Airmanship Tips



Tree Landing tips in html  and as  PowerPoint TreeLanding Presentation   ( 28MB)

From DHV Info translated ...  Please throw your Reserve

  How to figure out the wind speed

   Hat comes off
Wind dummies ,   Others taking off ?

 1m/s is 3.6km/h.  If you are clipped in, ready to go, and got some doubts on the wind speed ... throw up  some grass.
Throw up some grass, say 21, = 1 second,  guess the meters,  more than 5 meters > too strong.
 If the grass drops before your glider, ok,  glider lines are around 8m  =  8 x 3.6 , lets say your lines are a bit slack , something like 25 - 30 km/h max.   If the grass lands on your glider, bunch up and sit down .

How not to figure out the wind speed and thermal acitivity

Fatal accident in Portugal , 05/05/04

In Portugal it happened one fatal accident when the pilot made kiting the glider in take-off place. The man, age 22, made the accidental take-off
suspended by the hands in paragliders riser only. He was fall out of the glider about 70 meters to the ground The take-off place is very steep and in
the hour of the day accident (about 16H30) the wind was moderated and the thermal activity is to strong. After the accident it was known that the
pilot habitually did the kiting procedure with the glider with the hands only before the take-off for test the flying conditions. Sorry my bad ingles.


Power Lines and Fences

While flying, keep a good lookout for pylons and poles of electrical and telephone cables. One can see those from the air fairly easily as they are
bigger solid pieces than the cables themselves. After spotting one, check where the pylons or poles on either side are, as it will tell you which
direction the cables are running. Watch out for "off-shoots" or changes in direction (more pylons and poles) and multiple rows of cables.

Always cross only at a pylon or pole. They are the highest points in the line. If it is not possible to cross there, land before it. It is almost
impossible to see all the lines from the air, especially the thin lightning protection wire at the top of a set of electrical cables. Most "shocking"
accidents occurred because of collision with this wire. Or not correctly reading the signs while flying (i.e. noticing the poles and pylons).

Look out for fences when planning to land in a field - again, fence poles are more easily visible than the wires. Other give away signs are a "line"
in a field, sometimes with a path running next to it, slightly longer grass on one side of the line than the other, a thin line of longer grass through
an open area, sitting birds suspended in the air, and so on. It is possible to miss a fence in longer grass, but not so often when one is looking out
for it in advance. If I unexpectedly come upon a fence during landing, I would aim for a pole, put my feet against it and hope to step over or bend
it that way. Need a volunteer to test this one.  :-)

  Dust Devils, Dusties, Whirlys

It is recommended in SA to put your Helmet on before clipping in or connecting to your Paraglider.
Besides Lions, Leopards, and other animals we also got whirlys or dusties lurking around. Ready to jump on unsuspecting PG pilots.
There was Carlo,  who had his helmet on while while climbing into his harness at The Dam.
A whirly pounced on him as he had one of his legs secured in the leg strap. It picked him up, and hanging head down he got dragged through the rocks.
Broke a few ribs...
.A few kms down the road and some years later we had a beginner, clipped in, ready to go, getting picked up 6 meters by a whirly, and dumped on the ground to spend some time in hospital.
A foreign visiting pilot got pounced on by the same whirly living at The Dam  and supported then South Africa with an 80k USD medical bill.
And the same whirly the next day put out of action for 6 months one of SA's top pilot and world record holder while taking off.

If you are on the ground, make sure you got your protection on before attaching yourself to that piece of cloth.
If you are clipped in , face the canopy, have your risers and toggles in your hands, and when you notice a whirly, get close to your canopy.
Be ready to FALL ON TO IT.
If you are not attched to a canopy, assist other pilots. get closer to their canopy, ready to grab the cloth.
Grabbing any line will just cut and burn your fingers.

