Low Level Hell
Hang glider: Wills Wing 145 U-2
Harness: Aeros Myth 2
In-flight camera: GoPro HD
At Bell Hill, north Dorset, England, I had to go low behind the north ridge to avoid a paraglider that turned in front of me. Its harness was trailing a red ribbon, as I recall, which indicates an inexperienced pilot (less than 10 hours post-CP). We do not fly low over the front of that field because it is known for rotor turbulence. Fortunately, I was able to fly forward and out of trouble fairly easily.
A red ribbon paraglider then formed up on my left wing. I have never flown so close to another aircraft. I am still puzzled as to how it managed to keep up with me, even coming in from the side. Clearly, modern paragliders, even beginner rated ones, are tremendously capable.
A couple of days previously, a hang glider was prevented from launching by a red ribbon paraglider pilot setting up right in front of him. The pilot concerned was simply unaware of the situation, but understood when I explained it. I am sure such things are taught in paragliding schools, but the low airtime pilot can be overwhelmed by things to be aware of when getting ready to fly in soaring conditions. (The paraglider wing having been turned sideways to the the wind and balled up, the hang glider launched successfully.)
You see one problem with a hang glider: The upwards view, which equates to sideways view when turning, is camparatively poor. Therefore, a hang glider pilot has to ‘clear his turns’, which means one of the following:
- While flying straight and level, look around for gliders anywhere near. That includes those that are not yet near, but might be by the time you are in the turn.
- Having been keeping a watch on all nearby flying activity, you know that no other gliders are near enough to present a collision hazard in the turn.
Later in the afternoon, paragliders started suffering partial collapses while close to the hillside. One did not recover before it hit the ground and the pilot was seriously injured. The medevac helicopter arrived so quickly that other wings in the air barely had time to set up their approaches to land in what was obviously dangerous air close to the ground.
The helicopter landed on the track at about where the shadow of the white paraglider is in the preceding photo.
Dust off in Hang gliding 2006 to 2009
Neil Franklin’s photo of a loose paraglider wing nearly taking down a dual paraglider that had just launched. That photo was taken on the same day.
Photo of the helicopter accelerating away from the hill with the injured paraglider pilot aboard. (Anonymous photographer.)