News of Records

Safety Network


It has happened that people died only because an available equipment failure information did not reach them. The aim of the Safety Network is to avoid that.


Please send the up-to-date name and email of your contact person to the CIVL Safety Officer to register in these lists and help keeping them accurate. Only the names are published, the email addresses are in a dedicated mailing list.

National Safety Officers

Argentina - Juan Ramon Castillo
- John Twomey
- Jean Solon
- Chico Santos
Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Mirvad Zenuni
- Michael Yankov & Daniel Dimov
- Suzanne Francoeur & George Martin
- Zhaofang Han
- Mayer Zapata
- Zlatko Vukicevic & Radoslav Ostermann
- Dan Vyhnalik & Klara Beranova
- Arne Havgaard
- Jari Lehti
- Claude Bredat
- Karl Slezak
Great Britain - Angus Pinkerton
- Lillian LeBlanc & Ioannis Myrianthopoulos
- Alejandro Toralla
Hong Kong
- Trevor Gribble
- Laszlo Kerekes
- Robert Bragason
- Ramakant Sharma
- Philip Lardner
- Rodolfo Saccani
- Toshiyuki Katsura
- Siegfried Herzog
- Justinas Pleikys & Jevgenij Blocha
- Gregory Knudson
- Goran Dimiskovski
- Nasarudin Baker
- Ahmed Lahmidi
- Araldo van de Kraats & Henry Lemmen
New Zealand
- Nicky Hamill
- Runar Halling
- Sajjad Shah & Jabbar Bhatti
- Zbigniew Gotkiewicz & Mariusz Nowacki
Serbia - Zeljko Ovuka
- Milan Bohuš
- Igor Eržen
South Africa
- Egmont van Dijk & Hans Fokkens
- Beni Stocker
- Elsa Mai
- Eugeniy Bublik
United States of America
- Doug Stroop

Professionals & Media

Hang Glider Manufacturers Association - Mike Meier
Paraglider Manufacturers Association - Hans Bausenwein & David Humphrey
Oz Report - Davis Straub
Sport Aviation Publications - Dennis Pagen

Still to Answer

El Salvador
Korea PR
San Marino
Saudi Arabia
St Kitt & Nevis
United Arab Emirates
Cross Country Magazine


Incidents Types

This incidents types list is a synthesis of syntheses of several national overall practice incidents databases. Some sources have been lost, however the synthesis remains. All sources were real, yet sorting the categories and especially the solution proposals are subjective (i.e. the 2012 CIVL Safety Officer). The records run already over several decades, but this list is of course open. So feel free to send any commentary, amendment or new case to the Safety Officer.  Lastly, this list is being corrected in native English and will be updated as soon as possible. Fly safe.




lack of oxygen flying down, oxygen set
dehydration drinking, camelback
hypoglycemia eating
cold weather checking, gloves, clothing
sun sunglasses, sunscreen, clothing, drinking
need to pee learning technique
white dots on retina good sunglasses
visual flaw (midair path) red tape, FLARM
airsick training
scubadiving less than 12 hours before flight renounce
bad physical shape renounce
lack of sleeping renounce
tiredness renounce
alcohol renounce
cannabis renounce
wounds on ground poor fitness
personal worries renounce
feeling "beside" renounce
lack of experience training
start of season learning
carelessness training
speeding up delay
nervous delay
anger delay
excess of confidence learning
"testosterone" delay
distraction (camcorder...) delay
forgetting to hook in / legloops OZ method: aircraft = glider + harness, closing legloops 1st
run stop in tandem launch poor preparation
student without guidance pedagogy flaw
panic pedagogy flaw
fear (adrenalin) training
risky behaviour with weather, aerology getting conscious (forgiving only 99% of times)
unavailability, overload comfort, tuned equipment
unavailability, overload simplifying, training
impossible or difficult direct connection all harnesses with front opening: 2015, 2020?
forgetting to hook in direct connection, automatic carabiner backup, main riser easy to clip in
forgetting legloops / waist strap linked legloops / waist strap, upper zipper closing from bottom?
forgetting to close chest strap external chest strap
impossible standing up position proper rail length, legloops length tuning
impossible lying position riser / footplate connection cord present & tuned, centered rail
forgotten hook in 1/ let go, 2/ U-turn to crash onto hill
zipper failure zipper mounted on velcro sandwich
tilt cord break removable tilt cord, proper cam / friction blocking
impossible wanted parachute opening handle on pod, reached by both hands or 2 parachutes
unwanted parachute opening faired & fitted pod handle
backplate break reinforced backplate connected to safety frame
main riser break main riser properly sewn & connected to safety frame, shock absorber?
main suspension rope break main riser sliding on strong metal rod
separation upon backplate break main riser connected to freefall tested safety frame
legs injuries suit ballast limits to lightest pilots
spine injuries airbag
face wounds by glasses glasses without sharp rim
loosing helmet tested geometry, strong chin strap
"neck breaker" minimal fairing behind helmet
brain rotational wounds
MIPS helmet technology

jamming cord on launch outside attachments by cow hitches or quick links, no hook nor (radio) wire
difficult parachute opening pilot chute on pod
pilot chute break freefall tested pilot chute
separation on parachute opening parachute bridle connected to harness safety frame
parachute burst in terminal velocity opening freefall tested sail, shock absorber?
injuries upon landing under parachute size suited to gross weight
parachute pod opened before throwing protected closing loop, lines stowed on pod
separation on drogue chute opening, torsion forces drogue chute connected to harness, possibly on axis
interference drogue chute / keel short bridle
unavoidable crash upon landing use glider to absorb energy, warp around one downtube
drowning upon water landing exit to trailing edge, easy harness opening, cutaway?
forgetting safety pin with A frame closing in top area A frame closing in base bar area
fatigue failure of A frame top bolt right size, regular change, silent block?
double weakness of A frame top long bolt through keel short bolt in craddle under keel
torn cast downtube fittings upon downtube bending / break milled fittings
cable folding control bar, unconnection of sleeve & cable or fatigue break articulated control bar
base bar break without backup base bar internal wire (safety frame)
forgetting swan neck safety pin / haulback break in flight no swan neck haulback, backup (strap?)
folded leading edge inserts mylar inserts withheld in top of leading edge pockets
rectangular section spars break by complex forces wound carbon spars
keel break without backup keel internal rope (safety frame)?
forgetting / loosing nose cone by velcro weakness nose cone with fixed upper link, lower link by front wires?
forgetting to close sprogs or keel zippers anti-forgetting zippers?
hang loop dingle dangle or kingpost ready for easy harness clip in: 2015, 2020?
jamming VG cord VG cord stowing bungee on downtube bottom
side wires fatigue break 2,5 mm side wires, eye swage terminals?
corrosion hidden by painting anodized aluminium tubes
tiring, loss of interest glider tuning: symmetry then trim VG loose, symmetry then pitch VG tight
lock out close to ground on towing roll stable behaviour for beginners
weak push out on landing A-frame top behind main riser
rigids side wires disconnection in flight pin secured control wires
rigids spoilers / flaps disconnection in flight pin secured spoilers / flaps
rigids stabilizer lost in flight pin secured stabilizer on reinforced craddle
rigids D tubes delamination control during preflight check
protruding nail, cord jamming on launch surfacing
pitch change on slope change starting run not more than 1 m behind slope change (except cliff)
low pitch on cart, tug launching first keel support allowing to set pitch angle around 20 ° (rigids 10 °)
high pitch on cart, stall ensure right pitch angle (base bar ~ flight position)
tumble out of cart proper cart & bar cradles design, pilot pushing while rolling & holding cart hoses
dragging cart on launch base bar cradles for all bars
reversed velcro AoA limiter replace velcro limiter by glider / harness dual bridle
weak link break on launch properly tuned weak links, regularly replaced
face injuries on line break simple, light & compact release
"rocket" launch under winch tow, unrecoverable stall if line break restricted tension below 50 m, glider / harness dual bridle
jamming tow line no instrument in central part of base bar, sheathed line
impossible release on lock out high tension suited release (no 3 nor 2 cord loops system)
lock out close to ground under towing harness pitch & VG 1/3 tuning, glider / harness dual bridle & fin for beginners
aircraft collision with winch tow line winch tow activity on airmaps
low pitch, glider going in front of pilot setting pitch angle around 20 °
high pitch, early & slow glider launch, stall progressive acceleration
loss of control on cart specific reversed control
poor technique (launch, control, approach, landing) simplifying, training
tumble hang glider sprogs tuning, suiting VG to turbulence
drogue chute opening in front of base bar throwing in slow flight

spin close to ground wings level (more with drogue chute), VG loose / flaps on for final
loss of control close to ground transition to downtubes before final
loss of control close to ground holding low part of downtubes on final
poor landing "listening" for trim
obstacle on landing cutting fences / trees
overcrowded launch low stress generating setup / launching system (priority set up)
overcrowded start gate adapting period between launch opening and 1st start to conditions, ex. 1 to 2 hours
high altitude oxygen sets
lost pilots mobile phone on, live tracking
dangerous task line / final glide flight corridor over landable & aerologically safe zones
landing safety keeping daily turn direction (adapting line position on field)?
mental training: visualise problems & emergency procedures
aware of consequences (aviation's hardest is the ground)
aware of own (changing) limits: adrenalin, visual flaws; not cheating with oneself
fit & awake (distraction, excitement...)
ability to renounce: no dishonor but maturity
using logic rather than procedures learned by heart
simplifying procedures to lower work load
anticipating worsening situation (act instead of react), having an alternate
not relying on luck
safety scale (green: fly, yellow: watch ground, red: land)
humility, incorporate mistake's occurrence (airline pilots make 1 / hour)
accepting & assuming mistakes, listening to criticism even from less experienced persons
stepping in if detecting danger or incompetence
declaring incidents to increase common experience
putting stress on little mistakes: 1st step towards accident


lack of oxygen
need to pee
white dots on retina
visual flaw (midair path)
scubadiving less than 12 hours before flight
bad physical shape
lack of sleeping
wounds on ground