Once in the air and low and you go through one, well I hang on to my carabiners, risers.
And fly a docile canopy, eg a DHV 1 or 1-2.
Had one whirly  at a winch launch attack me  while on a winch launch in 40m above the ground, grabbed my risers, my Effect staid straight, the winch operator slowed down, canopy sorted itself out, and we continued the launch once I went through it.
Had another whirly attack around 60 meters above  the ground while going for landing. First you stop dead in the air, go up like a rocket,  then free fall as the canopy stalls. Hold on to the carabiners, big swing and then carry on with flying.
In my early days, on a hot glider, 100 meters AGL, went into a whirly. With no idea what was going on, looking up to my canopy which was all over the show. Tried to correct the mess, overcontrolled,  and came down those 100 meters with 6 collapses in 6 seconds and went splat. What put me out of action for a while.

Best time to encounter whirly, my opinion, is when the air starts to read trigger temperature, got enough heat built up to break through the ground inversion.
And now is the time to  kick of thermals.
That heated up air, held down by some inversion, starts punching a few holes somewhere in that inversions.
And everything rushes through there.
Or if it is a no wind morning, that air gets warmed up, with no wind pushing it towards a trigger point. Then a slight breeze , some airmovement, some convection starts and the next thing that overheated air explodes. a bit like a coke bottle , shaken not stirred.
If your daily weather forecast gives you a 20 degree or more difference between minimum and maximum temperature, expect a whirly day.

13.00 You have been parawaiting now since 11.00  on the  hill and the wind is very light and cross. And now  the windsock on the bottom is turning.
Showing its starting to blow up. The hill slope is overgrown with  trees and bushes.
Time to jump into your kit?
Wait! That air in those trees and bushes on the slope  has been warmed up. And all this warmed up air is  now avalanching up the slope  towards you.
You might find the mother of all thermals coming up. You will be in for a rough ride.
I would recommend you very carefully consider the circumstances, your experience level, glider, and maybe opt to sit and watch.
And take the next cycle a few minutes later, once the conditions have settled down.

 Gust Fronts

 November in the Highveld. Thunderstorms developing around you. But the sky above you is still clear.
The folks are taking off and flying. Does not look too bad. Besides the usual  whirlys kicking off around you.
 The horizon starts to get an orange taint. A minute later you can see dust getting kicked up 10 km away.
 A few seconds later the airborne gliders  start going backwards.
 Another few seconds more and  you got over 40 km/h wind on the ground.

If you are airborne and you see those indications of a gust front , come down fast. Eeeh, somthing like go and land? No, really fast.
How about tucking ears? That's a step in te right direction but it will still not get you down fast enough from the time you see the dust approaching until it hits you.
I mean B-Line, Spiral down.  Get out of the sky now.
Once you are caught in it, from what I observed looking at pilots who walked away from this, once you are low, land with big ears, and PLF in the ground, with C or Ds pulled down on impact to maximum. Do not go for your normal flare landing.

If you are on the ground, to pack away your kit, forget about rolling, folding up your glider in a nice way.
Just roll it up from the windward side into one long sausage and then stuff it in the bag.

Another indication for a gust front, or rain, ... you take off with a nice Northerly, and a minute later the windsock has died. Next minute it turned South.
Also no time to loose. Especially if there is some "shockwave" visible in the clouds above you.

Strong Wind Landing

From Laura Nelson, January 2004...

There has been a recurring theme of "landed perfectly (on C risers), but
while I was getting out of the harness, the wind grabbed the glider and I
was dragged across the field  and ............." with varying degrees of
line burn, roasties, or other (more serious) injuries.

Anton was also dragged after his epic 215 km flight at De Aar end of 2003. Same story.

I was one of those who got dragged on the strong wind day at Dasklip when
there were many stories of being dragged on landing! And that while I knew
the answer. Just shows how easy it is to forget what to do.

The solution is so simple - having done the 'perfect' landing and while
heaving a sigh of relief, just walk or run around the glider to stand behind
the canopy. One usually has a few seconds after landing before the wind gets
hold of the canopy again, or before the next gust comes through.

Should the wind then grab the glider, it can go nowhere, and there is no
chance of dragging the pilot. It allows one to bunch the glider or get out
of the harness feeling perfectly calm (apart from the adrenaline rush of
having landed in such strong wind). It is not always simple to try and bunch
the glider in strong wind while standing in a normal landing position, which
is why we usually rather try and get out of the harness as soon as possible.

