Flying, Crashing and Surviving in South Africa

By Ulf Arndt, November  2009, still under construction, never finished ....


Yes, it's an actual X-ray, un-touched.?  And that tube you see on the left side, that's his life-support tube.  Don't worry, he survived.

( This was a fund-raiser for the Canadian World HG Team so please visit the site,   

read more about the incident )


This article is intended for visiting Hang Gliding and Paragliding pilots.
And also local pilots who intend to fly cross-country or go to sites that are in the bundu.  (Bundu = SA expression for somewhere out there in the middle of nowhere).

Welcome to sunny South Africa

The interior of South Africa, where the high cloudbase and good cross country conditions exist, is 1600 meters above sea level.
Means less air above you and along with the depleting Ozone layer over the Southern hemisphere we experience more exposure to UV rays.
Essential for the great outdoors is good Sun protection called sun block. Skin and gliders exposed to UV rays  takes its toll.
For yourself have a hat or a desert cap. Cover up in light , breathing clothes.
And cover up your glider , bunch it to avoid having your fabric destroyed by radiation.

How to activate a Search and Rescue

In case a pilot goes missing, and does not report back in the evening...

Phone the SAR coordinator using 082 823 8493

Inform the CAA standby person 

As a pilot, when you crash, do not fold up your canopy. An open canopy is a sign that you can not move and you need help.

Cell Phones and 2m Band Radios

Cell phones have replaced 2m radio communications over the last few years for ground based recovery communication.

2m band radios

For flying SAHPA has got allocated the 2m band frequencies 141.600 and 141.625.
To operate a 2m radio on those frequencies one has to obtain a radio license from the SAHPA office.
By the way, as a visiting pilot you also need a "permit to fly" in
South Africa, what is called a temporary SAHPA license.
More on SA Airlaw 

A Radio is used for the pilot in flight to communicate with the ground recovery crew his location and future flight direction.
Those frequencies are also used for training by schools.
For better range, make yourself a quarter wave aerial. Those little stubby aerials that come with the transceiver are no good for long distances.
A 51 cm long piece of aerial is the right length to give you optimal performance for 141.600 MHz frequency.
Why 51 cm? Divide the speed of light by the frequency. Then divide this value by 4 to get a quarter wavelength value.

Have a speaker mike with a curly cord, which will enable you to hold the radio with the aerial well above your head on the ground. It will improve your chances of getting picked up. The radio waves get blocked by water. Your head is full of water ( well someone had to tell you this one day ...). As is the rest of your body.
While flying or on the ground, have your aerial clear of your body. Not that easy.  Since the water of your body blocks the radio waves.
Make sure your body is not in between your aerial and the other party that you want to communicate with.
Go to a high spot and stay high on the spur to improve your radio range when you  are lost.
And if you got that speaker mike , hold your radio above your head, then the aerial is clear of your body that is sucking up all the transmission.

 Cell phone coverage

The cell phone network in South Africa covers most popular flying sites and major roads.

Consult the web sites of the main cell phone service providers; see if the area that you intend to fly from and might land is covered.
And if the roads of the recovery team are covered

VODACOM coverage

MTN coverage

If your cell phone shows a bad reception, switch it off.  Switch on, and enter 112 immediately. This will select the network with the best signal.

Locating service

After Raymond's accident and the long search to find him, the hang glider

pilots have investigated using cellphones to find a missing pilot.


It is an EXCELLENT idea for all cross country pilots. Might not always work

everywhere in the De Aar or any isolated area, of course, but everywhere

else it is a fantastic solution.



----- Original Message -----


> I activated the system for myself yesterday on Vodacom:


> ----------------------


> The following is true for vodacom:


> To activate you have to send the word "register" via sms to 31888

> You can ignore the returning message about the setup.


> For people to find you you have to first give them permission,

> therefore it is important to have those that need to know your

> whereabouts activated/permitted beforehand.


> To find the location of someone you can simple SMS "Find @@@@@@@@" to

> 31888 or send *120*888*@@@@@@@@@@# to the network.where @@@@@@@@ is

> the phone number for that person. ( for menu driven options you can

> also send *120&888# to the network )


> The first time you try to find someone he will be promted by SMS to

> allow you to know his location and have to reply with the word yes.

> Therefore it is important to have this activated beforehand.


> -----------------------

> You can also access the info and find someone online with

> .


> Futher there is also a website  that I'm looking now

> which seems very usefull as it has logs etc of your look4me requests.


> Vodacom also allows you to use the look4me service via wap under the

> find an locate section.


See also comparing various Tracking and location services options.



GPS with cell phone SMS

 Flying xcountry having a GPS will help a lot

 Use SMS when possible

 Once landed, SMS your coordinates to your recovery. do not phone them and expect the recovery driver to write down your corrdinates.

Using an SMS avoids mix ups, makes the recovery not having to fish for pen and paper while driving, and they can always look it up again.

Get to a high point if the reception is bad.

 Plan B

  In case you cannot contact your recovery by radio or cell phone, fall back on the method we used to do before we had them.

 We used to walk to the next farm and phone the police station closest to the takeoff area.
 And the recovery would check with the police station where the pilot has landed.