Incidents Types

This incidents types list is a synthesis of syntheses of several national overall practice incidents databases. Some sources have been lost, however the synthesis remains. All sources were real, yet sorting the categories and especially the solution proposals are subjective (i.e. the 2012 CIVL Safety Officer). The records run already over several decades, but this list is of course open. So feel free to send any commentary, amendment or new case to the Safety Officer.  Lastly, this list is being corrected in native English and will be updated as soon as possible. Fly safe. 




lack of oxygen flying down, oxygen set
dehydration drinking, camelback
hypoglycemia eating
cold weather checking, gloves, clothing
sun sunglasses, sunscreen, clothing, drinking
need to pee learning technique
white dots on retina good sunglasses
visual flaw (midair path) red tape, FLARM
airsick training
bad physical shape renounce
lack of sleeping renounce
tiredness renounce
scubadiving less than 12 hours before flight renounce
alcohol renounce
cannabis renounce
wounds on ground poor fitness
centrifugated lectures on high Gs dangers
loss of control without rescue opening lectures on high Gs dangers
personal worries renounce
feeling "beside" renounce
lack of experience training
start of season learning
carelessness training
speeding up delay
nervous delay
anger delay
excess of confidence learning
"testosterone" delay
distraction (camcorder...) delay
forgetting legloops starting with legloops
run stop in tandem launch poor preparation
student without guidance pedagogy flaw
panic pedagogy flaw
fear (adrenalin) training
risk taking with weather, aerology getting conscious (forgiving only 99% of times)
unavailability, overload comfort, tuned equipment
unavailability, overload simplifying, training
forgetting to close legloops, waist strap linked legloops / shoulderstraps
impossible wanted parachute opening handle on pod, reached by both hands or 2 parachutes
unwanted parachute opening faired & fitted pod handle
legs injuries suit ballast limits to lightest pilots
spine injuries deployable airbag
face wounds by glasses glasses without sharp rim
loosing helmet tested geometry, strong chin strap
"neck breaker" minimal fairing behind helmet
brain rotational wounds MIPS helmet technology
jamming cord on launch outside attachments by cow hitches or quick links, no hook nor (radio) wire
difficult parachute opening pilot chute on pod
pilot chute break freefall tested pilot chute
separation on parachute opening parachute bridle connected to harness safety frame
parachute burst in terminal velocity opening freefall tested sail, shock absorber
injuries upon landing under parachute size suited to gross weight
parachute pod opened before throwing protected closing loop, lines stowed on pod
drowning upon water landing lecture about cases & reactions, equipment design
loss of control during launch, dragged easier sail behaviour, Rose system
collapses kept entangled more lines in the upper front part of the pyramid?
cutting or fatigue line break proper size lines
collapses, late reaction for low AoA solid profiles?
collapses, turbulence at max speed max speed below max potential speed
spiral stability improve design
protruding nail, cord jamming on launch surfacing
"rocket" launch under winch tow, unrecoverable stall if line break restricted tension below 50 m, improve operator's skills
impossible release on lock out high tension suited release (no 3 nor 2 cord loops system)
aircraft collision with winch tow line winch tow activity on airmaps
obstacle on landing cutting fences / trees
spinaker effect simplifying, training
poor sail rising control simplifying, training
line mix simplifying, training
gust training
low angle of attack training
passenger / pilot interaction poor preparation or briefing
back into slope sail control & anticipating
lockout sail control & anticipating
collision following rules, watching & anticipating
collapse training, SIV
stall / surge training, SIV
spin training, SIV
parachutal improving sail control & altitude management
pilot wrapped up in sail lectures on aerobatics
unwanted rescue opening equipment preparation
high wind improving wind analysis & anticipating
poor approach, low turn long straight final
gradient improving wind analysis & anticipating
collapse due to obstacles improving judgement
obstacle on landing improving judgement & anticipating
no braking improving judgement, pedagogy
overcrowded start gate adapting period between launch opening and 1st start, ex. 1 to 2 hours
high altitude oxygen sets
collapse reduce speed by task design
lost pilots mobile phone on (what's app), live tracking, SPOT
dangerous task line / final glide flight corridor over landable & aerologically safe zones
overcrowded landing keeping daily turn direction (adapting line position on field) if possible
mental training: visualise problems & emergency procedures
aware of consequences (aviation's hardest is the ground)
aware of own (changing) limits: adrenalin, visual flaws; not cheating with oneself
fit & awake (distraction, excitement...)
ability to renounce: no dishonor but maturity
using logic rather than procedures learned by heart
simplifying procedures to lower work load
anticipating worsening situation (act instead of react), having an alternate
not relying on luck
safety scale (green: fly, yellow: watch ground, red: land)
humility, incorporate mistake's occurrence (airline pilots make 1 / hour)
accepting & assuming mistakes, listening to criticism even from less experienced persons
stepping in if detecting danger or incompetence
declaring incidents to increase common experience
putting stress on little mistakes: 1st step towards accident

Safety Notices

Gin, 21 Novembre 2013  Rescue Installation

DHV, 11 July 2013  Team 5 Blue Deep Stalls

Gin, 15 April 2013  Airlite Recall

Sup'Air, 15 March 2013  Delight Reserve Extraction

Gin, 17 May 2012  Safari & Boomerang X Brakes

DHV, 09 May 2012  Ozone Enzo Risers

DHV, 27 February 2012  Gin Boomerang GTO Adhesive Reinforcements

DHV, 15 April 2011  Harnesses With Front Cockpit & Leg Fairings

DHV, 14 April 2011  Karpofly Harnesses Reserve Extraction

DHV, 29 March 2011  Skywalk Cayenne 3, Chili 2 & Joint 2 Adhesive Tape

DHV, 18 February 2011  Performance Gliders in Rain

DHV, 21 June 2010  Woody Valley Bix Reserve Extraction

DHV, 12 March 2010  Sol Flex Back Protector

HGFA, 16 May 2008  Sup'Air Altix & Evo XC Reserve Extraction

DHV, 09 March 2005  Firebird RS 2 Reserve Container

Safety Notices

DHV, 14 Novembre 2013  Woody Valley Tenax 3 Parachute Handle

Aeros, 16 August 2013  Carbon Spars Combat Serial Numbers

DHV, 25 March 2013  Skyline Zero Drag Reserve Extraction

DHV, 29 May 2012  Kingpostless Gliders Keel

Wills Wing, 13 April 2012  Kingposted Gliders Hang Loop

Aeros, 28 April 2011  Combat & Discus VG Pulleys

Aeros, 11 April 2011  Harness Leg Loops

A.I.R, 11 November 2008  Atos Leading Edge Setup

USHPA, 15 March 2006  Stall Danger In Tandem Aerotowing

Helmets for Airsports

The 2010 CIVL Plenary Meeting ratified the Bureau decision to mandate the wearing of EN966-certified helmets in Category 1 competitions. The enforcement of that rule is the responsibility of the organisers.

The list has been compiled by FAI Officials, using a variety of sources, including manufacturer websites and sales agents. The CIVL Bureau hopes that the HG/PG community will help keep this list updated by informing us of any omissions and notifying new certified models. This will prove most useful to organisers of future championships as well as to pilots and team leaders preparing to compete in championships.


List of Helmets Currently Used in Airsports Which Are Claimed to Be Certified to EN966

Last updated: 2 July 2013

* Not allowed in Category 1 Championships

ManufacturerModelFull Face/
Open Face
Certification Claimed
Air Extreme (APCO) Cloudchaser FF EN966
FreeAir2 OF EN966
FreeAirCom2 OF EN966
Charly Insider FF EN966
Air control OF EN966
No Limit FF EN966
No Limit Jet OF EN966
Breeze OF EN966
Loop OF EN966
Ace OF EN966
Icaro 4-Fight LT Jet OF EN966
4-Fight LT Integral FF EN966
4-Fight Cut Integral FF EN966
Grid Integral FF EN966
Grid Jet OF EN966
Grid Cut Integral FF EN966
Cut 3 FF EN966
Fly OF EN966
Sky Runner FF EN966
Iguano OF EN966
Skin OF EN966
Independence HI-tec FF EN966
Lazer X-Stream FF EN966
B-Cool OF EN966
Downhill FF EN966
Jetstream OF EN966
Microavionics MM021 OF EN966
MM001D OF EN966
MM020A-N OF EN966
MM001B OF EN966
Ozone Nutshell OF EN966
Plusmax PlusAir OF EN966
PlusAir FF EN966
Sup'Air Evolution OF EN966
Evolution FF EN966
Lubin Aero OF No *
Full Face FF No *
Integra FF No *
Race FF No *
Open Face OF No *
Maxim OF No *
Suchanek OF No *

Risk Awareness

Why Can't We Get a Handle on This Safety Thing?
Mike Meier (USA) 1998

Mike Meier is in the leading team of the hang glider manufacturer Wills Wing and chairman of the Hang Gliding Manufacturers Association. Here he explores why overall pilot safety statistics don't seem to change. He theorizes that over time our perception of "acceptable risk" gets lower and lower because repeated success with less than "100% safe" decisions changes our definition of "100% safe".