Having repeated this strategy on the second last flying day at Dasklip (also
strong wind) as well as at De Aar (the same day and time as Antons 215km and a 164 km flight by a pilot who got a broken arm from getting dragged), I guarantee that it works!

 Big Ears

Reasons for using Big Ears , from Laura Nelson

The collapsing of the wing tips in a symmetrical fashion reduces the
surface area of the glider, thereby increasing the wing loading. This then
causes the glider to have a higher sink rate and to come down faster. By
pushing speedbar the effect can be increased.

One would use this manoeuvre to avoid going into controlled air space in
thermic conditions, or to try and get out of mild cloudsuck. Due to the
decreased glide angle and increased sink rate, one can also use it to get
into a smaller landing area, or to do top landings.


There have been many reports from around the world that Big Ears have
resulted in serious accidents. An investigation by the British Hang Gliding
& Paragliding Association (BHPA) resulted in all pilots being warned that
Big Ears can be extremely dangerous. These accidents mostly occur when the
Big Ears are released near the ground. Dangers that have been reported are

1.    Glider going parachutal on release of the Big Ears. It is most likely
to occur when the landing area has strong wind gradient or wind shadow.
This is especially true when the landing area is situated between trees. It
is not limited to that, though, and parachutal has been reported at
altitude as well. Some gliders may go parachutal while still on Big Ears.
2.    Glider inflating unequally and spinning around, causing the pilot to
crash. Have happened a number of times on top landings, but also elsewhere
near the ground. It can also occur at altitude.

The only way to avoid any accident happening is either to open them higher
than 100m above the ground, or to land with them, should one descend to
below 100m AGL, or pull them in below 100m AGL. Should any of the above
situations occur below 100m, the chances are small that the glider could
recover in time for the pilot to have a good landing.


Brief the student carefully on why the manoeuvre is necessary, as well as
what the dangers are. Explain that it is necessary to keep the Big Ears in
below 100m AGL, as it is possible that something could go wrong below that,
and that there could be too little time to correct the problem.

Explain and demonstrate how to pull Big Ears ? stretching up, grabbing the
outer A-lines and twisting them while pulling down, or taking the correct
split A-riser. Show them the movement on the ground while holding up the
risers and lines.

Explain how to steer with only weight shift and that one can assist the turn
by pulling a bit more on the inner lines and letting out a little on the
outer side. Care must be taken not to release them completely.

Explain how to pump out the Big Ears if above 100m AGL. Be sure that he
understands that it is important to allow the glider to surge forwards
after the pumping out, in other words the hands must be raised to zero
input, after which it can be taken back to 25% if necessary. Make sure that
the pilot knows how to rectify the problem if anything should occur above
100m AGL.

Explain how to land with the Big Ears in. The pilot holds the Big Ears,
sets up the approach as usual, and should remember that he will arrive with
more speed and sooner at ground level. On his final glide he must be out of
the harness. It will be more difficult to do weightshift in an upright
position, so he should straighten out earlier than normal.  At the normal
flare height, he must release the Big Ears while he flares simultaneously.
He must not release the Big Ears before he flares.

Back Risers

Reasons for flying with back risers from Laura Nelson

It becomes necessary to use the back risers when the toggles have become
unusable due to the steering/toggle line breaking, or being tangled in the
risers. There have been numerous occasions where this has happened, but it
should not be a reason for a pilot losing control. Unfortunately, there
have been situations where the pilot crashed due to NOT using back risers
when he was unable to use his toggle(s).


As it is very easy to over-control with the back risers, it is important
that the pilot is briefed very carefully on how to steer with the back
risers. There are two main dangers -

1)    The pilot can give too much input while flying, thereby causing one
half of the wing to stall in flight, which can lead to a spiral dive, or
large pendulums and/or full stalls through trying to correct incorrectly.
2)    The pilot can flare too hard and too high on landing approach, and
can have an extremely hard landing, which can cause back injuries. Mostly
the pilot falls very hard on his back.

Warning: It is easy to demonstrate back riser control with the inflated
glider while standing on the ground, but it can give the student the wrong
impression ? much more input is required while the pilot is standing on the
ground, and the student may over-control more easily in flight.


