Payout Winch

Operation Manual



Congratulations on your purchase of a payout winch. If your winch is well made, then you will have many hours and flights of hassle free launching, provided that you follow the basic rules contained in this winch operation manual.


This manual has been written for use with friction belt winches, although the principles contained herein will be useful for all types of winches.






The combination of an inexperienced winch driver launching a low airtime pilot with no experience in winch launching can be extremely dangerous.


Winch launching hang glider or paraglider pilots can be dangerous, and pilots and operators use the payout winch at their own risk. Any unauthorised modifications and use other as described by the manufacturer may cause unforeseen changes in the operation of the winch, or create situations in which the life of the pilot may be endangered.


General requirements for a payout winch


Vehicle with towbar

Spare battery, fully charged for rewinding the line

Winch, complete with line, guillotine, and starter motor for rewinding the line


General description of the operation of the payout winch with paragliding


The winch is mounted in one of several configurations described below. The winch is prepared for operation and the guillotine armed, and the line taken out behind the vehicle. The pilot take-off weight is determined, and the tension is set accordingly, which will allow the line to payout at this preset tension. The vehicle then pulls off smoothly, assisting the pilot with the pull-up. Once the glider is above the pilot’s head, the vehicle will accelerate so that the pilot will get airborne. During the launch, the line pays out at the preset tension, allowing the pilot to ascend safely. The winch vehicle can vary its speed as required. At the end of the road, the vehicle will slow down and stop, and the pilot will release. The driver or winch operator will rewind the line.


Setting up the winch


A payout winch can be mounted to a vehicle in a number of different options.


1. Towbar mounting

The simplest system is to mount the winch on the towbar of a vehicle.


Remove the knob of the towbar. Attach the winch via the mounting bolts to the flat plate of the towbar. Be careful to put locking washers between the nut and the plate, so that vibration will not undo the nuts.


2. Raised towbar mounting

By attaching a fitting to the tow bar plate that raises the winch to the desired level (e.g. above window level of a vehicle, or the edge of a pickup (bakkie)), the winch can be visible to the driver inside the vehicle.


It may be necessary to support the top end of the fitting to reduce vibration. The support may be given with a metal bar or a strap.


3. Mounted on an extended towbar fitting to the side

It has become very popular to have the winch in an easily visible place for the driver – to the side of the vehicle. Fitting a horizontal bar to the towbar, which is long enough and strong enough to bear the weight of the winch, and which places the winch on the side of the vehicle, is quite easy.  It might be necessary to support the horizontal bar with a stay to the chassis of the vehicle. The winch can be observed from the window or in the side view mirror of the vehicle.


4. Mounted on a frame on a boat or pickup (bakkie)

The frame should be the correct size for the vehicle or boat. A multi-purpose frame that can be fitted to more than one type of vehicle, can be made. A multi-purpose frame requires one side of the frame to be capable of sliding into the other side. The two pieces are secured with bolts.


The frame is bolted onto the vehicle or boat.


Attach self-sticking rubber protection on the underside of the frame, where it rests on the vehicle.


5. Trailer mounts

       The winch can be mounted in similar ways onto a trailer.


Connecting the battery


Once the winch is mounted on the vehicle, it is necessary to place the spare battery in such a position that the cable leads from the winch can be attached to the battery.


Ensure that the positive cable is connected to the positive pole of the battery. The cable leads attached to the winch are usually marked.


Always ensure that the battery is fully charged at the beginning of the day. Or have a method by which the battery can be recharged during the course of the day.


Alternative battery connections


Dependent on the number of winches performed during the day, it may be necessary to have a second charged battery available, in case the first one runs flat.


It is possible to have a direct connection or charger cable running from the vehicle battery, to re-charge the battery while driving. One can also connect the vehicle battery to the winch in different ways.


In all cases where there is only a positive connected to a battery, the winch must be earthed to the vehicle. Failure to do this could lead to auto-electrical problems with the vehicle.





Operating the rewind button with tension on, may burn out the starter motor.


If the line is secured to the pilot, it may jerk him off his feet and injure him.


If the line is on the drum and the loose end secured to an object, it may break the line or injure a person working with the winch.



You are now ready to proceed with the preparation for launching.


Arming the guillotine


The guillotine is mostly a very simple device consisting of a blade and a spring, running in a round channel.


