), and/or always hang check. Make sure harness lines are not twisted. Check your harness legs straps are secure. Develop a routine and use it every time.
(3) Hang Strap and Carabineer
Be careful changing or adjusting your hang strap. Small hang loop position changes can affect the flight characteristics of your glider. Use a locked, steel carabineer.
(4) Helmets, parachutes and gear
Buy the best full-face helmet and parachute. Re-pack yearly. Helmet choice is a personal perference so choose either open face or full face but make sure it has the padding that is needed to absorb impact.
(5) Be cautious with changes
Be careful with new gear, or making changes. Small changes (wires, tip tuning, sail, mounting a camera, etc) ) can have a big effect on flying characteristics. Adding extra gear, like a drogue chute, can be useful in cases, but it can also cause accidents (such as when a drogue chute is deployed above the basetube). Think through any change to your glider and gear.
(6) Launch with correct relative wing position
Most launch errors occur because the glider wing, at the start of launch, is not properly aligned to the wind. Don’t initiate launch unless you have balance in roll (equal pressure on wings)and pitch (nose angle correct). (For aerotow, make sure your cart sets your glider to the proper pitch, and that your tow bridle, vg cord, instruments and harness are not caught on the cart.)
(7) Avoid towing lockouts and dolly accidents
Lock-outs on tow can happen quickly. Both aerotow and static tow lockouts can occur. Follow the tug, know how to react, and release early if there is a problem. Use a 3 point release, that you can release from in <2 seconds. Tow with a fin. Don't push out at the start of the tow; if your weak link breaks, you could be in a stall and too low to recover. Before towing, make sure no lines are caught on the tow dolly. On aerotow, don't get low behind the tug - you will either hit the rotor from the tow plane or have to push out (stalled if released).
(8) Always run hard on launch
It’s alright to take a few initial slow steps, but then run hard. Slow run launches can cause a wing to stall, the angle of attack change, and/or a wing tip to drag. Many launch whacks occur at high altitude, low wind and/or shallow slopes. These conditions take good launching skills and a strong run with proper glider positioning. Wear gloves that give you a good grip.
(9) Don’t launch into high winds or cross winds
If you are launching in winds that are too high for you alone to handle your glider, consider not launching, unless if you are very familiar with the site and wire crew. Create your own "rules" (ex. no flying > 25 mph winds and/or >20 degrees cross) and stick to it, no matter what other pilots are doing.
(10) High wind launch - wire crew
If you do launch in winds >20 mph, use a wire crew. Make sure to brief them on what to say and do. Use hang glider pilots to wire. If you use non-pilots, train them on how to wire before walking out to launch.
(11) Get clear the hill after launch
After launch, get well clear of the hill before turning, or working on your harness zipper. Gain altitude. Don't turn into a ridge.
(12) Stall, spin, tumble
Any hg wing can tuck, tumble and spin. Knowing your glider speeds, and keeping your airspeed is important in preventing tumbles and spins. Never, ever stall or slip near the ground.
(13) Avoid bad weather
Enough can not be said about avoiding existing or approaching poor weather. Don’t fly unless you are confident about current and future weather conditions. Check the forecast before flying (ex. 2m radio weather channel). Avoid storm cells; don't fly if you see any thunderstorms (gust fronts can reach out 100 miles) or Cu-Nimbus. Fog/clouds can form quickly; watch trends. Study micro-meteorology.
(14) Clear your turns
Clear your turns, and always keep in mind where the other pilots are. Don't assume another pilot sees you. Frequently scan the horizon for air activity. Fly with bright colors. Leave a gaggle if it is too crowded. Don't turn close to a mountain side in thermal conditions.
(15) Don’t Land in Water
Just don’t. Do everything you can to avoid a water landing. Learn how to exit your harness quickly in an emergency.
(16) Avoid lee-side rotor and canyons
The lee side of a hill or mountain can be ugly, and has put many a pilot down quickly with little control. Don’t go “over the back” without sufficient altitude. Keep well in front of ridges. Get even further in front of the ridge before you a traversing a canyon where compressed wind speed will increase.
(17) Glider level
Don’t fly an advanced level glider, until you are ready for it. Wait until you squeak out every bit of juice from a lower-performance glider before moving up. And even then, question your reason for moving up.
(18) Pilot induced oscillation
This typically happens to beginner or intermediate pilots flying a glider they are not ready for. If it happens, relax, loosen your grip, and slow your glider down.
(19) Aerobatics, Showing Off
Hang gliders are not design for aerobatics. Avoid showing off.
(20) Cloud suck
Learn how to recognize, and avoid, cloud suck.
(21) Rotor from other aircraft
Rotor behind another aircraft can be severe and long lasting, the larger and slower the other aircraft.
(22) Keep an LZ always within reach
Don't get caught back on a ridge or in a place that you can't easily glide to an LZ. Take care of a venturi effect when above canyons; your sink rate will increase dramatically in a canyon. Always assume a worse L/D to the LZ than you have.
(23) Landing Approach
Most poor landings are a direct result of a poor landing pattern approach. Pick a big landing field, that is uncrowded. Be conservative. Don't get close to tree tops. Take a long final, come in with sufficient speed, use the basebar, and avoid turns close to the ground. Watch for your basetube getting caught.
(24) Avoid Power lines
Power lines are hard to see, and they can fry you like a hot dog. Try to avoid fields surrounded by power lines. Even safe on the ground, don’t walk under power lines while carrying your glider.
(25) Avoid other Flying Objects
Keep your eyes open for kites, RC planes, balloons, etc. An object caught in your side flying wire can make your glider un-controllable. Use/know FAA airspace maps.
(26) Don't Fly Alone
If you are injured, you will need support. Fly with a good 2M radio and cellphone.
(27) Use Wheels
Unless you are in perfect tune with your glider, use wheels. They can save you in downwind landings, thermally active landing areas, or a premature jump off a tow cart. Locking wheels will allow you to ground your glider in high winds.
(28) Landing in rotor
Avoid landing in the lee side of trees, buildings, mountains, cliff/ridge edges, etc. These areas can put you on the ground before you are ready for it. Land as far as possible from rotor causing trees and buildings.
(29) Perfect your landing skills
Many pilots do not have sufficient landing skills. Practice. This is a skill that we can always improve. Don’t fly with uncoated front wires. Make sure your harness can not throw you under the glider nose in a whack. And at some point you will whack hard, so learn how to whack properly to avoid injury (let go of down tubes, arms balled up in front of you).
(30) Talk to locals, Don't fly first
Let an experienced local pilot, who knows the site intimately, launch first. Talk to them about conditions; weigh their opinion heavily. Don't be a wind dummy unless you are 100% sure of conditions.
(31) Be physically and mentally prepared
Don't fly fatiqued, or with less than a high mental and physical standard.
(32) Knee pad
If you are in tuned with your glider or just do not like the idea of wheels. Think about wearing knee pads. It only takes one knee drop on a rock to do damage to your knee.