 Landing in game reserves

 Or how to please the lions

From GautengPG list …  

driving through the freestate just south of winburg last december, something
caught my eye.
it was on the side of the tar road. there were some animals running in the
grass but it was difficult to make out exactly what they were. as we drove
past, it suddenly became VERY clear!
LIONS, big ones!
and LOTS of them!
it must have been some sort of lion breeding farm. we stopped to take a
look. as we were parked next to the road looking at the large male that
caught our eye initially, we became aware of another one, and another one,
and another one....!
they kept getting up from the long grass, and we only saw them once they
started moving in the direction of a bakkie that pulled up not too far
inside the very high fence (it must have been the feeding truck). they were
soooo well camoflaged, the same colour as the veld grass.
there must have been about 14 very large male lions inside this fence


Try to land in open, just ploughed fields. Or some grass grazing area. Or where you see cattle grazing. Means there will be access. Somehow they have to get these cows in and out. But avoid landing close to cattle. Your glider over the horns of a Friesland cow and you are in for another cross country by foot or dragged behind. There is a growing trend to convert cattle farmland into game areas. Also bush area.

Look out for big fences.  From the air a game fence can be seen if you look for it.  If you see a double fence line, be sure which side of the fence you land in.
Double fence is an indication of some of the bigger animals around. If you land and notice funny, odd looking shit balls on the ground, well, you might be in the ...
Stay downwind from any large animals. So that they can not smell you.


 Ostrich farming has become popular around some of the major flying site.

 Dasklip, underneath
Piekeniers Kloof Pass, a popular landing area to call it a day, has ostrich fields.
 From the Dam in
Hekpoort Valley, or from Rustenburg halfway to Koster you find ostrich farms.

Do not fly low over them. Those birds freak out and run amok, killing themselves while running into fences.
Farmers do not like this.

Sometimes they are only a few Ostrich in a field. They act as watchdogs and their job is to keep intruders out.
Lets say you land in the big field halfway to Koster. From the air the field looks deserted, besides a few black spots in it.
You bundle up and walk under the next shade.
In the shade areas under the tree you notice lots of little shit balls.
Normally under shade you find the usual cow dung heaps. Not a good sign.
Find a stick, in case one ostrich is turning up to check you out.
You can use the stick to point towards his eyes. This way you can keep one away from you.
If you have more arriving, climb up that tree, with your radio and cell. And gloves. Most of the trees will have thorns.

If there is no tree to climb, lie flat. Ostrich attack by kicking.
Another, untested possibility, have peanuts, and throw them away from you.
Seems they love the stuff, at least when I fed them some, (ok, I had a fence between Ostrich and me)

Otherwise pack up while watching your back.

Once packed up, take your stick and find your way out.

 Climbing a game fence

If there is no recovery on the other side of the fence, then walk along the fence and locate the gate.

Do not expect to find any staff living in a private game reserve. But the best bet is somewhere close to the gate to get you out.
If your recovery is jacked up and waiting for you on the other side of the fence, and there is no gate close by, then you are in for a circus acrobatic act to climb
a 3m fence with your glider backpack on your back.
If you do this on your own then the fence will start bending, and by the time you get to the top the fence will be bending over so much that you will
hang upside down on it.
So, first you find the strongest pole.
Next while you climb up on your side, have one or two of your recovery crew climb up on the outside in sync with you.
This way one keeps the load evenly on the fence and the fence should stay upright.
When you reach the top, either hand over you backpack somehow to the other side.
Be prepared to have it dropped down or handed down. No use that other party tries to get it on their back.

Let the other side climb down first a bit before you come over. Otherwise all of you will put so many loads on the fence that it will bend towards
the outside with all of you hanging on to it.

Barbed wire and electric fences

 Game reserves and some crop fields are protected by barbed wire and electric fences. Itamar has come up with one way to get over them.
He flies with  2 1 meter long plastic tubes , which he sliced up. He strips the tubes over the wire. And then uses some string to pull apart the 2 wires with the tubes over it to allow him to get through.

Landing near  farms

Farm roads, if the gates are closed and you can open them, close them again.

If a pilot landed inside a farm, see if you can get hold of the farmer first and ask for permission for the recovery to enter his land.

Meet Africa

So you ended up landing near a rural settlement or township.
A real
Africa experience. Consider yourself an ambassador of the sport.
 I end up explaining to the locals the basics, like ...  no this is not a parachute, it is a paraglider , a swerfskeerm, ...
  ... and I ran of a mountain far away , and then is used the warm air which makes clouds and you then I did fly like a bird from cloud to cloud...
If it is a small number of kids in a rural area I got sweets along that I dish out after packing up.
Or I hand them out when they gave me directions and they intend to walk with you to make sure you get to the road.
For grownups, if they help and assist, I give them my energybar or peanut bags what I got with me as a snack.
Sometimes I flag down a commuter taxi and get a lift back.

I prefer to stay  away from mine hostels on weekends. Too many drunken young bored mine workers....

Do not crash in a squatter camp. Come across some horror stories of injured pilots getting robbed of all their possessions.

 Land next to roads

If you fly over bush and thorn tree area, and got a choice, then land next to a road

 First price would be a major, tarred road.
Beware that major roads to have telephone lines running on one side and power lines on the other.
And some grass strip next to it. Aim for the grass strip; watch out for any lines crossing the road.

When you got to a road and got cell phone coverage, SMS your recovery the milestone reading, like P242-1 10.
And sometimes, when there is some confusion if we are talking the same road, I describe the cars and trucks passing me, and some high , visible land marks.