The blade is kept in position with a pin, which is attached to a piece of line that is long enough to reach the winch operator or vehicle driver.


It is very simple to arm the guillotine, in most cases. The blade is pulled back against the spring, and held in position with a pin. The removal of the pin releases the blade.


The winch line must always run through the feeder-eye of the guillotine for the guillotine to be effective.


It is important that the pin is always inserted in such a way that the operator or driver can pull it out during an emergency, from inside the vehicle.


Cutting the line is recommended in the event of a lockout, or a pilot failing to release in an emergency.


Make certain that everybody understands the danger of putting a finger or other body part in the feeder-eye of the bar whilst the guillotine is being released, as it can be amputated or seriously injured.


Laying out the line


In preparation for a winch launch, undo the tension handle so that there is very little tension on the drum (a small amount of tension is good). The line is fed through the feeder-eye of the bar (which is also the guillotine) after the guillotine has been armed. While someone holds the line, move the vehicle forwards slowly approx 80 – 100 meters.


This length will give enough safe clearance to minimise lockouts, but still be close enough to monitor what is happening with the pilot.


The glider must be laid out into the wind as usual. The vehicle should be driving into the wind.  (There are ways in which to overcome this requirement when necessary, that will be dealt with at a later stage in this manual.)


Note: the shorter the distance between the pilot and the vehicle, the easier and faster lockouts can occur.


Setting the tension


Determine the weight of the pilot (ask him his body weight). Also determine his all-up weight.


For pilots winching for the first time, it is advisable to winch with a lower tension. The recommended tension is half the body weight of the pilot.


Pilots who are experienced with winch launching can be winched at half their all-up weight, or half body weight plus 10 – 15 kg additional tension.


The tension is normally set with a scale in position that gives the amount of tension used. Scales for different winches can read differently. Determine the settings on your winch and always use them carefully. (A scale usually does not give a reading without tension on the line or the drum turning.)


The tension is normally set by turning a handle on a threaded bar, or screw.


Let someone pull on the line while you read the tension gauge (scale). If the tension is too low, increase it by turning the handle further.


Alternatively, one can turn the drum by hand to read the gauge.


During a winch launch, the tension may vary slightly without change in setting. At the beginning of the launch the tension may read (for example) 50 kg. After a while the tension may read 55 kg.  This is acceptable. Bigger variations must be viewed with caution, as it can endanger the pilot.


Hint: Get to know the settings on your winch by counting how many rings of the tension screw are showing above the handle. Keep a log of these settings. It helps in the event of the scale breaking.


Note: before setting the tension, ensure that the friction belt is set correctly on the drum (not skew).


Attaching the pilot


The pilot is attached to the winch line by means of a winch release.


It is important that the winch release will release easily and safely. There are many different types of winch releases, and the operator must ensure that the pilot knows how the specific winch release works.


The pilot must also know what to do should the line not fall away from the release when the release is activated.


The winch release is usually connected to the carabiners. The winch release should be located in the front bottom of the carabiners. The carabiners should rather be of the “square” variety for paragliders, because it is easier to keep the release located in the bottom front corner. (Other types of carabiners can be used – it is just not as easy to keep the release positioned and may cause the carabiner to turn on the harness. A turned carabiner can initiate a turn in the glider, causing the pilot to go into lockout if not checked.)


The release may also be connected to special rings that are attached to some harnesses. Make sure that the attachments are secure (stitching not frayed, etc). There has been a case where the attachment pulled out during launching.


The winch line should have a loop at the end. The loop should be suitably big to ensure that it can easily release at all times, and will work with all releases.


One can attach a metal ring at the end of the line. However, most winch operators avoid metal parts, as metal may injure a pilot in the face or body during a line break. Some winch releases operate better with a metal attachment on the line.


Before launching:

Ensure that the pilot is knowledgeable about winching in general. Find out when was the last time he had winched, also whether he has had a winch conversion course. Make sure that he knows the procedures. It is in the interest of safety that the operator should brief the pilot, and go through all the procedures to refresh his memory.


It is highly recommended that there is radio communication at all times with the pilot.


This rule may be relaxed with a very experienced winch driver and a very experienced pilot in winching, but even so, it is advisable to have radio contact, especially during the launch period.