If I were to ask you to characterize the view that the "uninformed public" has of hang gliding, what might you say? You might say that they think of hang gliding as a "death sport" or, at the very least, an "unreasonably unsafe activity". You might say that they think hang glider pilots are "thrill seekers" who recklessly disregard the inherent risks in what they do. You might say that they are under the mistaken impression that hang gliders are fragile, unstable flying contraptions blown about by the winds and only partially, and inadequately under the control of the occupant.

If confronted by this attitude in a spectator, how might you respond? You might say that once upon a time, in the very early days of the sport, it was true that gliders were dangerous, and pilots behaved in an unsafe manner. You might point out that in recent years, however, the quality of the equipment, the quality of training, and the level of maturity of the pilots have all improved immeasurably. You might point to the fine aerodynamic qualities of today's hang gliders, the rigorous certification programs in place for gliders, instructors, and pilots, and you might give examples of the respectable occupations of many hang glider pilots; doctors, lawyers, computer programmers. You might make the claim that hang gliding today is one of the safer forms of aviation, and is no more risky than many other action oriented sports.

Later on, you might laugh about the ignorant attitude of the "woofo". Or, you might wonder "Why is it, after all these years, that the public still doesn't understand? Why can't we educate them about what hang gliding is really like, and how safe and reasonable it really is?"

So now let me ask you another question. What if they're right? What if they're right and we're wrong? And what if I can prove it to you?


Let's take a look. First of all, you have to admit that year after year we continue to kill ourselves at a pretty depressing rate. Anybody that's been around this sport for very long has probably lost at least one friend or acquaintance to a fatal hang gliding accident. Most of us who have been around for more than 20 years have lost more than we care to think about. It's true that we have seemingly made some improvement in the overall numbers in the last twenty five years; between 1974 and 1979 we averaged 31 fatalities a year. Since 1982 we've averaged about 10 per year. In the last 6 or 8 years, we may have dropped that to 7 per year. On the other hand, what has happened to the denominator in that equation? In 1978, there were 16 US manufacturers viable enough to send teams to the manufacturer's competition in Telluride. Today we don't even have a manufacturer's competition. My guess is that the fatality rate hasn't changed much, and almost certainly hasn't improved in the last 10 years. I'd guess it's about 1/1000 per year, which is what I guessed it was 10 years ago.

So the question is why? The equipment gets better and more high tech every year, we know more about teaching than ever, we've got parachutes, rockets to deploy them, full face kevlar helmets, wheels, FM radios for emergency rescue. We're all about 20 years older, and commensurately wiser and more conservative. How come we're not safer?

rc hanggl1


I've been asking myself variations on this question for as long as I can remember. Three years ago I had an accident, and in thinking about that accident I thought that maybe I had stumbled onto some little insight into the answer. I'll share it with you.

Here's the story (If you don't like reading "there I was" stories, or other people's confessional accident reports, skip this part. I won't be offended). We were out doing some production test flying at Marshall Peak in San Bernardino. For those of you who haven't flown there, Marshall is a rounded knob in the middle of a 2200' tall ridge in the foothills along the northern border of the east end of the Los Angeles basin. It's a very reliable flying site; probably flyable 300 days a year and soarable on most of them. It was July, in the middle of the day, but the conditions were not particularly strong. We were landing on top, which we do whenever conditions are not too rowdy, because it vastly enhances efficiency. I was flying a Spectrum 165, and setting up my approach. I've logged about 100 top landings a year at Marshall for each of the last 15 years. Even so, I know for a fact that at the time, I was not complacent. I know because I have a clear memory of what I was thinking as I set up my approach. In two weeks, I was due to leave on a three week family vacation abroad, and I was thinking "You damn well better not get yourself hurt before your trip or your wife is going to kill you".

At the same time, I wasn't anxious. I was flying a Spectrum, the conditions were only moderate. I'd made lots of successful landings on more difficult gliders in more challenging conditions. I hadn't had an unsuccessful landing attempt in longer than I could remember. I was relaxed, yet focused. My intent was simply to fly a perfect approach. Such intent is always a good idea when top landing at Marshall; the landing is challenging, and a sloppy approach can quickly get you into trouble. I knew exactly where I wanted to be at every point in the approach, position, heading, altitude and airspeed. I executed the approach exactly as I wanted to.

You top land at Marshall half crosswind, gliding up the back side of the hill. You come in hot, because the gradient can be extreme, and there's often some degree of turbulence. The time interval from 40mph dive, through round out, to flare is very short. I was halfway through this interval, past the point where one is normally rocked by whatever turbulence is present, when both my left wing and the nose dropped suddenly and severely. I went immediately to full opposite roll control, and managed to get the wings and nose just level when the basetube hit. Having turned 90°, I was traveling mostly downwind, at a groundspeed of probably 30mph. The right downtube collapsed immediately, and the right side of my face and body hit the ground hard.

Very briefly, I thought I might die. For a slightly longer time, I thought about paralysis. Within a minute, I knew I was mostly ok. In the end, I got away with a slightly sprained ankle, and a moderate case of whiplash. I had three weeks to think about the accident while I bounced around the rutted dirt roads of East Africa trying in vain to keep my head balanced directly over my spine to moderate the pain.

The thing was, I never considered at the time of the landing that I was anywhere near "pushing the envelope". I've done dozens of landings at Marshall where I did feel that way. All during the previous two summers I had been top landing RamAirs at Marshall in the middle of the day in much stronger conditions. I had never had a crash. Thinking about it, I couldn't even remember the last time I had broken a downtube. I tried in vain to think of a clue that I had missed that this was going to be a dangerous landing.

Finally, I was left with only one conclusion. What happened to me was nothing more or less than exactly what the potential result was, during any of the times I had landed under similar, or more challenging circumstances. That was a dangerous landing because of what could have (and did) happen. The corollary, of course, is that all the other landings I had done, on more challenging gliders, in more challenging conditions, were also dangerous (in fact, they were more dangerous). And they were so in spite of the fact that no bad results ensued in any of those landings.

New Outlook

And suddenly I felt like I was beginning to understand something that I hadn't previously understood.

You see, here's how I think it works. The overriding determinant of pilot safety in hang gliding is the quality of pilot decision making. Skill level, experience, quality of equipment; all those things are not determinants. What those things do is determine one's upper limits. More skill gives you a higher limit, as does more experience or better equipment. But safety is not a function of how high your limits are, but rather of how well you stay within those limits. And that is determined by one thing; the quality of the decisions you make. And how good do those decisions have to be? Simply put, they have to be just about perfect. Consider the type of decisions you have to make when you fly. Do I fly today? Do I start my launch run at this time, in this cycle? Do I have room to turn back at the hill in this thermal? Can I continue to follow this thermal back as the wind increases and still make it back over the ridge? Each time you face such a decision, there is a level of uncertainty about how the conditions will unfold. If you make the "go" decision when you're 99% sure you can make it, you'll be wrong on average once every 100 decisions. At 99.9%, you'll still be wrong once every 1000 decisions. You probably make 50 important decisions for every hour of airtime, so a thousand decisions comes every 20h, or about once or twice a year for the average pilot.

So, to be safe, you have to operate at a more than 99.9% certainty. But in reality, 99.9% is virtually impossible to distinguish from 100%, so really, for all intents and purposes, you have to be 100% sure to be safe.

Go for It

And now I think we can begin to understand the problem. Let's first consider this: we all have a strong incentive to make the "go" decision. The "go" decision means I launch now, relieve my impatience to get into the air and avoid the annoyance of the pilots waiting behind me, instead of waiting for the next cycle because the wind is a little cross and the glider doesn't feel quite balanced. It means I turn back in this thermal, and climb out above launch and stay up, instead of taking the conservative choice and risking sinking below the top and maybe losing it all the way to the LZ. It means I choose to fly today, even though conditions are beyond my previous experience, rather than face listening to the "there I was" stories of my friends in the LZ at the end of the day, knowing that I could have flown but didn't, and knowing that they did and were rewarded with enjoyable soaring flights.

So the incentive is there to choose "go". The only thing we have to counter this incentive is a healthy respect for the possible dangers of failure, and our ability to evaluate our prospects for success. And here's where we get caught by a mathematical trap. Let's say I'm making my decisions at the 99% level, and so are all my friends. Out of every 100 decisions, 99 do not result in any negative consequence. Even if they're bad decisions, nothing bad happens. Since nothing bad happens, I think they're good decisions. And this applies not just to my decisions, but to my friends' decisions as well, which I observe. They must be good decisions, they worked out didn't they? The next natural consequence of this is that I lower my decision threshold a little. Now I'm making decisions at the 98% level, and still, they're working out. The longer this goes on, the more I'm being reinforced for making bad decisions, and the more likely I am to make them.