In case you walk on a road, walk on the side facing the traffic. Better you see the oncoming traffic and get out of the way if necessary.
If you got recovery heading for you, find some shade and wait. No use in getting dehydrated.

 Wear your Helmet on the back of a bakkie

Bakkie is the local expression for a pick-up truck. When I get recovery on the back of a truck or a bakkie, I put on my helmet.
A normal hat gets blown off. And then you have a 2-3 hour ride with the sun burning your head. And the wind blowing through your hair with 120 km/h.
Or going through a thunderstorm and getting rained on. Talking rain, my glider gets the inside seat in a bakkie when we have to go through a thunderstorm, and I sit on the back with my flightsuit and the helmet on , and getting wet. 

 Whistle in the bush

Lets say you fly Map of Africa or Maitlands.  You sink out and disappear in the 1-5 meter high coastal bush and fynbos.

  You might be easy visible from the air.
  But for those who try to work themselves through the maze of interwoven plants  and can see maybe for half a meter it gets difficult to find you.
 Blowing a whistle will give those who come to help you some idea where you are located.

 Fynbos = Pain bos

Fynbos means fine bush. It is a protected mix of all sorts of stuff growing along the coastal area. Maybe half a meter to 1 meter high little , interwoven , little thorny shrubs.  You find it on the hills and slopes of the Western Cape, Cape Town to  East London  area .  It
 A - catches your lines and makes it a nightmare to get your glider out of it and pack it up if you land in it
 B - scratches your bare legs , if you do not wear any long trousers, walking through it
To miss this experience,  avoid slope landings. Fly down to the bottom. And wear long trousers and sleeved shirts.

Good example of ending up in a cactus ...


Strong Wind Landings

(from Laura Nelson) 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. 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 the other 2
flights), I guarantee that it works!

Tree landings


If you land or fall into a tree, try to grab and hand on to branches. Falling down through a tree is not a good idea.


More on tree landings see Tree Landing Powerpoint presentation

Example where a pilot landed in a tree, then unclipped without securing himself.

And then fell down the cliff. Ending up with severe spinal injuries


There is a good chance of claiming a thorn tree in South Africa.

Once you are in a thorn tree, leather cloves will come handy. Recommend to fly with some sturdy gloves, in case you have to get your glider out of a thorn bush or tree. If your glider is caught by a big thorn tree, and no chance to lift it off, ask the landowner ( if around) to cut it down. Get a saw, cut down the tree.

Now you have to set aside some hours. If there is a bakkie, ( South African for a pickup )  for recovery and can get to your spot, load tree and glider onto car and take the whole lot to your place. Otherwise spend some hours of quality time with your glider, cutting down more of the thorn branches , and lifting  bits an pieces of thorntree out of your glider mess.

Have a saw and some sturdy thick leather gloves in your car to help out pilots who landed in trees.

And a Leatherman to undo the risers so that one can pull out the lines one by one off a tree.

Make yourself familiar with areas where sisal grows. Barberton, for example. Avoid it. Sisal makes you take off again and has the capability to give males instant sex changes.

Rescue Line

Fly with some line which has a weight attached to the end. when you have a tree landing,  lower the line for the rescue party to attach a more solid line. Then pull up the stronger rope to enable you to lower you down.

Landing in dry mealie fields

Maize fields, aslo called mealie fields. They are lush green and soft to land in over December to March period. And soggie wet mud.

But come May they are dry, brown, and the mealie sticks become like bamboo sticks. Which can easily  puncture you or your glider.

Water Landings


Shout and scream for help to make any bystanders aware that you are in trouble. And that they do not consider this a stunt. You might not have a chance to shout anything anymore once you hit the water.

Different approaches have to be taken if you land at the coast in the sea or inlands in a lake.

Whichever way, I would switch off any electrical kit, if you got the time. But there are more important things to do…

Looses, open up your straps, have your hook knife out, maybe start cutting away what will hold you back.

Expect the harness to push your face under water.

Keep your helmet on, the styropor in it will help keep your head up.

Coastal Waterlanding

Surf is a killer. Avoid to land in the surf. Surf will make you loose your balance, the lines will entangle you, the glider will drag you off your feet and that was the end of you. Shark feeding with your body parts is verboten in SA …

 Typical scenario would be ridge soaring along a dune or coastal ridge with some shore to land beneath you.

And the wind blows from the sea towards the shore, otherwise you would not have taken off.

Landing into wind, and you keep on gliding into the water. Bad choice.

You probably cannot make it over the waves. So I would rather turn around and land downwind or cross wind.


Inland Waterlanding

Inland lakes with no surf , one can land as close as possible at the shore.

The discussion is if one should land downwind and not flare and have the glider overshoot you, and leading edge first hit the water.

It will stay inflated, build a wall, and might drag you in strong wind.

Or do a normal landing and stall the wing behind you. In low windspeed the glider plus lines might fall on top of you and entangle you.


Slimes Dams

Flying around Rustenburg, Johannesburg, Welkom or Barberton one can see the white slimes dams. Unless you checked before, do not land on them. They are slime, mud, non solid ground. And poisonous.  But they can trigger nice thermals…

 Example of a Slimes Dam near Dunnottar.