Final Preparations for Forward Launching


The launch operations may vary slightly between operators, but the principles should be the same.





When everything is in place, the winch operator (who may be the driver as well) will inform the pilot by radio that he is going to pick up the slack in the line. This is NOT yet launching, and the pilot should not pull up the glider – the pilot must understand this. The vehicle will move forward slowly until the line is straight between the vehicle and the pilot (straight, but not tight).


The winch operator will check the wind direction and strength again, and ask the pilot if he is ready. The pilot may nod or reply by radio. If he finds some reason to abort the launch, he should shake his head, drop his hands, and if deemed necessary, release the line for safety. He should NOT launch if he feels the wind is too strong, or too cross, or that something is not as it should be. He may also switch on his instruments at this point, before giving the all clear.


The pilot has the final say about when to launch.


When he is ready, the launch may proceed.




To launch the pilot after confirmation that he is ready, the winch operator will inform the pilot that the vehicle is going to pull off. The vehicle will start moving immediately.


The pilot must initially resist the pull of the line, for a few seconds, by bracing himself. Then he pulls up the glider. The moving vehicle and the tension on the line will assist the pilot with moving forwards and pulling the glider up.


The pilot should not pull up the glider and run before the vehicle has tightened the line or started moving for launching. He may overrun the line, which can be wrapped around his legs or feet, and cause him to fall and/or be dragged.


If the pilot is “pulled off his feet” or cannot cause the line to payout by leaning back, then most likely the tension is set too high.


It is very important that the pilot is not lifted into the air before the glider is properly above his head. It may be necessary to hold the risers for longer than he is used to, and may result in a longer run than usual. The vehicle MUST regulate its speed in order to ensure that the pilot does not get airborne too early, but that it assists the pilot to pull up cleanly.


It is important that the winch operator/driver has a clear view of the pilot during this stage. Although he is driving, he must be able to judge the attitude of the glider. Alternatively there must be assistants on the ground and/or in the vehicle who can inform him of the attitude. If use is made of assistants, they should inform the winch operator/driver that he can “go to tow” when the glider is correctly above the pilot’s head, which means that he can increase speed in order to lift the pilot into the air. He should under no circumstances do so before this.


Warning: A glider that is not above the pilot’s head when he gets airborne, can go parachutal at some stage during the tow launch. This can be very dangerous, and can result in the pilot being seriously injured. (More on parachutal later in the manual.)



Releasing the line at the end of the tow


When the pilot releases from the line at the end of the run, the line will drop down.


Both the pilot and the driver should ensure that the line does not fall over obstacles such as vehicles and/or people after release. It is also better not to drop the line over fences, trees, cables, etc, if at all possible.


Should the line drop onto obstacles, the vehicle should stop immediately, and the tension should be released without delay.


Animals seem to get used to the line and the winch vehicle, and there are normally no problems, as they seem to avoid the falling line. Occasionally an animal has caught the line with its legs when it attempted to walk over it. The tension should be released immediately as a tight line can cut the animal. Care must be taken to ensure that no harm can come to them. Be prepared to cut the line if it is necessary to avoid injury to an animal.


Rewinding the line


NB: Before rewinding the line, release the tension.




Operating the rewind button with tension on, may burn out the starter motor.


If the line is secured to the pilot, it may jerk him off his feet and injure him.


If the line is on the drum and the end secured, it may break the line or injure a person working with the winch.



If the line has a drogue chute attached (important if the line is very thin), then the drogue chute will keep some tension on the line, and it can be rewound almost immediately.


If there is no drogue chute, it is better to drive forward approx 30 – 50 metres after the pilot has released. This will straighten the line, and avoid unnecessary pressure knots from forming during rewinding. Even so, they may still occur. Keep an eye open for them.


Although the line does not rewind excessively fast, it is safer to keep children and spectators, including pilots, away from the line. Should the line catch temporarily on an object and then jump free, it may bounce up. On its way in, it may snake around objects such as humans and cause damage or injury.


Hint: Should someone have to release a line that has jammed on an object, send him with a spare radio. That way it is possible to stay in contact and know what is happening. Injury, which could happen should he still be working on the line when the rewind process is initiated again, will be avoided.