Eventually, the statistics catch up with me, and my descending threshold collides with the increasing number of opportunities I've created through bad decisions. Something goes wrong: I blow a launch, or a landing, or get blown over the back, or hit the hill on the downwind side of a thermal. If I'm lucky it's a $50 downtube or a $200 leading edge. If I'm unlucky, I'm dead.

Not so Wrong Image

If we can agree at this point that making 100% decisions is the only safe way to fly, it then becomes interesting to consider, as an aside, what the sport of hang gliding would look like if we all operated this way. Pilots would choose to fly in milder, safer weather conditions. They would operate much more comfortably within their skill and experience limitations. They would choose to fly more docile, more stable, easier to fly gliders. Landings would be gentle, and under control. Hang glider manufacturers would sell two downtubes and one keel for every glider they build (the ones that come on the glider) instead of three or four replacement sets like they do now. There would be far, far fewer accidents (as it is now, there are about 200 per year reported to USHPA). There wouldn't be any fatalities, except maybe for one every couple of years if a pilot happened to die of a heart attack while flying (it's happened once so far that I can remember).

Since this isn't anything like what the sport of hang gliding does look like, we might conclude that hang gliding, as it is presently practiced, is an unreasonably unsafe activity practiced by people who lack a proper and reasonable regard for their personal safety. In other words, we might conclude that the "uninformed public" has been right about hang gliding all along.

rc hanggl3


If you don't like that conclusion, I'm pretty sure you're not going to like any of the coming ones either. But let's first ask this question, if we wanted to address this problem of bad decisions being reinforced because they look like good decisions, how would we do it? The answer is, we need to become more critically analytical of all of our flying decisions, both before and after the fact. We need to find a way to identify those bad decisions that didn't result in any bad result. Let's take an example. You're thermalling at your local site on a somewhat windy day. The thermals weaken with altitude, and the wind grows stronger. You need to make sure you can always glide back to the front of the ridge after drifting back with a thermal. You make a decision ahead of time, that you will always get back to the ridge above some minimum altitude above the ridge top, say 800'. You monitor your drift, and the glide angle back to the ridge, and leave the thermal when you think you need to in order to make your goal. If you come back in at 1000' AGL, you made a good decision. If you come back in at 400, you made a bad decision. The bad decision didn't cost you, because you built in a good margin, but it's important that you recognize it as a bad decision. Without having gone through both the before and after analyses of the decision, (setting the 800' limit, observing the 400' result), you would never be aware of the existence of a bad decision, or the need to improve your decision making process.

This was one of the main ideas behind the safe pilot award. The idea wasn't to say that if you never crashed hard enough to need a doctor, you were a safe pilot. The idea was to get pilots thinking about the quality of their decisions. Not just, "Did I get hurt on that flight?", but "Could I have gotten hurt?" During the first couple of years of the safe pilot award program, I got a few calls and letters from pilots who would tell me about an incident they'd had, and ask for my opinion as to whether it should be cause for them to re-start their count of consecutive safe flights. I would give them my opinion, but always point out that in the end it didn't matter, what was important was that they were actively thinking about how dangerous the incident had really been; i.e. what was the actual quality of their decision making.

Looking back on it now, I would say that the criteria for a "safe flight" (any flight which didn't involve an injury indicating the need for treatment by a licensed medical professional) was too lenient. Today I would say it shouldn't count as a safe flight if, for example, you broke a downtube. A few years ago (or maybe it was ten or twelve, when you get to be my age, it's hard to tell), we had a short-lived controversy over "dangerous bars". The idea was that manufacturers were making dangerous control bars, because when smaller pilots with smaller bones crashed, their bones broke before the downtubes did (today, most of the complaints I hear are from the other side, pilots who would rather have stronger downtubes even if their bones break before the downtubes, because they're tired of buying $65 downtubes, which they're doing with some regularity). I have a different suggestion for both of these problems: Why don't we just stop crashing?

Self Critic

Of course I know why. The first reason is, we don't even recognize it as "crashing". I continually hear from pilots who say they broke a downtube "on landing" (I even hear from pilots who tell me - with a straight face, I swear - that they broke a keel, or a leading edge "on landing"). The second reason is, we don't think it's possible to fly without breaking downtubes from time to time. I mean after all, sometimes you're coming in to land and the wind switches, or that thermal breaks off, or you're trying to squeak it into that small field, and you just can't help flaring with a wing down, sticking the leading edge, ground looping, slamming the nose (WHAAAAACK!) and breaking a downtube.

We regularly observe our fellow pilots breaking downtubes, which also reinforces our perception that this is "normal". I'm going to go out on a limb here. I'm going to say that if you've broken more than one downtube in the last five years of flying, you're doing something seriously and fundamentally wrong. Either you're flying too hot a glider for your skills, or you're flying in too challenging conditions, or at too difficult a flying site.

Now let's ask one more thing. If hang glider pilots stopped dying, and if hang glider landing areas stopped resounding with the sound of WHAAAAACK every second or third landing (in other words, if hang gliding started looking like fun, instead of looking both terrifying and deadly), do you think maybe the public's perception of the sport might change? (Not do you think more of them would want to do it, in truth, no they probably still wouldn't.) But do you think maybe they'd stop thinking we were crazy for doing it?

Maybe they would.

And maybe they'd be right.

Original article: http://www.willswing.com/articles/Article.asp?reqArticleName=HandleOnSafety

Risk Analysis

Reducing Your Risk - Greg Hamerton (ZA) 2001

Greg Hamerton writes fantasy novels and paragliding articles. He has been flying paragliders since 1992 and has flown over 100 wings. He prefers responsive handling and agility but rates passive stability highly as he enjoys taking photographs and snoozing whilst gliding. Here he analyses the components of risk and how to prevent them to reach the pilot.


"Keep a good margin of safety", the instructor advised. Great. But what does it mean? How can you reduce your risk when leaping off a mountain with a piece of fabric (and maybe some metal too)?

Free-flyers are exposed to a variety of risks, coming from different aspects of the environment. By identifying where the greatest risk for the day lies, you can make an effort to take precautions by increasing your safety margins in each of the other aspects. The idea is to reduce the number of risk elements that can reach the pilot at one time.

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To actively manage your risk, find ways to counteract the particular danger, trying to achieve a "green light" state in each segment. The closer the threats have crept in toward the pilot in the centre, the more "red light" warnings are lit, and the more cautious you should be with other elements. When too many elements are impacting the pilot with high risk, the inevitable accident happens, which is a complete failure of risk management. You can usually handle one risk at a time, but when two or three threats compete, things get hectic. By examining each element in turn, I hope to provide some insight into maintaining a good margin of safety.


No matter your level of experience, sudden bad weather can "take you out". It is the most important risk to manage. The first thing you can do to actively reduce the risk is to watch the weather forecast. It sounds simple, but it gives you an idea of what to expect. The weather forecast predicts a cold front coming through in the morning, with the wind swinging through 180° thereafter, and strengthening to 50km/h. If the day dawns with a light 15km/h, you already have the warning bells ringing. The more changeable the weather is, the higher the risk is, because the predictions and your own judgement onsite are less accurate. Right, so you're now on the hill. Put up a windsock. If it's ranging from left to right, the wind is variable, which increases the risk of turbulence. If the wind is gusting from 5 to 30km/h, the risk of turbulence is again higher than a steady 20km/h. Have a look at the average direction of the wind. The straighter it is, the more penetration problems you have when trying to escape from being blown over the back, thus your risk is higher if the wind is strong and straight. But if the wind is skewed to one side, the risk of turbulence increases, as your risk of being "blown over" reduces. Lastly, the wind strength is vital - the stronger it is, the fewer other risks you can tolerate, because things go wrong really fast.


Until you have attended a maneuvers clinic and you are familiar with the limits of your current glider, you're flying with a higher glider-risk than you need to, especially if it's a new glider, or you've upgraded to a new class. Try to choose a wing you will be happy on all the time, not only in the smooth conditions. The DHV or AFNOR class is a guideline, but doesn't show how often a wing collapses (paragliders, hopefully not hanggliders). Although manufacturers like to advertise their glider's top speed, useable speed is usually lower, and deteriorates with the presence of turbulence, especially on high-performance models. However, if you get to the slope and it's strong and smooth, look critically at the airborne gliders before pulling up your solid intermediate. The long-and-thin competition wings have the use of all their speed then, and might be flying when you can't. However, on the very turbulent days, your glider risk will still be manageable. Finally, a regular equipment inspection and yearly factory check will help to keep your glider risk in the green.

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For a demonstration, imagine all five of your other risk elements "red-lining" for a moment. You have a cold and a hangover, and you have borrowed an aged competition glider for the first time. It only has an old canvas harness. You have no shoes or helmet. You don't know what weather was predicted, but someone mentioned Föhn conditions. The wind is strong, gusty, and crossed on launch. The hair standing up on the back of your neck yet? Good, now look at the new site before you, and all its nasties will jump up at you clearly. Consider yourself flying only half the wing, badly, and being thrown around unpredictably. Rough, rocky terrain increases the risk of turbulence, and limits your emergency landing areas. Small landing fields with critical approaches raise the risk again. If there are no visible wind indicators (lakes, fires, airborne gliders), the site risk is again even higher. When flying cross-country, you are coming upon a new site every five minutes, which is why it requires constant analysis, and lots of caution. A pilot ahead of you flies right up against the slope and seems to be okay. Should you follow? Well, ask yourself how experienced that pilot is. If you have less experience (or don't know), you would be red-lining to be flying as close. Position yourself in the safest part of the air where you can still fly, not in the quickest place to get up. This lowers your risk while you are building the necessary experience and ability.