Dry your kit

If you made it out of the water, get your Vario, Radio, GPS , take out any batteries, open them up as much as possible,

And put them under a hairdryer or switch on the heater and air blower in the car and dry them out asap.

Fluff your reserve, open it, run with it.

Pull up your Paraglider and ground control it to get it dry.

Dusties, Whirlys, Bush Fires

 When the weatherforecast gives you 20 or more on temperature difference from minimum to maximum for the day, and there is no dew on the grass in the morning, chances are good that this will be a day breeding whirlys.
Stay clear of them if you are low  in the air. Some pilots reckon if you are 500m AGL you can try them out.
Bush fires, or veld fires, can be worse than dust devils. Along with some burning debris that melts holes into your glider.

Thunder and Rain


Rain first. DHV covers that nicely on in German.

In short, flying through rain will change your wing profile behavior. Don't expect to have a DHV rated wing once it got wet.

Wet wings, flown through rain, go easy parachutal .

Or if you plan to spiral down while having a wet wing , expect to stall one side of the wing and end up in a stable spin or spiral,

Without getting out of it. Even dry DHV 1 rated Gliders can end up in locked spirals.  Better land a bit earlier instead of finding out that your glider is one of those who stay in a spiral and does not get out of it.

Stay clear of Thunderstorms. Heard that before?
Thumbsuck one can hear thunder up to 16km away. Another rule of thumb, stay 30 km clear of a thunderstorm to have a choice of where and how you are going to land. so, when you hear thunder, boy you are in trouble.

They suck you up, you get disorientated, you freeze to death, or die of lack of oxygen. While getting hit by hale.

Or you fall out of the sky somehow and hit the ground hard in some strong gusty wind.

Look for the sink. Do not stay put and try to spiral with 14 m/s down in a 20 m/s up. You still go up with 6 m/s.

Even if you manage to get down slowly, the moment you go out of the spiral you go up again.

I had a trip like this 3 times until I opted to run away from it.

Tuck ears, speedbar , and run ... where to?? You got 3 choices. I reckon ...  not into wind, not with the wind, but sideways and hope to get out somehow.

Into wind , you just stay and go up. With the wind , you cross through the whole cloud for 10? or  20 km? , going up in the last? ride of your life.
So how do you know if you go cross wind???  You are in the mist, no ground visibibility.
And it can be smooth or rough , trying to figure out what your glider is doing and where is up and down.  Now you really need a GPS. Only a GPS can give you an idea at what speed you are traveling against the ground.

If you throw your reserve you might go up and you are  in for a wild ride.

Based on stories in old XC Mags, pilots threw their reserve and wrapped themselves into their wing to protect and keep them warm.


Other possibility, no idea if works, is to cut your As and come down parachutal until low enough to throw reserve. But when is low = low enough. And expect strong winds under a thunderstorm dangling off your reserve will require some good PLF skills.


The water and hale that falls out of a thunderstorm cools down the air around it.  Cold air is thicker , more dense, and runs away from the center of the storm.

If you get caught in a gustfront, while airborne, you very quickly run out of control where you are going with your Paraglider.

If you want to land with some control, then land quick if you see a gustfront heading your way.



 While you are still airborne, report your position regular, like Pilot xyz, 55 km on a bearing of 143.  Assuming your GPS is set to GOTO Takeoff.
Avoid the long coodinates. No one can remember them. While the 55 km gives the recovery some idea how far away you are. And the 143 is the bearing from you towards takeoff. This requires some math skills from your recovery, or a 2nd GPS with them also set to point to takeoff. 

See for more info.

Once landed, and in cell phone range, SMS your landing coordinates to your recovery. Do not block the 2m band channel by dictating and repeating the coordinates and confirming the numbers. The advantage of an SMS is also that it can be forwarded to other people easily. And you can resend it.

If you have no GPS and you have to explain to someone where you are, use obvious, far visible , heigh, sticking out features to describe where you are.
Stating over the radio that you land between the 2 lakes to your revovery does not help much. Lakes are low lying features and difficult to see from the ground. They are obvious from the air, but in a car with hills around and fields and forest, sorry ... there are no lakes here.
Describe your position by using radio masts, towers, mine shafts, the sun in relation to you and something else, which roads you can see, railway lines, cities, power lines ...
"I landed behind the white water reservoir cylinder and I am about 5km away from the big radio mast and the old mine black mine shaft is 3km to the South of me"  is better than "I landed between the burnt field and the 2 round mielie fields"

If your recovery is close, you can use other features, like a flock of birds going over you, or an aircraft passing overhead. Or let them hoot to get an idea where they are relative to you. If you wait next to a road you can describe the vehicles that pass you to give them an idea, like the coal truck with the green trailer.


So you managed to have one of those landings where you do not walk away from. Welcome to the club …

 In case you crash in South Africa, the range of a rescue helicopter covers most of the popular sites near the major cities.

But there is only one paramedic helicopter in Gauteng area that can fly at night . The only one in the whole of Africa.

All the other choppers can only fly VFR during daylight. So, crash early during the day.

It takes around 2 hours for the chopper to arrive from the time you first contact them.

 Numbers to phone from a cell phone can be 082 911, if you are covered by the SAHPA CASEVAC insurance, who will authorize the use of the helicopter.
Other options are , Gautneg Metro 011 0203, or 10177,  or on a call 147 or 112, and then you need your medical aid coverage details handy to get clearance for a helicopter.
I got my details on my helmet. Handy, if you can take your helmet off after a hard landing. Or if someone else crashes near to you, you gotthe numbers in your hand. Or if it is you who is lying there and  whoever gets to you can see the details.