It has been found that a drogue chute on thicker line might wear out the starter motor faster than without a drogue chute attached. Thinner lines tend to be too loose during rewinding if there is no drogue chute.



Speeds to drive


The speed at which the vehicle is travelling is determined by the groundspeed of the paraglider.  No, it is not determined by the trim speed of the paraglider, or the airspeed of the paraglider.


In practice, this means that the vehicle will drive slowly when there is a lot of wind, and fast when there is little wind. In general, the vehicle will not travel faster than 60 kph, except on the downwind leg of the circle system.


There is no reason to drive fast when the groundspeed of the glider is low, in other words, when the wind is fairly strong.


The drawback with driving fast in strong wind is that a lot of line is laid out, but not much height gained.


One will drive faster if the glider has caught up with the vehicle and the angle of the line is too high in relation to the vehicle, i.e. the pilot is above or very close to above the vehicle. Driving faster will allow the line to pay out faster, and leave space between the vehicle and the pilot.


The ideal angle from the vehicle to the pilot is approx 50 – 70 degrees. This enhances safety, and gives time for the pilot and driver to take emergency measures should something go wrong.


A pilot who is overflying a winch can go into forward lockout, if the line is not cut, or the tension released. This can also happen with lines trailing and catching on fences or other obstacles, after a line break or cut.




When quite a lot of line has been laid out while the pilot is still quite low, the length of line can be converted to height by slowing the vehicle down until the drum is just slowly paying out.


The reasoning behind this goes as follows: driving faster causes the drum to keep on paying out from its own momentum, and it is almost as if the tension slackens (although it does not really). With slowing the drum down by gradually slowing the vehicle, it “grips” again (especially true of brake drum type winches), and the pilot starts climbing. Occasionally the pilot will be caught out and think that he has hit a thermal. He might release, only to find that he is in non-rising air!


What happens is that there is more resistance on the drum once it has slowed down, and the tension will hold it. The glider can utilise the length of line to climb out, because the line does not get longer faster than the glider is climbing.


GLIDER IN SINK: It is very important NOT to increase the tension on the line when a glider goes into sink during a launch. As long as the drum is paying out slowly and the tension stays the same, it does not help to drive faster in the mistaken belief that one can pull the glider faster through the sink – the glider cannot go faster in that manner. The vehicle must only drive fast enough to keep the line paying out.


Increasing the tension during a sink cycle can cause excessive stress when the glider hits a strong thermal afterwards.





One of the scariest situations while winching a pilot is when the glider goes parachutal.


Parachutal is the term used when a glider is fully inflated, but does not have any forward speed. The airflow over the glider has been interrupted, and the glider is not flying, even when it is still climbing.


Parachutal or imminent parachutal can be recognised by the very sluggish climb of the glider. The glider will “fall out of the sky” when the pilot touches the brakes for a correction, or happens to pull slightly on both brakes. It immediately goes into full stall.


Parachutal can often be corrected by a sudden momentary decrease of speed by the vehicle, causing the glider to surge forwards and resume normal flying. The vehicle can then pick up speed again. Other methods involve the pilot pushing against the front risers or pressing speedbar.


It happens during winching when a glider has a high angle of attack on launch, and the airflow over the glider is not properly established when the glider starts climbing. Usually this is caused by the pilot being pulled hard before the glider is overhead. The action causes the glider to climb with the pilot way in front of the glider, and not underneath. The angle of attack is too high when the glider starts climbing, and without a surge to establish the airflow, the glider cannot attain proper flight. The tension on the line keeps the glider in this configuration.


Some people talk about “power stalls” for this phenomenon.


It cannot happen when the airflow has been established over the glider.


(It is acceptable for the glider to be behind the pilot if the glider was overhead at the time of launching.)


Gliders whose C and D lines have shrunk have a tendency to go parachutal, while some others have an inherent tendency to go parachutal on winch launch, perhaps due to their high trim angle of attack. These gliders benefit by having a “tow assist” which is now often recommended by the manufacturers.


The winch should help the pilot to pull up the glider, but not to pull the pilot into the sky immediately. The pilot leans back a bit on a forward pull up, but then allows the line to pull him. With lesser tension, the pilot WILL be able to pull the line out, and therefore if he cannot hold it, the tension is generally too high. The pilot MUST hold on to the risers for a longer period during pull-up so that the glider can come overhead. The driver should ONLY accelerate once the glider is correctly overhead the pilot. This is a sure-fire way of preventing any parachutal, even on gliders that are renowned for it.