Good old body armour. Anything you can put between you and the ground reduces your risk here, and it's as easy as pulling out your credit card. Defend yourself with fullface helmet, boots with ankle support, thick foam in the harness (especially at the base of the spine), knee and elbow pads. You can add an airbag to be doubly sure. You look like more of a dork in a hospital bed than covered in protective gear. Besides, they won't see you for long - you're not going to stand around on takeoff, are you? Reserve parachutes are a very good idea, but they do not reduce your risk just by buying them. You must learn how to use them, and check your system regularly. Accidental deployments are risky moments. Also, 50% of reserve's I've handled during repack clinics have deployment problems, usually due to bonded Velcro strips, awkward harness designs, or incorrect elastics used on the nappies. Packing errors are less common, but it does highlight the need to understand the reserve before it can work for you and not against you. Keeping in touch with others via radio and cellphone means you can benefit from shared knowledge and team rescues. Finally, a GPS is a useful tool for XC flying, giving you a constant update on your speed over the ground, which reduces your risk of being blown over a ridge in wind you didn't recognize.


Some pilots are naturals, others must learn the hard way. Unfortunately, it is human nature to think we are in the first group until we stuff it up. There's an easy way around this pitfall. Even if you're a reincarnated bird, follow in the footsteps of the hard-learner (you can just do it better ;-). Aerobatics are best begun in a maneuvers clinic, but thereafter you can build your ability by practice, practice, practice - up high. The awareness and sensitivity you build up with your wing is invaluable. A quicker way to enhance your ability is to take your glider to a field or easy site and work on your groundhandling. Professional launching does wonders for risk management. It's all about flying when you want to, not when the gusts decide. When you're up in the air, be critical of your position relative to others. The higher your overall risk profile is, the further away from the ground or compression zones you need to be, just to keep yourself on a par with others. When you're new to the sport, your ability to recognize danger is limited, so you only notice that you're in trouble when things are very bad. This is another reason why you should be out in front of the ridge, ahead of the sports pilots and the skydogs who are going "over the back".

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The best is the experience you build from airtime, so if you're not a local at the site you've chosen to fly, know that your risk is high, unless you've got hundreds of flying hours to draw upon. On the blown-out days, seek out whatever theory you can to boost your knowledge. Many good books have been written on flying, the weather, and first aid. There are websites on flying, email forums, and even the war-stories in the flyer's pub contain a grain of useful truth. XC courses, SIV courses and competitions round off the picture. The more involved you become, the more your growing knowledge helps to reduce your risk. Just be aware that you will sometimes overestimate your knowledge - it's a symptom of being human. We always, always "blow it" at some point.

Putting It All Together

You've bought a new glider, one class up from the one you're used to. So your wing segment is red-lining (new glider + upgrade). What can you do to reduce your risk? Choose your elements carefully - go to the safest site you can for the day, be less tolerant of risky weather than usual, pretend that you have less ability than you know you have and fly accordingly, seek out as much knowledge as you can about the wing, its DHV rating, and the site you're flying, put some extra gear between you and the ground.

It's all about making sure you have enough other "green lights" on your panel at all times, so you've got that margin of safety.

Original article: http://eternitypress.com/freshair/risk.htm

Life Perspective

The Long Haul - Brian Germain (USA) 2004

In addition to being a Professional Skydiving Instructor with over 14,000 jumps , a parachute designer and the President of Big Air Sportz parachute manufacturing company, Brian Germain is the author of several books about skydiving and psychology, including Transcending Fear. With his psychology background and sport experience, he gives talks and seminars on fear management. Here is his outlook about one's goals.


There are many areas of this sport in which we can invest ourselves, so many avenues in which to excel. By focusing heavily on a single discipline, we are able to achieve significant notoriety in a fairly short period of time. By utilizing the superior training techniques, personal coaching and wind tunnel rehearsal, modern skydivers are able to reach significant prowess in just a few months of participation in the sport. Although the speedy gratification of our desires is tempting and rewarding in the short term, there is a larger, more important goal. We must survive.

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Fast Learning

I asked Lew Sanborn (skydiving legend) what he thought was the biggest problem in the sport today. With very little hesitation he stated that what concerns him the most is “new jumpers trying to make a name for themselves before their skills are ready for them to have that name”. We want to get it all in one shot, and instantly achieve all of our goals. In a pursuit as complex as skydiving, it is impossible to get all the necessary information in a short period of time. We have to keep learning, and hope that our knowledge bucket fills up before our luck bucket runs out.

Ego Versus Survival

It is difficult to see the big picture of our lives from where we are at any given moment. We forget that the medals we strive so hard to achieve will not mean much when we are older. They will just represent more stuff to box up when we retire to Florida. In the end, the things that matter most pertain to the choices that we wish we could take back. Twisting an ankle today might seem like a small issue, but in fifty years from now, it will be something that effects whether or not we can ever jump again.

Picture yourself forty or fifty years from now. Are you still skydiving? Do you have pain in your joints from a bad landing? The quality of your life in the future is dependant on the choices you make today. If that wise old geezer that you will someday be could somehow communicate to you in the present-day, it might sound something like: “Stop trashing my body!”

We are insecure when we are young. We are so uncertain of who we are that we feel a need to prove ourselves at every opportunity. We think that who we are is based on our most recent performance. We go to great lengths to show the world what we can do, and often pay a hefty price for our impulsiveness. Short-sighted goals neglect to take into account anything that does not achieve that goal. If looking cool and wearing the right gear is your highest priority, you may find yourself joining the dead skydivers club before too long.


I hate sounding like an old fart. People assume that being safety oriented means that you have to be boring. Not true at all. We can have fun; we just need to keep the throttle below 100% thrust if we are to control where we are going. The long-term survivors in this sport all seem to have this perspective; whether or not they talk about it. We sit around in trailers at boogies, shaking our heads at the ridiculous behavior that repeats itself over and over. We watch people eat it in the same ways that they did last year, and twenty years before that. It’s like the message did not get out or something. The message is: “Pace yourself, this is a long journey”.

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Right Stuff

On every jump there is a way for your life to end. No matter how many jumps there are in your logbook, the Reaper is watching for the moment that you stop paying attention. He is looking for the one thing for which you are not prepared. This fact does not require your fear, it requires your attention. If you are to be there at the Skydivers Over Sixty Swoop Competition, you must let go of your grip on trying to prove yourself, and stay focused on the stuff that really matters.

The real identity of a skydiver is not in how many medals they win or how stylishly they swoop. It is in how long they jump and how safely. There simply are no Skygods under the age of sixty. If you want to prove yourself, stay alive.

Original article: http://www.bigairsportz.com/art-longhaul.php

Survive Experience

How to Survive Gliding? - Bert Willing (CH) 2008

Bert Willing has spent some 2,200h over 28 years in three dozen different gliders, and run about 70,000km cross-country, mainly in the Alps. He earned an German instructor’s licence 20 years ago, and since two years also teaches in his local Swiss club. He regularly trains aerobatics - without much ambition, he just loves rolls. Here he seeks why experienced pilots also have accidents.


In 1996, Southern France claimed a death toll of 18 amongst glider pilots - three of them dying at my airfield, when the training two-seater inadvertently spun into a single seater below it. At that point, I stopped gliding for a year in order to think about my own ranking on the list. Eventually I came to the conclusion (midairs set apart) that it solely depends on me if I want to wreck a glider. I then decided to keep on gliding and bought my first glider (well, a share in a glider).

Ten years and 1,300h later I can’t help to state that the number of accidents is certainly varying from year to year, but on average it always stays the same. Why is this? Is there anything we can do about it? Do I have a chance to escape from the statistics on the long run?

For me, gliding means to get to know new landscapes, to widen my experience. I’m constantly reaching my limits, and if I want to learn something new, I have to push these limits - on each flight, I somewhere have to cross the limit at least a little bit: the next mountain pass, the next mountain range, or the known ranges a little lower and a bit faster. I need to get beyond the limits in my head, but I mustn’t cross the limits of aviation!

I certainly have no easy solution to present how to avoid all those dead fellow pilots. I actually think that there is no easy solution at all - but may be it does help to speak out my thoughts.

Each time there is an accumulation of lethal accidents (which is about every summer) the pressure from third parties increases. Local or even national newspapers report, they point to the number of accidents (or impacts in residential areas), and subsequently politicians and the like feel the pressure “to do something”. Which will come along as “preliminary” rules and restrictions with the remark that we’ll have to wait for the accident investigation to conclude on causes.

Reading the investigation reports of the last years, one finds thorough explanations how the accident happened and why it was impossible to survive the impact. So, what do I learn from this? When a glider runs along with 110kph below a ridge and sticks its wingtip slightly into a rock, I don’t need much of an imagination that the pilot doesn’t stand any chance. If a pilot turns into final for an outlanding, stalling his glider less than 100m above ground - how would he possibly survive?