Still, if you do not have the details, explain your situation and leave it up to the operations manager of the helicopter rescue service to decide if your are worth it to fire up their turbines. Don't have a negative attitude, that they will turn you down anyway, so why bother phoning them… Let them make the decision.

 If you crash in the Kuruman/Vryburg area, Spanish will be handy, for the Cuban doctors in the local hospitals.
If you crash in that area, arrange an ambulance airplane to transfer you to
Gauteng or Cape Town area.

 Have a GPS and provide the rescue with your coordinates. And SMS your coordinates to your crew.

 If you are not in cell phone range, try various 2m-band radio frequencies.
In case you cannot establish radio contact, try to get your radio to 121.5 MHz and Morse code SOS.
The airband are AM and can not communicate with your FM but they can hear your SOS ... --- ... and over flying aircraft, like major airliners might monitor over
Africa the 121.5MHz frequency and can inform rescue parties to locate your signal.

Last scenario, smashed up your radio and your cell in the middle of nowhere and you cannot move.
Keep glider fully inflated, to give a good visual. If you got flares, think twice before using them.
If you ended up in the dry season in high dry grass or forest , avoid flares. Idea is to survive not to cremate yourself.
If you opt to use them then I would only use them when it gets dark.
And only at full hour or half an hour intervals in the dark, assuming you got a watch or GPS time. Or when you are in contact with someone who will look for the flare.

If you got a whistle at hand, blow it. Someone might be nearby and hear it. The Alpine distress signal is 6 signals in a minute. Any type of signals, whistle blowing, sun mirror reflections, knocking rocks together,...

 Survive long enough

 Most hard landings, where you do not walk away from, leave you still conscious and you end up with some broken bones.

 But you will not be in a position to move and use both your hands. Typical is a broken arm and leg and some back and rib problems. Means something does not work, something hurts quite badly, and the blood is not really running away. Open fractures ? See if you can use the compression strap or the stuff bag and remember some of the first aid lectures. Maybe you got a black bag that can be used ?

Fly with  your kit to have whatever you need after a crash to be reachable with one hand only.
 Like radio, cell phone, GPS.  Maybe water and flares.

 Great to have your reserve front mounted to pull it out and cover yourself in case you have to spend the night under the stars.
 To pull in your paraglider might not work, it is probably catching on rocks or caught in bushes.
And you need it open as a distress signal for any airborne search party.

Have an ordinary garbage bag, black bag, along

 A black bag can become useful to have at hand. If it rains you can put your glider in its stuff bag into it to protect it.

  Or make a raincoat out of it to protect you from getting wet and loose too much body heat.
  Or collect rainwater for drinking for it. But have some salty peanuts along with it.
 In the desert and low on water, dig a hole, pee into it, put some bowl, Vario cover, plastic collector in the middle.
  Cover hole with black bag, fix with rocks, and put a pebble in the middle.
 Black bag will warm up air under hole, vaporize the humidity in the soil, vapor will condense on black bag.
 Water drips will run to lowest (pebble) point and drip down. To the collector who hopefully is positioned underneath to collect the drops.

 When you crash, you can use a black bag as a tourniquet to stop any bleeding.

I got my other bits and pieces packed into ordinary small platic bags. In case you have to wade, swim through a river.
Using platic bags one can pack your GPS, Vario, Radio into the plastic bags and hope they do not get too wet.

In case your electronic gadgets managed to get wet, take out the batteries, open them up, and blow them dry.
For example, .. once you get into a car, switch on the heater and air fan full power and try to get them airdried.
Do not microwave them.

Obvious Medical Aid details

So there you are in need of medical help.

And you, or someone, are trying to contact the emergency services. And arrange an ambulance, paramedic or even a chopper to get you out of here.
And the folks would like to know

  • if you got a medical aid
  • your next of kin details
  • any allergies or chronical medication

What can make a big difference in sunny South Africa.
I got a white helmet and written on it are my medical aid details. Mentioned that before?
If you are concerned about  the looks of your helmet, well find some solution that will enable someone to see that you are covered.

Or experience the free medical service of the new South Africa .. ...  The opinions on it vary.

 How you can help

 If you overhear while flying cross-country a pilot in distress communicating, maintain radio silence.

 If you have to communicate with your ground crew, tell them to switch frequencies.
 Offer to assist to relay messages in case there is a direct line of sight problem.
 If you notice other parties interfering on the channel, because they are low and are not aware of the emergency, then advise them by " Stop transmitting - Mayday"

If you see someone crash, transmit your and his position to the ground crew. And then make a plan how to help the fellow , maybe land close to him, without  crashing next to him.

 Food and Water

Here in SA everyone flies with a Camelbag or similar waterbag on your back.
It is simply too hot in summer during the day to survive without any water.
You sweat on takeoff. You loose water once you get to cloudbase by breathing in dry air.
And you will sweat again once you landed and have to walk.
I prefer plain water. Anything else feeds some weird things growing in the bag and tubes.

Foodwise I prefer pasta in the evening and for breakfast as carboloader.
And I got sweets with me. Either to get the energy when having to walk for 5 hours after landing.
Or for the kids who gather around while I pack up.
In the flightsuit arm pockets I got some  small  BarOne or Mars  in case I need some energy while flying.

