To the members of the European Hang gliding and Paragliding Union (EHPU) and Paraglider Manufacturers Association (PMA).
Safety in general and particularly in competition has always been and still is at the heart of CIVL work.
In the name of safety, as far as year 1999, proposals were made to CIVL Plenaries to run Category 1 championship with certified ‘Serial’ gliders only. The proposal were always rejected. Open class supporters argued that there were no statistics to prove that Open class gliders were any less safe than Serial class; that without an Open class, manufacturers will push Serial class design to the limits; that paraglider design and development would be restricted.
In recent years, paraglider design has been evolving radically and rapidly at the high performance end of the market.
In 2010, CIVL set up an Open Class Technical Working Group (OCTWG) to establish homologation criteria for Competition class paragliders. The first interim stage, required manufacturers to meet certain construction limitations and minimum test requirements for these gliders. Eventually, a new EN standard and certification system was to be developed.
Many discussions and some considerable work in conjunction with the PMA resulted in the definition and adoption in 2011 of CIVL’s ‘Competition class’ paragliders.
In 2011, following the double fatality on Task 2 of the World championship at Piedrahita, compounded by the high number of additional incidents, the CIVL Bureau made its decision to stop the competition by temporarily suspending the certification of Competition class gliders in FAI Category 1 events.
Most federations and private organisms like the Paragliding World Cup Association (PWCA) decided then that their competitions would be restricted to certified gliders.
In the wake of Piedrahita, CIVL set up a Paragliding Competition Safety Task Force.
As the Task Force was working, manufacturers started to design their competition gliders so they would fit in the EN-D certification class. Testing was extremely difficult and many thought that these new gliders were not to be considered as appropriate for pilots who normally fly serial class gliders in the EN-D class.
Thus, the fear, first voiced 13 years previously, that serial class glider design would be pushed to the limit, had been realised.
This seemed to have made all parties realise that some sort of new ‘competition’ class paraglider was necessary to avoid EN-D becoming the ‘competition’ class.
Last February, both PMA and EHPU wrote to CIVL just before it held its 2012 Plenary.
- PMA recommended the introduction of a new ‘Competition class’ outside the existing EN-D (time frame for the definition of this new class characteristics: end of June 2012).
- PMA also recommended mandatory specific SIV course for competition pilots flying in FAI Category 1 championship and PWC (time frame to define the manoeuvres: end of March 2012).
- EHPU stated that no satisfactory solution has been found after the 2011 suspension of Competition class paragliders. EHPU and the national bodies it represents decided that they would allow in their competitions only EN certified gliders “until a satisfactory solution can be found”.
CIVL Plenary worked extensively on what could be a satisfactory solution for all and agreed unanimously on these points:
- FAI Category 1 Competitions will be flown by certified gliders only in 2012 and 2013.
- CIVL is waiting for PMA proposals for the new Competition class paragliders characteristics. CIVL Competition paragliding sub-committee will study the proposals, will work in conjunction with PMA if needed, and will hopefully give its green light for use of these new Competition class gliders from 2014 on.
- CIVL would like the new Competition class gliders to fit in a new EN certification as soon as possible. This new certification should have to be simplified (less manoeuvres) so it can be easier and faster to be reviewed (hence cheaper). This would allow the implementation of safe limits as well as the evolution of paragliders design.
- CIVL is waiting for PMA proposals concerning the needed qualifications for pilots flying in Category 1 and PWCA competitions. CIVL is ready to include in its training program such qualifications in a form to be decided by its Competition paragliding and Safety sub-committees.
- Finally, CIVL has set up a Competition Structure Working Group to study the possibilities of alternate form of competition: Serial class championships, separate Team and Individual championships, Open distance championships.
CIVL hope that everyone will be convinced that these proposals are in fact a “satisfactory solution” that would allow the new Competition class paragliders to be flown in all competitions from 2014 on.
CIVL encourages PMA to work on this project as fast and as well as possible. A lot depends on PMA’s work.
CIVL is ready to make available its human and financial means so this global project can go forward, as long as all parties concerned – EHPU, PMA, ESTC – agree that this is the road that the paragliding industry and competition scene should take to come out of its current difficulties.