The investigation report will tell me very precisely, how the accident did happen - but not much else. It probably will tell me something about the poor pilot’s overall experience, and his level of training. But honestly, I shouldn’t expect much more even from the most conclusive report. But what I want to know is: Why did this accident happen? It’s not like most of the accidents happen to low-hours pilots and youngsters. On the contrary, most often the victims are pilots with thousands of hours and accomplishments I dearly would like to get to.

Why a Klaus Holighaus didn’t return from the mountains?
Why was a Hans Glöckl been had?
Why did a Wolfgang Lengauer crash into the ridge?
Why is Frederico Blatter gone?
Why does an experienced pilot spin into the ground during an outlanding?
How can I avoid to follow them?

If it hits so many experienced pilots, and if I’m piling up more and more experience - how not to be killed by my experience?!


Aviation is built on redundancy so that a single error doesn’t turn into disaster. If a mechanical link to the aileron has failed, the daily check will make it evident and the glider is grounded - but if we skip that daily check, we make an error on top of the defect, and that gives way to an accident.

Avoiding accidents therefore means breaking the chain of errors. Obviously, we also could try not to make errors in the first place - but I personally haven’t yet met the pilot who doesn’t make errors. Now, what are these errors? “Error” is probably not the right word, “accident factor” seems more appropriate to me. Accident factors can be classified into several groups:

  1. Technical Defaults
    Here we find structural failures, or problems like failure of instrumentation due to clogged pressure ports.
  2. Piloting Errors
    These are badly executed manoeuvres, as erroneous planning of the pattern circuit, stalling on final etc.
  3. Stress Overload
    We can be overloaded by ending up in a messy situation (struggling to stay aloft over unlandable terrain, low-level rope break on aerotow), or simply by the fact that our personal performance has detoriated by lack of oxygen, dehydration, tiredness or an urgent need to pee. But a pilot is also overloaded if he has to identify another glider heading for collision with more than 300kph relative, when the background contrast is high.
  4. Erroneous Situational Judgement
    Here, things are getting a little bit fuzzy... To judge a situation, we have to take into account the weather, the terrain, our flight experience, our actual level of training, our daily psychological state - everything.

Error chains are typically made of accident factors from more than one of these groups. Initially, we are happily cruising and don’t worry too much about outlanding sites - things look rather ok. Then the situation becomes a little stressy because that next thermal just doesn’t want to show up, and the situation with fields is not exactly what we thought it was. Workload gets high and higher and we finally don’t even recognise the piloting error on turning into final - until impact.

About twenty years ago I had a near-miss after which I started to think intensively about my behaviour in a cockpit: After releasing from a winch launch on a day without thermals, I was doing 60° bank turns in a glider of 26m wingspan. Somewhere around 250m AGL the nose gently started dropping, and the glider just wouldn’t react anymore. The standard procedure to stop a spin showed no result (the rudder was sucked into the direction of the spin, and I was pushing the pedal towards a force-limit, instead of pushing it to the mechanical stop). After a short review of the situation (including a hopeless glimpse at the canopy jettison handle), I pushed the rudder out of the shoulder to the stop, jerked the flap lever to negative and started to pull up as soon as my bum signalled seat pressure. By this time I had done one and a half spin revolutions, and the pull-up was well beyond any limit for Vne or max G-load, just to stay clear of the tree tops.

Looking back, I had worked myself through every possible part of the error chain:

  • It was the time of my diploma exams and I had a fairly poor level of training - but
    I wasn’t aware that my performance was badly affected by that.
  • I didn’t thought about the fact that stalling during a high-bank turn might turn
    even a docile ship into a beast, and that an open class ship with its huge
    angular momentum  takes some more time to stop a spin.
  • I didn’t fancy that the altitude after a winch launch only offers a quite limited
    reserve AGL for a spin experience.
  • I finally did a very common piloting error by stalling the ship.

The only reason why I had succeeded to break the error chain was that over the past, I had developed the habit to train spins (at high altitude) with almost any glider I ever flew. But the fact that I did make it in the end was basically luck (obviously, I didn’t have any plan B). That day I decided that my survival mustn’t merely rely on a little luck.

In order to break the error chain, we have to think about how to avoid or neutralize the "accident factors“ of any of the above groups.

Technical defaults and piloting errors are "hard factors“; they can be assessed objectively. Since soaring has been around since quite a couple of decades, one can say that these factors can be relatively well kept at bay through official rules and legislation (training syllabus, airworthiness requirements etc.).

Stress overload and erroneous judgements are "soft“ accident factors - it depends on the very pilot which stress load he will stand, or why he misjudges a critical situation. And as it depends on the pilot, there can be no strict rules to hide behind: Every pilots needs to know his own limits, and he can’t discharge responsibility!

I am convinced that the starting points of most accidents are soft factors. The error chain then adds a hard factor or two (stalling on turn to final) to make the perfect crash. And as these soft factors can’t be fought by general rules and legislation, they are difficult to grasp - and in the world of soaring, there is no tradition to discuss them in a structured manner. Professional aviation is light-years ahead of us in this point. Of course - professional aviation deals with other levels of workload and responsibility... Well, does it? In terms of responsibility, certainly so. There are not 300 pax in my Ventus choosing between chicken and pasta while trusting the pilot.

On the workload level, I’m not quite that sure. On an eight-hours cross-country flight through the Alps, I have to make strategic and tactical decisions by the minute, I have to fly the glider precisely (i.e. low on a ridge), I have to deal with lots of radiation from the sun and have to worry about getting enough oxygen to breathe. There is no autopilot or copilot I could count on. I’m convinced that high-performance flights in gliders put a huge workload on the pilot, and that those soft factors are being systematically underestimated and pushed away. It’s about time to grow up a little in this aspect.

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Stress Overload

A stress overload always happens when our performance doesn’t match a given task. That may be the case because a task is very or even too difficult, or because our performance has decreased for various reasons. In any case, it is a "soft“ factor as it strongly depends on the situation and on the pilot’s personality.

What can we do about this? We have three choices:

  • We can make sure that our performance doesn’t decrease.
  • We can make use of "pre-defined“ solutions.
  • We can avoid situations which might push us beyond our limits.

Obviously, the best would be a combination of all three.

Performance can already be maintained by technical means: The human eye is not at all trained to identify an aircraft bound for collision. That aircraft doesn’t move relative to our field of view - but genetically, we are hunters and our image processing is optimized for movement detection. The identification of a still object 30° off our nose is just not part of our “specification sheet”. We can help our mark-1 eyeballs by using an anti-collision system as FLARM, by giving our glider’s appearance a little contrast, and by supplying the brain with enough oxygen for image processing. As aerobatic pilots know well, image processing is the first thing shut down by the brain if there is a lack of oxygen.

Another tool which helped to reduce my personal workload enormously, is the GPS in alpine soaring. Without a GPS, going to a new mountain range gives a lot of work with map and rule in order to decide which outlanding field is within reach, and when I can’t jump into the next cone anymore. If one gets low, one also needs to find lift on those unknown ridges, and if the ridges don’t work, the workload gets real high. Since my GPS offers me the bearing and distance to the next field with a simple glance, my beats-per-minute have significantly decreased in such situations. Obviously, the maps and the rule are still in my side pocket, but most of the time I can just concentrate on the lift. And instead of having my nose in the map for long moments, I even can watch out for other gliders.

A helpful tool can also be a stall warning (i.e. the side string on the canopy). If a pilot spins in during the final turn for an outlanding, his normal input channels to detect a stalled attitude must have been clogged - which is also a form of overload.

And of course we have to pay attention to the biological base of our performance: If we fly for hours and hours, we have to eat, drink and pee - just as we do on the ground. If we sit for hours in the sun or the cold, we have to be protected. And flying in the mountains, we have to be aware how oxygen depletion affects our performance.

All these factors do tire us gradually, and we have to have a plan to fight them back. If I’m hungry, my blood sugar level is already too low, and when I’m thirsty, I am already dehydrated. And when I get the feeling that the air is getting thinner, the canula should have been up my nose since quite some time. Well, and everybody knows that bladder pressure is highest when we happen to be low down on the ridge...

All these factors play a role whether I will reach my limits during a hairy situation on this flight. And for this situation I should have made sure that I have the best prerequisites - a little less might just be the difference between a deep sigh, or dangling on a winch rope underneath a helicopter.

An important tool to escape from a difficult situation is the mental preparation - like considering a break of the tow rope while preparing for launch. Calling out "safety altitude“ during aerotow means that I know exactly what to do in case the tug lets me down, and that I just execute a pre-drilled manoeuvre. A good example is Valentin Mäder’s classification of a situation during cross country into the categories Green, Orange and Red. As long as the situation is “green”, average speed is all which matters. As soon as the situation becomes “orange”, the focus is on staying airborne, and during “red” the only task is a safe outlanding. By consequently "declaring the situation“, any doubts are dismissed and the actions are well defined - deviation from the track, accepting weak lift, dumping the water etc.


Sometimes a sharp decrease in performance may happen exactly when we need it the least: One locks up under stress - a little like the rabbit which get hypnotized by the snake. There is a fair number of investigations into this subject (mostly from the defence industry), and the findings can be wrapped up as follows: When we suddenly identify a situation as being life-threatening, our body sets free a massive dose of adrenaline. If this dose is too high, our basic motoric functions are pushed to their max (to make us escape that evil lion hunting for us), but our fine motorics and our perception are drastically reduced - with tunnel sight and selective hearing, we loose the best part of our connection to the world around us. There is just no way anymore to judge the situation correctly and to act accordingly. Once such a reaction has taken place, there is absolutely no way to control it, and when this happens in a cockpit, the outcome is dramatic: the glider stalls on turning into final, everything spins around and we try until impact to pull up the nose.