Know your cellphone - SMS info

August 11 2004. Just packed up my kit on top of Schoemanskloof pass during the MP2004 comp. Wind has turned and become very strong and gusty.
Glad to be on the ground and looking forward to an about 1 hour walk to the main road. Not too bad.
Cell phone beeps and I get an SMS...   have crashed. Need help. S25 25.209'  E030 43.297'. Laura

I forwarded the SMS to the Paramedic and meetdirector. Unchanged. Now they think I have crashed.
Better, add the crash pilots number to the SMS.
  have crashed. Need help. S25 25.209'  E030 43.297'. Laura, 082 678 1392

I reckon this SMS could be improved. Avoid the dots when you are in a hurry.
On my cellphone ( Nokia) , I use Insert Numbert and then use # and * to send the coords like
 S25#25*209  E030#43*297 .

have crashed. Need help.  S25#25*209  E030#43*297 , Laura, 082 678 1392

If you are in a hurry , have not got much time, just send off
  25#25*209  030#43*297  or 2525209 03043297 by pressing on a Nokia the text buttons long.
 Then take your time to add more info around it and send it again.

 Laura pointed out to me that with most Nokia , if one presses the button long...
Must admit that the cellphone keypad is not my favourite piece of equipment,
and I have spent many frustrating minutes with it. Having to send out sms's
to people on a regular basis (as a service to my students), have taught me a
lot about what it can do, mostly on a hit and miss basis. Even though I have
studied the manual, it did not help that much!

It seems that many other people are also not familiar with the functions on
a (Nokia) cellphone. One of my discoveries (by accident) is that one can put
in numbers without having to change from the text to number function.

All one has to do is hold down the key and the number appears instead of the
alphabet. Which is what I used to send out my position. I believe the way
the co-ords were sent out was the easiest and most efficient. Even the
'-sign is easily accessible from the normal cellphone menu. No change of
menu required at all.
whichever way, when you parawait why not figure out with your cellphone the fastest way to SMS your position ?

SMS format  

August 14 2009 .... got a SMS similar to this from a XC pilot,    

Down at S262323 E263546

What is not that clear for me.

Can I recommend that when you fly , and you land ok, use an SMS format like

Ulf, down and safe, S26 23.23 E26 35.46 19k

And we all use WGS 84 based coords. And send out all the same format in
degrees and decimal minutes.

Based on WGS 84, because that is what the GPS system is based on.
Be aware that our maps are based on Clark 1880.
or maybe Hartebesthoek,...
= there is a difference of about max 300m if we do not all use WGS 84
Or if you take a WGS84 coord and put it on a government printer map
you can be 300m out.

Back to the SMS ...

Ulf, down and safe, S26 23.23 E26 35.46 19k
Pilot name - in case your recovery has offered to recover multiple pilots

Ulf, down and safe, S26 23.23 E26 35.46 19k
down and safe - if that is not there we assume an emergency
And from a crash pilots view, you might not have lots of time,
so send the minimum, like Ulf S26 23.23 E26 35.46
means if you get one of these from me, I am in trouble.

If you get an SMS  like this from me  S26 23.23 E26 35.46 , then I am really in trouble.

Ulf, down and safe, S26 23.23 E26 35.46 19k
The the coords in degrees and Decimal Minutes.

Only Minutes, is providing an up to 1.8 km in-accuracy.
Providing 2 digits after the dot in decimal minutes,
(1/100 of a minutes) makes it about 30m accurate.

Ulf, down and safe, S26 23.23 E26 35.46 19k
Distance from take-off - to give the recovery some rough idea how long the trip
will take.

More info see

Rescue tips

So received one of these SMS that someone has crashed.?
And you rush off to find the person.

 Take a GPS and switch on the track. By the time you are finished with the day it will be pitch dark. You will need a backtrack function to find your way back.
Take a torch along. You will be in the dark to find your way back.
Take a radio along and tell everyone else what frequency will be used.
Take a cell phone along. But do not rely on coverage.
Take water, energy bars, softdrinks along. You are in for a hike, long walk, rough terrain.
Wear long pants,  Assume you will be going through thorn bushes.
Take your gloves. You might be grabbing, or holding on to  (thorn) trees in the dark.
Take warm clothes along. Either for yourself or the crash pilot to keep him warm.
Take an empty backpacks, glider bags along. To spread the load of carrying the crash pilot kit between whoever is around.
If there are lots of people arriving, stage them between the crash site and the ambulance.
And use spare people to indicate the best path ( in the dark). And they can take over turns in carrying the patient out.
If the crash is on a slope, get some ropes and make a plan how one can use the ropes to assist the carriers to get the patient on the stretcher up the slope.
Mark the track to the crash site with streamers or plastic barrier tape to enable you and others how to get there and back
Post a car on the main road to lead the way for any ambulance to get closer to the crash site.

From the SAHPA Training Manual. It can be updated to add the 4x4 and re-checking of the where abouts of the ambulance. The paramedics in Nelspruit area regularly ask for the GPS co-ords. I think that more and more ambulances have gps units available, or it may be the paramedics personal gps, but whatever, many motorists have those units as well, and therefore it is more general these days than it used to be.


There is sometimes confusion as to what should be done when one witnesses an accident. Here is a guideline.

