Even though paragliding is usually a relatively safe sport, it can become dangerous when people start getting lax about their pre-flight prep and launch.
It’s also not just novice pilots that make dangerous launching mistakes. Even the most seasoned pilots can become complacent after years of flying. The bottom line is there is just no place for this in our sport. We all have to make sure we properly prepare to fly – for our own safety and those around us.
When preparing students for solo flying and teaching them the proper steps for pre-flight and launch prep, we teach this (which is a good refresher for all of us):
- Check the weather conditions to be certain that they are suitable for your skill level. If you are unsure, ask some experienced pilots for advice. If they tell you not to fly, listen to them. If you are alone and you are not sure if you’ll be able to fly safely, don’t. It’s really that simple. Better to err on the side of caution and live to fly another day.
- Check your harness and make sure all buckles are done up securely and none of the straps are too loose or wearing through.
- Check your wing and lines for continuity and ensure lines have proper routing and aren’t wrapped around anything
- Lift the wing and check it by looking up at it. Accelerate yourself and the wing simultaneously to launch speed, keeping the wing balanced above your head. If the wing is not good, abort the launch if it’s not recoverable and reset.
If it IS good, make sure your wing is laid open into the wind and run until your feet leave the ground.
- DO NOT SIT DOWN EARLY once launched. Instead, concentrate on a safe flight path for those first 30 seconds (because they are the MOST dangerous). Keep your wing stable by leaving your flight deck alone and keeping your arms up while you SMOOTHLY transition into your seat.
Once you’ve done all this and you are positive that your flight path is safe and you are in control, then it’s safe to check your flight deck and relax into a fun, safe flight.
It’s important to remember that the majority of paragliding accidents and mishaps occur in that first 30 seconds after launch and most of them are preventable with a good pre-flight check and plan.
Have you made a launching mistake that taught you a valuable lesson? Feel free to share it with us! The more we hear people’s stories, the more aware and safer we all become!