Is there anything we can do about this? Well, the simplest and best solution would be to avoid this type of situation - some words on this below.

The only alternative is to make sure that there are no massive doses of adrenaline. Some situations can’t or shouldn’t be trained, and it is important to go through a mental preparation with pre-defined actions schemes. If during a flight we see than the situation glitches towards drama, we then can take out the pre-defined action of the mental drawer and execute it even under stress.

However, there are critical situations which can be trained and drilled very conveniently - if one only wants to. Spins are a very good example: A pilot who has seen just half or one rotation during his initial training will be heavily disoriented when ten years later the sky turns green and keeps spinning around. It’s no big deal to do a little spin training at a safe altitude once or twice a year, together with an instructor if necessary. It will not be any guarantee that we never will spin a glider unintentionally - but if we do, stall, departure and even a stationary spin will be something we are used to, and our body will probably not push a dose of adrenaline into our veins which shuts off the better parts of our brains. Sometimes it just needs a second or two for the right reaction, and life goes on!

My near-miss described earlier is a good example: Having done spin training on various gliders over years did save my life, because the animal part of my brain didn’t take the strange attitude of the glider as life-threatening, thus giving me the chance to think. Tow rope breaks around safety altitude on aerotow are another example - having done most of my launches on a winch, a low rope break on aerotow used to be a nightmare for me. Now that I fly as an instructor in a club which exclusively aerotows, I have to fly these exercises on a regular basis (and have to prepare them mentally) - they are actually an excellent example for pre-defined action schemes.

Each pilot has his own personal limits, and we just have to understand that often these limits are much closer than we would like to think. How do we avoid situations, which push us beyond our limits? The first and most important step is to judge the situation and its potential development correctly. I am absolutely convinced that most heavy accident originate at this point.

Erroneous Situational Judgement

Correct judgement of a situation requires knowing one’s own limits - or even accepting the existence of personal limits in the first place, even though our “top gun image” might take a blow. It is important to be aware that these limits shift from day to day, and even throughout a single flight: Working the ridge after takeoff is a different story than ten hours later, when we scratch together the last couple of meters to finally make it home. If at the beginning of the season I spiral in a thermal just below and in front of the ridge, I might spend a thought or two on the fact that I just finished hibernation and I don’t exactly have the same level of training as I had last autumn after logging 150h during the season.

There are no rules or legislations to help us on that - we have to judge by ourselves. Lying to oneself means having one leg in the tomb. During spiralling underneath a ridge I personally put myself upon each turn the question whether I think survival of the next turn is a realistic scenario - and on quite a couple of occasions, the answer is “no”.

But even knowing the own limits one can perfectly have a judgement of a situation which is plain wrong. On a competition flight, I once went up the eastern side of the Durance valley from St Crépin to the turnpoint Briançon and back - with the north-westerly wind on that day a piece of cake to run low and fast. Unfortunately, the wind happened to be just strong enough so that this part of the valley was in the lee of the high Ecrins massif, and when I finally made back to St Crépin uncomfortably low, my neck had grown by a couple of inches.

In order to judge a situation correctly, it takes experience, and experience is actually the sum of all wrong judgements. Unfortunately, glider pilots can’t really escape this mechanism - and it is also just part of the game to sometimes sit for hours in a field swearing and trying to figure out, how one ended up here.

The lesson simply is that I have to accept that my judgement may be wrong. The basic rule is "Always have an alternate".

If the thermals don’t do what they are supposed to do, my “alternate” is a field within reach. But I have to know this field and be able to recall it before I get into the situation to need it! If my judgement is that the ridge will work, and I look for something landable only once the ridge has had its laugh at me, I’ll be under stress - and I only can react instead of act. I need at least one answer for every potential development of a situation.

If I’m running the ridge low above the trees, or if I thermal just above the ridge line (I have to have my escape route at any point of time) that can be the lee side of the ridge, or just my excess speed. If I haven’t thought about escape and hit the downdraft of the thermal close to the trees - well, then there will be just no escape. It’s just like crossing a mountain pass - you always approach under an angle and have the speed to abort.

The principle is always the same - I have to plan for the possibility and the ways a situation might degrade, and I have to be at least one step ahead of this degradation. If I don’t pay attention to this principle, I’ll be limping behind, and eventually I won’t be limping fast enough. Always be ahead of your aircraft.

Sometimes there is a "gutt feeling“ that something is wrong with the situation. There is no real grasp on this, every single point looks ok, but it just feels not ok. As a trained physicist, I used to discard gutt feeling and called them Voodoo - there is little place for esotherics in the world of physics. However, I have come to learn to listen to gutt feeling, and even to take it seriously. There have been days with good weather, a glider waiting for me and the whole day at my disposal. But something didn’t feel right and I told myself: Just forget it, go do something else. And I did. I still don’t know whether I should have been flying on these days, but then even I don’t need to know this - there will be enough other days to go flying.

rc glider2

Error Recognition

Stupid men always commit the same errors - intelligent men always invent new errors. Every pilot commits errors - we are humans, not machines. If we want to break the error chain, we have to organize or flying in a way that one single error won’t lead to an accident. The planning for alternates is an important tool for this.

But if we want to evolve, probably the most important means is to recognize the errors we have made, and to eventually learn from them. That means being honest to oneself in the first place, and to be open for critics. If during a flight things didn’t work out as expected, flying low did turn into flying real low, acceptable fields are nowhere to be seen and the adrenaline level rises... and puh, there is the lift and operations switch to “normal” again. Then it is absolutely important not to push away the event, but to mentally go through that situation again (maybe once we are back home) and to analyze how we did end up with cold sweat on our face. Of course it would be much more appealing to tell the buddies over a beer how close that call was and how our exceptional flying skills finally made it work out. But that means pushing away and lying to ourselves. It is much more worth to admit that that event was no good, and that would be better off avoiding it the next time. Stupid men always commit the same errors...

The recognition of errors also requires to listen to critics from the outside. An experienced pilot, an instructor and sometimes even a student pilot looks at our behaviour from the outside, and when he thinks he sees something strange - well, we should be listening first and then think about it before snapping "Shut up, bimbo“. Maybe he ain’t no bimbo.

Collective Treatment of Errors

People say that there are ten near-misses for every fatal accident. Those who had the fatal accidents are no more there to tell us which error chains finally killed them. The investigation report certainly will tell us that spinning in nearly vertically unfortunately didn’t leave a chance for survival. But why did this pilot with a couple of thousand hours under his belt stall his glider? What let him to commit a piloting error and to not even be aware of it? He won’t tell us - he’s bloody dead.

But for him, there have been ten near-misses where the accident has been avoided by breaking the error chain. These pilots can explain us how the error chain was built up, and how they eventually managed to break it. We all could learn a lot from this experience if those pilots would be ready (and be allowed) to talk about it frankly and honestly! Near-misses are a huge pool of experience, and we are actually in no position to discard it. However, it is important that pilots can easily and without any disciplinary consequences talk about their critical situations - the internet provides us a fantastic tool for this.

Constructive dealing with errors is a crucial point which absolutely needs to be incorporated into the culture of gliding. According to our traditions, errors are to be punished and will have "consequences“. Piloting errors should of course have the consequence of some more training, and there is very little place in aviation for any lack of discipline.

But there are lot of occasions to commit errors on the basis of “best knowledge and conscience”. If we get away with it and are aware of having been stupid, then we could at least try and have our buddies profit from that experience as well.

This will only work if the soaring community promotes an open discussion about these errors. Maybe our image of being cool pilots will take a little blow - but honestly, the photo of a pathetic heap of scrubbed plastic is certainly not something which conveys an image of coolness, either.

Many thanks to Valentin Mäder for his thought and the discussions with him!


Original article: http://www.tango-whisky.com/How%20to%20Survive%20Gliding.pdf

Harnesses and Back Protectors

At the 2011 CIVL Plenary Meeting, the paragliding harness rule, FAI Sporting Code Section 7B § 12.2.1, was modified as follows:

All pilots in 1st Category events must fly with a harness certified to EN1651, LTF09 or LTF03. The harness must be equipped with a back protector certified to LTF09 or LTF03.

In order to help pilots comply with this important safety rule, a table has been compiled from information sourced from the websites of harness manufacturers and test laboratories. The Paragliding Committee hopes that the PG community will help keep this list updated by informing us of any omission and notifying us of new certified models and harness/back protector combinations. This will prove most useful to organisers of future championships as well as to pilots and team leaders preparing to compete in championships.

Updates should be sent to the CIVL Competitions Coordinator.