When you see a pilot crashing, go as fast as possible (but safely) to him. Take a cellphone and a radio with you to ensure no unnecessary time delays in summoning help if required. Check to see if he is conscious, talk to him, find out what sort of injuries he has. If he is injured, or suspected of having injuries (complaining of back ache for example) or unconscious, call for help immediately. Do not move him unless it is absolutely necessary for safety reasons.

If you do not know First Aid, get someone who does, or call for medical assistance. Stay with the pilot, or get someone else to stay with him. The reason is to ensure that he does not go into shock, as well as to re-assure and calm him. Should he be shivering or complaining of cold, and nothing else is available, cover him with his or your paraglider or reserve parachute. This could be very important at higher altitudes and in winter, when temperatures are very low.

Ensure that the ambulance or doctor or helicopter gets clear instructions on how to reach the site. It is best to position someone who knows how to reach the accident scene at the turnoff from the main road, to guide the paramedics, and save valuable time.

If the area is remote, it is very helpful to have GPS co-ordinates available to locate the pilot, and guide the paramedics and/or helicopter. It is even more helpful to have people available to show the paramedics the shortest or easiest route, as well as to help carry the equipment needed to assist the pilot. Help with the rescue under direction of a trained person, if necessary.

Off to hospital

Once the Paramedics got hold off the crash pilot the admin begins.

Medical Aid details are required. And approval from the medical aid to go to whatever hospital.

If you accompany a crash pilot to ap rivate hospital, you might be the person who has to sign the papers that you will pay any expenses while the doctors are busy trying to figure out what is wrong with that fellow.  Private hospitals want to see money, assurance that they get paid. ID book info, contact numbers, acceptance of charges.  Same with choopers. Have platinum credit card at hand.

Make a plan re the belongings of the pilot. His clothes, money, cell phone, ....  If the pilot is out of action, goes into surgery,  ... hang on to them. If the pilot is more or less ok, make a plan with him if he wants to hang on to them and can watch over them. The pilot will require his cell phone once he is ok enough to let the rest of the world know what is going on.

Once the pilot can be visited , take some of his clothes along. And toiletries, toothbrush, toothpaste.

If the person is supposed to be discharged make a plan if he needs flat on his back transport. And if the pilot has to settle any bills.

Where to go

Based on the hospitals that I have  experienced by going there. Either flat on the back on a stretcher. Or dragging a fellow pilot there.

Barberton, Ngodwana, Sabie, Mt Carmel, Bambi

Barberton rescue services are fast. First stop might be the Eureka hospital or government hospital.

Nelspruit Medi Clinic on the way out to BarbertonExpensive and good.  Down the road near the main intersection is the government hospital. Seems to be also ok. 

For Bambi the rescue services can take 1-2 hours from Belfast. If serious, get the STAR rescue helicopter which will take the patient back to JHB.

De Aar

If you crash on take-off, the town is close by. Ambulance will be there within a few minutes. Paramedic lives on the other side of the road as you come into town.

Local hospital,… well… 2 overworked doctors. Basic facilities. Can not handle anything complex. If you got some complex injuries, you will then wait for the ambulance shuttle service to get you to  BFN or KBY. What can take 5 – 10 hours until you are in a private hospital. 

For serious cases an ambulance plane can be organized.


If you crash away from town ,.... not a good idea.  


Get briefed on where the game farms are , like Wildebeest,  Hippos,  Lions,  and Chinese Tiger breeding program.

Best , land in the roads.


N17 private hospital. The Nigel rescue services are fast , 10 minutes

The Dam

For cliff accidents consider calling the mountain rescue.

Brits hospital ok for broken bones. More serious goes to one of the JHB or PTA hospitals.


Ferncrest close by Eagles Nest.  Cary lots of cash or credit card. Rescue services close by in town. About 15 minutes to Eagles Nest.


----- Original Message -----
From: Steyn
Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:52 AM
Subject: [Cloudbusters] Rustenburg Emergency Procedures.

Based on the experience we had over the past weekend with the
Emergency Response and arrangements with Andre's accident, I would
like to highlight what to do in the case of an emergency.

Assuming that the pilot/patient does not have some sort of Helicopter
EVAC insurance:

The best number to dial is ER24. They have their call centre IN
Rustenburg Area.
The number is: 0861 789 911

(If pilot has Helivac or other membership, obviously dial that

(The problem with many of the other numbers (incl. 082911) is that
their call centres are somewhere in Gauteng, so you end up having to
relay information to the driver etc.) (NOt sure how this affects
Discovery members...)

PLEASE make sure that you mention "Eagle's Nest or At se Gat" Do NOT
MENTION RIETVLEI as there are about 70000 Rietvlei's in South Africa
and the major confusion starts with the fact that the next town,
Swartruggens also has a Rietvlei area...
MAke sure that you provide your cell number to the dispatcher.

Do not assume that the medical response team has a 4x4 vehicle.
Make sure that one vehicle drives to the normal Access Road to meet
the ambulance at the Eagle's nest turn-off at the tar road.
It is a good idea to drop off the ambulance at the bar and take the
medical personnel up in a 4x4. (If ambulance is not 4x4)
The bar is then used as the point to which the patient(s) is evacuated

If you have been waiting on the hill for more than 30 minutes, phone
again and again untill you see the ambulance.