If it means that the pilot has to run a little further, so be it. He is at least safe.


Parachutal happens more often from forward pull-ups than from reverse pull-ups. It can happen from a reverse pull-up if the pilot has allowed the glider to start falling behind him after turning around.


Should any glider go parachutal, do not cut the line. Reduce the pull by gradually, very gradually, slowing the vehicle down and allowing to pilot to slowly descend. The pilot must under no circumstances touch the brakes while in parachutal. Corrections, if any, must be done by weightshift.


If the pilot has height when it is realised that he is parachutal (at 30 or 50 meters up), let him push against the front risers, or twist them slightly, or if he has his speedbar on, to step on it. This could avoid the full parachutal setting in or even get the glider flying properly. He must NOT flare for  landing while in parachutal. Most of the injuries from parachutal have occurred through flaring, with the glider simply falling out of the sky from three meters or higher.

Parachutal on line is often recognised by the glider climbing extremely sluggishly with a high angle of attack, which means the glider is on the verge of going fully parachutal. Any correction for direction can cause the glider to stall and fall out of the sky. A glider that is on the verge of parachutal can be rectified sometimes by slowing down the vehicle a tad, which allows a forward surge of the glider and proper establishment of the airflow over the wing, provided the pilot stays off brakes. The vehicle can then speed up again and the launch can proceed normally.

There have been occasions when the glider goes up to approx 30 - 50m before it is realised that it is parachutal. This can be called a “power stall” because the climb rate of the initial pull was so high that the glider did not come overhead, but shot up into the air, and in effect it is parachutal.


A glider on the edge of parachutal can also climb initially when the pilot used weightshift instead of the brakes for corrections. It then starts to come down gradually, regardless of the speed and tension. This situation is infinitely more desirable than falling out of the sky.

Do not increase the tension when this happens. Keep driving and let the pilot slowly come down and tell him not to flare, but do a PLF, if necessary. If there is danger of him being dragged on landing, cut the line as he touches down. This procedure allows him to land relatively softly. Cutting the line or stopping too early or flaring makes the glider come down very fast. Most common injury is a broken arm (from putting out an arm) but there have been pelvic and back injuries, etc.

Parachutal mostly happens in very light or no wind conditions, and usually because the glider was not fully overhead when the winch started lifting the pilot. It can happen from forward or reverse launches if the glider is not fully overhead at that point.


A glider’s trim must be very bad before it will go parachutal while being winched (in other words, the launch was safe and the glider was properly overhead). It is in theory possible to increase the tension during the winch to a point that the susceptible type gliders can go parachutal. There are operators who increase tension during a winch in an effort to get the pilot higher.


Taking due care at all times will allow even the most suspect glider to be winched safely. As soon as the conditions get light, or a pilot has problems getting a glider above his head, stop winching those gliders with parachutal tendencies.



To be completed:




Reverse Launching


Crosswind take-offs and winching


Line breaks,  Releasing under tension


Replacing the line, line must not be attached to drum


Replacing the starter motor


 If the winding in motor gives start problems, first check the Bendix.

 Undo the 3 screws and clear the copper disk in case it got black, dirty and greasy.

 If the motor is burnt out, undo the 2 screws which hold the motor in place.

  Beware no to pull off the outer shell only.

  It becomes difficult to get the shell back with the bushes back over the rotor.





Ensure that motor vehicle insurance includes winching




Brake sizing





From OZ Report,


 Canadian Towing Manual



 A compilation of all the best, safest, and most effective information

 about all methods of towing hang gliders and paragliders.






Lots of pictures and ideas on winching located at




got the link via


We order our Dynema line form a company in Margate.

Braidcord they are the guys that make lines for the Skydivers.

039 312 0900

Be warned Dynema line is not cheap.

I think we used the 3.2mm line not sure anymore.

But the guy there knows whish the pilots buy.

A bit of advise when you get the line and start using it attache about 20m

of normal tow line to the pilot end this helps to take out some of the

jerkiness for dynema has not got the flexability that other line has.

Oh almost forgot here is Jan Olivier number for kroonstad 0844489640