Last updated: 22 February 2014

Manufacturer Model Harness Certification Complies with the Rules EN1651, LTF09 or LTF03 Protector Certified Allowed in Cat1
Advance Axess 2 Air EN 1651 LTF 03 YES YES YES
Success 2+ EN 1651 LTF 03 YES YES YES
Success 3 EAPR-GZ-7683/13 YES YES YES
Impress - NO NO NO
Impress 2 EN 1651 YES NO NO
Impress 2+ EN 1651 LTF 03 YES YES YES
Impress 3 EAPR-GZ-7411/11 YES YES YES
Lightness LTF 09 EN 1651 YES NO NO
Axess 3 EAPR-GZ-7636/12 LTF09 YES YES YES
Easiness EAPR-GZ-7620/12 LTF09 YES YES YES
Aeros Astera - NO NO NO
AeroSport Int Bump'air 17+ n/a n/a YES YES
Airwave Ram Race DHV GS-03-0332-06 LTF3 YES YES YES
Ram-C - NO NO NO
Laminar Control still in progress NO NO NO
Alpine GT Light EAPR-GZ-7050/08 LTF03 YES YES YES

DHV GS-03-0333-06 LTF03

APCO Blade Harness - NO NO NO
Chairbag DHV GS-03-0362-07 YES YES YES
Ava sport Tanto

DHV GS-03-0274-03 LTF03

Tanto Light

AIRT GZ_020.2011 LTF09

Tanto Race

AIRT GZ_029.2012 LTF09


EAPR-GZ-7124/09 LTF03


DHV GS-03-0274-03 LTF03

Cruiser NG AIRT GZ_014.2011 LTF03 YES YES YES
Student NG EN 1651 YES YES YES
Okuri MF AIRT GZ_013.2011 LTF09 YES YES YES
Twin NG AIRT GZ 033.2012 LTF09
Katana - NO NO NO
Samurai - NO NO NO
Charly Titan

DHV GS-03-0316-05

Titan 3 EAPR-GZ-7171/09 YES YES YES

EAPR-GZ-7255/10 LTF09


DHV GS-03-0380-11 LTF09


EAPR-GZ-7170/09 LTF03

Globe - NO NO NO
Escape S'Ofa AIRT GZ-023.2011 YES YES YES
Gin Gliders Genie Race EN 1651 YES YES YES
Genie Race II EN 1651 YES YES YES
Genie Lite EAPR-GZ-7535/12 LTf09 YES YES YES
Genie 4 EN 1651 YES YES YES
Verso EN 1651 YES YES YES
Basis EN 1651 YES YES YES
Basis RC EN 1651 YES YES YES
Gingo Airlight EN 1651 YES YES YES
Gingo Airlight(II) EN 1651 YES YES YES
Switch EN 1651 YES YES YES
Yeti LTF09 GZ 017.2011 YES NO NO
Hofbauer Hiro Pro EN 1651 YES YES YES
Icaro - Fly & more Energy Cross EN 1651 YES YES YES

DHV GS-03-0371-08 LTF 03

Energy Light DHV GS-03-0328-06 LTF 03 YES YES YES
Independance Geko

DHV GS-03-0342-06 LTF 03


EAPR-GZ-7131/08 LTF03


EAPR-GZ-7199/10 LTF09


DHV GS-03-0323-05 LTF03


EAPR-GZ-7304/10 LTF09

Innovation Pro

EAPR-GZ-7528/12 LTF09


DHV GS-03-0360-07 LTF03

Acro - NO NO NO
Emotion EVO - NO NO NO

Karpo Fly

Fantom Size M EN 1651 PH 044.2013
LTF09 GZ 044.2013
Arrow X-Alps 3 Size M EN 1651 PH .45.2013
LTF09 GZ 045.2013


Demon - NO NO NO
Clever 2 DHV GS-03-0359-07 NO NO NO
Arrow 2 DHV GS-03-0356-07 NO NO NO
Mystic DHV GS-03-0358-07 NO NO NO
Meteor 2 - NO NO NO
Kortel Kamasutra II EN 1651 YES YES*/NO YES*/NO
Kanibal II EN 1651 YES YES*/NO YES*/NO
Kanibal Race EN 1651 YES YES*/NO YES*/NO
Kuik II

AIRT GZ_027.2012 LTF09

Karma II AIRT GZ_019.2011 LTF09 YES YES YES
Karma EN 1651 YES NO NO
Karver EN 1651 YES NO NO
Kruyer EN 1651 YES NO NO
Mac Para Magnum - NO NO NO
Howgh - NO NO NO
Hawaii EN 1651 YES YES YES
Rock - NO NO NO
Goya II - NO NO NO
Rider - NO NO NO
Levity EAPR-GZ-7404/12 YES YES YES
Nervures Fusion EN : n°2010/016 YES NO NO
Airtreck / Altirando EN : n°H0601176SA YES NO NO
Bivouac EN : n°H2006/008 YES NO NO
Expé EN : n°H0402156N YES NO NO
Niviuk Hamak AIRT GZ 024.2012 YES YES YES
Drifter LTF09 GZ 017.2011 YES YES YES
Hamak - NO NO NO
Ozone Oxygen 2 LTF09; DHV GS-03-0379-11 YES YES YES
Oxygen 1 - NO NO NO
Atak - NO NO NO
Exoceat Size M EN 1651 PH 0486.2013 YES YES YES
Ozium Size M EN 1651 PH 057.2013 YES YES YES
Paratech R1 EAPR-GZ-7616/12 LTF09 YES YES YES
Sky Paragliders Reverse 2 EN 1651 YES YES YES
Reverse 3 AIRT GZ_040.2013 LTF09 YES YES YES
Gii 2 AIRT GZ_0141.2013 LTF09 YES YES YES
Excite 3 AIRT GZ_021.2011 LTF09 YES YES YES
Revel 2

AIRT GZ_022.2011 LTF09

Gii AIRT GZ_015.2011 LTF09 YES YES YES
Skyline Flight Gear Pure LTF09 EAPR-GZ-7175/09 YES YES YES
Core LTF09 EAPR-GZ-7211/09 YES YES YES
Racer 4 LTF03 DHV GS-03-0369-08 YES YES YES
Ride LTF03 DHV GS-03-0329-06 YES YES YES
Debut LTF03 DHV GS-03-0352-07 YES YES YES
Vertigo LTF03 DHV GS-03-0309-04 YES YES YES
Skywalk Flip - NO NO NO
Cult C EAPR-GZ-7399/11 LTF09 YES YES YES
Cult C 2012 EAPR-GZ-7510/12 LTF09 YES YES YES
Cult 3

AIRT GZ_022.2011 LTF09

Spring 2

AIRT GZ_022.2011 LTF09

Spring 2 Airbag

EAPR-GZ-7377/11 LTF09


DHV GS-03-0376-10 LTF09

Virtue DHV GS-03-0353-07 LTF03 YES YES YES
Virtue 2 DHV GS-03-0376-10 LTF03 YES YES YES
Amazon DHV GS-03-0363-07 LTF03 YES YES YES
Easy 2 DHV GS-03-0364-07 LTF03 YES YES YES
Easy 3 EAPR-GZ-7685/12 LTF09 YES YES YES
Mountain Light Calipox DHV GS-03-0375-10 YES YES YES


Supair Altix 2 LTF09 EAPR-GZ-7281/10 YES YES YES
Minimax EAPR-GZ-7172/09 YES YES YES
Altirando XP EAPR-GZ-7174/09 YES YES YES
Access BumpAir LTF09 EAPR-GZ-7180/09 YES YES YES
Access Airbag LTF09 EAPR-GZ-7158/09 YES YES YES
Walibi EN 1651; EAPR-GZ-7173/09 YES YES YES
Altix EN 1651 YES YES YES
Altirando EN 1651 YES YES YES
Hybrid EN 1651 YES YES YES
Shamane EAPR-GZ-7336/10 LTF09 YES YES YES
Shamane FR EAPR-GZ-7425/11 LTF09 YES YES YES

EAPR-GZ-7543/12 LTF09

Altirando 2 EAPR-GZ-7545/12 LTF09 YES YES YES

EAPR-GZ-7444/11 LTF09

Vamp EN 1651 YES *YES *YES
Sun Gliders Sunny 3 Plus - NO NO NO
SWING Connect Race LTF09 EAPR GZ-7438/11 YES YES YES
Connect Reverse EN 1651 YES YES YES
Connect 2 LTF 03 YES NO NO
Connect Light 2 LTF 03 YES NO NO
UP International Fast Pro LTF 09 YES YES YES
Fast Pro 2 LTF09 EAPR-GZ-7426/11 YES YES YES
Nanga EN 1651 YES YES YES
Vonblon Nexus EAPR GZ-7604/12 LTF09 YES YES YES
Woody Valley x-Rated 3 NO NO NO
x-Rated 4 LTF03 DHV GS-03-0366-07 YES YES YES
x-Rated 5 LTF03 EAPR-GZ-7325/10 YES YES YES
x-Rated 6

LTF09 EN 1651:1999 EAPR-GZ-7439/12

Voyager PLUS LTF03 EAPR-GZ-7198/09 YES YES YES
Velvet2 T-Lock LTF03 DHV GS-03-0335-06 YES YES YES
Velvet2 LTF03 DHV GS-03-0336-06 YES YES YES
Velvet2 Airbag T Lock LTF03 DHV GS-03-0338-06 YES YES YES
Peak2 T Lock LTF03 DHV GS-03-0348-07 YES YES YES
Peak2 LTF03 DHV GS-03-0349-07 YES YES YES
Excense Air

DHV GS-03-0373-08 LTF03


DHV GS-03-0347-07 LTF03

X-over 2 LTF03 DHV GS-03-0247-01 YES YES YES