Brief the pilot carefully on why the manoeuvre is necessary, as well as
what the dangers are. Explain that it is necessary to execute each movement
very carefully by pulling gently on, or gently twisting, the riser, feeling
how much input is required to get the desired reaction. Explain that every
glider will have different characteristics to another, therefore the pilot
must feel how much input he needs from the reaction of the glider. Also
explain that the pilot can increase the amount of reaction with weight shift
rather than increased pull. Turbulence can be controlled by holding both
risers down a little until the glider is settled.

Explain the manner in which landing must be executed: set up approach as
usual, and get out of the seat early, as usual. Control any pendulums on
approach with small movements, never hard. The flare should be executed on
the normal height above ground. On landing the hands must never be pulled
down more than shoulder height during the flare and it is better to do so
progressively. Once the pilot's feet are on the ground, the flare can be
completed to hands all the way down, in order to drop the glider behind the
pilot. The pilot can also turn around at this point, if necessary. (This
method also works well for C-riser landings in strong winds.)


When learning how to spiral stop any maneuover 300 meters above the ground.
If things go wrong, you still got plenty of height to throw your reserve.
Learn how to spiral by first going for the start of a spiral and immediately getting out of it.
Then keep it longer and get out of it.
One can get locked in a spiral. so that one can not get out of it anymore.
In a locked spiral see if with both hands one can manage to brake the out wing.
If not, throw your reserve.

Spiral gone wrong see  spiral.txt

See also


 Airfield Etiquette

Worst nightmare for an aerodrome operator is a flog of HG or PG invading his sacred ground of runways.
There he got this quiet airfield, long tar runway, and his dream is that one day it is called XYZ International and big jets landing there.
Instead those noisy bunch rocks up and makes  his place a circus, with disrespect to any established aerodrome etiquette.


Some points to ensure you can come back and fly there again

 - airband radio is a must.
 - get permission first form the town council or whoever is in charge
 - if necessary arrange a self cancelling Notam with flight briefing in JHB
 - And stay off the runways, keep them clear. Do not have your cars racing around on them, the kids riding their bikes up and down.
   Runways are sacred ground and the unwritten rule is that one does not hang around on them unnecessary.
  Why? There is always a slight chance that some big plane in distress without any power has to come in on an emergency, expecting the runway to be clear.

 - Have ligths on when travelling on the runways.
 - Stop before crossing or entering a runway, scan the sky for any aircraft then cross fast.
 - aircrafts got rigth of way

  - have someone with an radio operators certificate for VFR operating the airband radio. a fellow who can talk the talk.

 - when winch launching and you traffic is around, make an announcement, like "  xyz traffic paraglider to be winch launched on 33 grass runway 33". Only when there is a plane that has announced its intention to use the airfield. Do not announce every launch with no other plane around which would be interested in this.

  - when other traffic calls, make them aware of winch launch activity , or airborne PG or HG

 Vortex Danger by big planes

When ridge soaring or flying close to a fellow pilot you can feel those bumps when crossing behind them


Every wing creates a vortex. A spiral of air going of the wingtips. The bigger the wing, the bigger the vortex.



You are flying in the vicinity of a major airport. Like around Johannesburg under the TMA  at The Dam or Dunnottar. And you are close to ceiling.  The incoming or outgoing traffic from JHB International, which gets routed above you can generate vortices which can make you tumble out of the sky.


A Vortex of a big plane can have up to 100m diameter  and there a 5-7 m/s rotation speed.

 Small aircraft should stay 20 km away from a big aircraft to avoid the wake turbulence

Also if you winch on an airfield with other planes busy taking off or landing.
The vortices travel on the ground with the wind.
Best is to winch upwind from the main runway. But since we winch into wind we can run the danger of encountering a vortex from a plane which has taken off or landed a minute ago.