The incident over last weekend saw the ambulance driving all the way
to Moedwil before turning around.
Never assume that the driver knows where he should go untill you SEE
IF the patient stops breathing or is unconscious, you HAVE to do your
best to get a helicopter on the scene. It does NOT matter if an
ambulance is on the way. From experience with numerous accidents on
this site, it is CLEAR that the BEST case recovery by car will take
about an hour from the time the ambulance arrives at the foot of the

The weekend was again an eye opener. To give a short timeline:
10:30 Accident occured.
Hennie and myself arrived at about 11:15.
About 11:20 we realised that the ambulance was lost.
We drove down the hill and waited at the Tar road.
The ambulance arrived at about 11:36
We then proceeded to the Bar where we loaded the medics + equipment.
They arrived on top between 12:10 and 12:20.
This is 1hours 40mins after the accident!
So the first medical care Andre and his patient received occurred
The step from Medic on site to ARRIVAL AT Ferncrest HOspital took
another hour.
The ambulance arrived at the hospital at 13:28

We have spoken to the Medics on site and asked them to explain to the
call centre shift workers where the site is and how to get there.

(It might be a good idea to invite some of the ER24 crew to site to
further familiarise them with the area....)


Thabanchu, Bloemfontein Area

  BFN Unitas Hospital. Last crash pilot who went there went in with a minor injurie and died a few days later from some infection ....

Private hospital Roseacres, very good and expensive.

Volksrust, Wakkerstrom, Fort Mistake

Do not crash flying Tomatieberg or Wakkerstrom. Volksrust seems to be poorly equipped.  Serious crash one dies before making it to a hospital in that area.

Cape Town



Forwarded from the Cape Albatross HG club list.
From: "Paul Laros"

> Hi All
> I don't know if many of you know Ric Wilson. He flys PPG and PG,
> and usually drives a motor home with the PPG motor on the back.
> He flies a blue Swing glider.
> Short Version:-
> Ric was bitten by a snake at the top take-off (above the road) on
> Saturday afternoon. He is in ICU at Vergelegen Mediclinic. Latest
> report that I heard from the hospital was that he is stable and doing
> OK.
> Long Version:-
> I arrived at SLP view site on Saturday afternoon with my son and
> Johan Smal, intending on going for a walk in the mountains. I found
> Ric surrounded by a small crowd of people, lying down on his back
> with his left leg suspended, resting on a post. He had 2 sets of
> double puncture wounds in his calf muscle. He told me that he had
> been bitten by a puff adder while laying out his glider at the top
> take-off. He was on his own at the time and ran down the mountain
> to the view site. He was bitten at about
14:30 and it was now 15:00.
> I could the see from the rope mark on his leg that some well-
> meaning people had applied a tourniquet. Fortunately they had
> been advised on the telephone by emergency services to remove it.
> The people on take-off had called an ambulance and it arrived
> shortly after
15:00. Ric's first request (understandably) to the
> paramedics was for anti-venom serum. They said that that would be
> administered at hospital. After bandaging and splinting his leg the
> ambulance left SLP at about
15:15. I went up to top take-off to pack
> up and collect Ric's glider.
> I spoke to Ric's wife later that evening. The toxicologist at
> Vergelegen was of the opinion that the snake was probably a berg
> adder. If it was a puff adder bite, the leg would already have been
> blue and very swollen by the time he was admitted. Berg adder
> venom is neurotoxic (attacks the nervous system). Puff adder
> venom is cytotoxic (it destroys tissue and cells) A berg adder bite is
> less serious than a puff adder bite. Administering puff adder anti-
> venom for a berg adder bite is however potentially fatal. There is no
> anti-venom for a berg adder bite, but fortunately fatalities from bites
> are virtually unheard of. Treatment is symptomatic.
> Why this long story? Well it seems to me that there is much to learn
> here. Doing free flying and XC flying, we probably expose ourselves
> more to the (albeit small) risk of snake bite than most people. It
> seems to me from the above that there is a need for some basic
> information regarding the first aid treatment of snake bites. The
> people who helped Ric at the view site were doing their best and
> this is not intended to be a criticism of them.
> There are many on this list who are better qualified than me address
> this and hopefully will give us the benefit of their knowledge. For the
> moment though I would suggest the following lessons could be
> learnt from this:-
> When on your own, if bitten by a snake, don't run. This only
> increases the rate of absorption of the venom. Falling and injuring
> yourself will not help.
> Never use a tourniquet. This can cause severe damage. Apply a
> bandage to the affected limb. The idea is to slow down the
> spreading and absorption of the venom.
> Don't raise the bite site above the level of the heart and the brain. I
> could be wrong here but I think that it would be better to prop up the
> patient and lower the affected limb. (?)
> Only use anti-venom if you are 100 % sure of the snake that did the
> biting and that you know what you are doing. You could do more
> harm than good.
> In Ric's case it would have been far quicker to put him in a car a
> drive straight to hospital. If it was a cobra bite, an hour is a long
> time.....Use common sense here.
> Perhaps this could be the subject of a talk at a club meeting.
> Regards,
> Paul
> --
> Paul Anthony Laros Consulting Structural and Civil Engineer
> ------- End of forwarded message -------


 In German a good writeup on 1st aid and rescue

More info on Paragliding in South Africa at

This article is part of the Skygod series

Tracking Options

How to use a GPS