This is in response to a friend asking me about my recent crash on a paraglider. He talked about his reason for walking away from paragliding as well as asked the questions you’ll see at the bottom.
For those of you who fly, I’m a 60 hour pilot under a Gin Carrera Plus, all up 85 kg (75–95 wing).
Psyched on flying and ground handling. I stopped keeping track of ground handling hours at the 35 flying hour mark, but at that point it was 1:1 GH to flying.
Was about 300’ up and too far back into a ridge, approx 6 miles from launch at Palomar. I hit rotor, the wing collapsed. I then accidentally stalled it and mismanaged the stall (not letting it fly, being too quick on the brakes) all the way to the ground. Landed around 6 m/s about 2’ up a steep dirt slope next to a rural highway (S6).
Not terrible, but definitely lucky to walk away with just a bloody knee and a 2 week headache. Both seem cleared up now.
Wing fell into one of the lanes. No traffic, so I balled it up, hobbled across the road and packed up, assuring myself that I was a lucky bugger for about 20 minutes straight.
Walked a mile and a half until I caught a ride back to the LZ.
I probably should have thrown the reserve, although in retrospect I would have drifted into trees and had a far more costly retrieve. As it was, no gear broke, snapped, or tore and I flew again the next day. I’ve talked to more experienced pilots and they agree to a (wo)man that I should have thrown my reserve no matter the potential equipment cost.
‑Let it fly. Thought I’d gotten this at the 1 SIV I did (at about the 20 hour mark). It wasn’t deep enough learning to be reflexive, which is totally my fault.
-I need to practice wing control on the ground and in the air (to include the “300 stalls” rule) way more before I get more serious about XC. The XC is super sexy but without the tools to manage the situations that inevitably arise I’m an idiot to chase it.
-More SIV is essential. Probably also a good idea to do an XC course.
-Fear injuries are real. I’m still nervous flying, 4 weeks, 12 flights and 5 flying hours later. I’m not sure how to best handle it. I’ve had some great flights and some ones that were more or less unpleasant. I think lots more ground handling plus flying in really clean & easy air for a while, plus just flat-out more flying will cure it. Thinking of it in the same manner as a physical injury, all that makes sense.
I do feel like a weakling when I get scared at takeoff or in flight. It’s a new one for me, I never thought anything would really scare me or freak me out that way. I also feel an obligation to go back and figure that out, to master it, and to decide on my own terms when I want to stop flying.
Questions & Answers
1. Is the risk manageable?
Yes, but safe progression will take full focus, maximum effort, and an acceptance that the consequences are higher than reasonable. The question I ask is “Is the risk acceptable?” My answer is “Yes”, but I know it’s not the reasonable answer.
2. Do you have the time to dedicate?
Yes. I’ve got 10 hours/week to manage all my flying time (prep, set up, flight, pack up, and travel time.) That gives me 3–5 flights totalling 2–4 hours/week of flying time depending on conditions. That seems acceptable to me. I’ll probably expand that to 15 hours/week in the summer, but for now 10 hours is what Lee & I have agreed on.
3. Do I see mega adventures in the sport or something done for relaxation? Both answers have limits and guardrails to them.
Mega-adventures, learning how to manage fear and excitement, seeing parts of the world in a way impossible via any other method, and the privilege of flying a line no one has flown before. I don’t think I can do a sport for relaxation. Release and restoration of my natural connection to earth energy certainly, but I just can’t connect relaxation with the effort to improve.
My goal is to vol-biv the Spine of Baja. No one has done it as far as I can tell. I’d really like to be the first, but I can see that pushing to be the first before I’m ready to safely fly it jacks the odds of disaster way beyond what is reasonable, even for me. Just flying it will be enough. I’d also like to compete in the X‑Alps, but I’m more psyched on SoB to start.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on flying, the quest for excellence, and laying out important questions. Psyched to see you soon.