Flying in Rain

Fying into a rain shower or ridge soaring while it rains is not advisable.
The rain water will collect in your cells, accumulate in the trailing edge and after a while you canopy will stall.
A wet wing, which will have a collapse will not reinflate with all the water flushing into the hanging tip.
See also  Paraglider Wings going Parachutal

Wind Shadow

(from Laura Nelson , June 2003 to SA Instructor list)

When a glider enters wind shadow (or wind gradient, for that matter), it has x amount of airspeed. Provided the pilot does not pull any brakes, the glider will endeavour to MAINTAIN its airspeed by pitching forward a bit. What does increase because of the lower windspeed in that area is the GROUNDSPEED. This often gives rise to the feeling that the airspeed has increased, or that the glider is in a dive, or that the ground is going to smack the pilot in the face. Why does the glider pitch? My theory is that when the paraglider enters the lower windspeed area, it has to adjust its angle of attack to be able maintain its airspeed. As a paraglider's trim is not self-adjustable to allow a change of angle of attack, it tends to pendulum (a little) around its force (the pilot weight), and that causes the dive effect. The amount of the pitch will vary with the decrease in wind speed - greater difference in wind speed will cause more pitch.

A hang glider has the same reaction when flying into wind gradient. Often the pilot will push out instead of allowing the angle of attack to change. This commonly leads to stalls in windgradient and wind shadow.

If one has enough height when entering a wind shadow or windgradient area and the pilot gives no input (flies hands up), the glider will resume straight and level flight, still at the same airspeed, but a much higher ground speed.

The problem comes when there is not so much ground clearance when the wing enters the windgradient/windshadow area. If the pilot does not control the pitch forward, then it is very easy to pendulum into the ground (the weight always has to be under the wing for proper control - at any angle away from the perpendicular it takes longer to react).

Pagen describes it a bit differently, but with the same result. He says the wing LOSES airspeed as it goes into windshadow, and has to pitch to regain the original airspeed. He claims that a paraglider can properly stall in wind gradient (fall backwards). In all the years of flying I have not seen a paraglider stall backwards in wind gradient without pilot input, but he does not mention that. (On that I will still take him up.)

He says that groundspeed has nothing to do with it, and that is true. What groundspeed does cause for many people is to misjudge their airspeed. As the groundspeed increases due to the decreased windspeed, the pilots have flared too early and/or too high. We all have seen people fall out the sky doing that. By understanding that the ground will move faster beneath them, it is easier to allow the wing to keep its airspeed, and it is easy to make a good landing. In the hang gliding book he warns against judging one's airspeed from one's groundspeed. Unfortunately he missed that in the paragliding book, and it is as relevant in paragliding as in hang gliding, especially in windgradient and wind shadow.

In neither of the two approaches to this does the wing increase airspeed on entering wind shadow. It simply maintains or regains its previous airspeed with the pitch.

Clear your landing area



It is with concern that it has been noted that paragliding students are
often not taught to keep landing areas clear after landing.

This is a call to instructors to teach their students, especially
paragliding students, to take their gliders to the edge of the field before
packing up, rather than pack up where they have landed in the middle of the
field, close to the windsock, etc. Many of our pilots lack the courtesy to
clear the official landing area, and thereby can endanger other paraglider
pilots and specifically hang glider pilots on landing. When there are many
of these thoughtless pilots they block the landing areas for others without
further care. Especially should no one be packing up in an area where pilots
are trying to spot land next to a windsock, a marked area, or in a shared
landing area with hang glider pilots, etc.

In some fields it may not be a big problem or may not seem to be, but on
others and/or later in their careers, these students may be the direct or
indirect cause of landing accidents. Instructors failing to teach this
requirement to their students, are failing to teach the student all the
aspects of airmanship.

As they have no idea about the problems they cause, they may even drive onto
a landing area and park there to collect mates, causing an obstruction on
the field and endangering the students and other pilots trying to land

An incident report was recently received of a pilot hitting a vehicle on
landing, due to the vehicle driving into the middle of the field and parking
next to the windsock, obscuring the windsock. Fortunately in this case the
student was not injured, but there have been many such accidents in the past
where the pilot had broken both legs and/or their backs, and/or damaged the
vehicle quite extensively. Please ensure that retrieve drivers also
understand the importance of keeping the landing area free of obstacles.
Reserve Parachute related Info

 Reverse launch, turning the wrong way, taking off twisted .....

Links to the Funwings website


More info on flying Paragliders  in South Africa at