|Wormingford Airfield, Fordham Road, Wormingford, Colchester,|
Essex CO6 3AQ Tel: (01206) 242596
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At Wednesday's Committee Meeting I was appointed the club's Safety Officer, and, because I like an easy life, my aim is to get through the period of my appointment with no accidents to deal with, and I need your co-operation in order that this may be so. I intend to publish an occasional safety briefing note such as this one. Please read it, and if you have any questions, please ask me.
Coincidentally, I have recently been putting up the BGA accident database on the club's web site and one of the things that has impressed me is how easily avoidable most of the accidents were, including most of the fatal ones. There has been concern in recent weeks about lack of self-discipline at Wormingford both on the ground and in the air, and elsewhere in the UK a few unpleasant or fatal accidents, and my intention in this issue is to focus on three areas of concern: (1) ground operations, (2) circuits, and (3) approach and landing. Away from the airfield you are entirely responsible for your own safety, but near or on the airfield it is also my concern.
a) There have been a number of incidents involving the retrieve vehicle, which has been moved, both forward and in reverse, and even over the launch cables, with the glider tow rope laid out on the ground. Sooner or later the rings will catch the cable and without warning launch the innocent person who is hooking up a glider. Please ensure that the retrieve vehicle is never driven with the tow rope out, and please always go out to landed gliders round the back of the launch point.
b) If you find any item of equipment that is faulty in such a way that it could present any danger to any club member or visitor, it is your responsibility to ensure that the equipment is, if necessary, taken out of service until fixed. Do not assume that everybody, or even anybody at all, knows about the fault. At the very least, inform the duty instructor and the log keeper of your concerns.
c) There was an incident where a car was driven in front of a landing glider. Please ensure your lookout is sufficient for both your own safety and that of others.
a) There has been an increasing trend for experienced pilots to perform unconventional circuits. Not only does this set a bad example to pilots of less skill and experience, but it reduces safety margins to an unacceptable level, and confuses inexperienced pilots in the circuit. I will assume that by the time a pilot is established on the downwind leg that the decision to land has been made. Any pilot who deviates thereafter from standard BGA circuit practices will be assumed to be in need of re-training. If you intend to do a non-standard circuit, you must get a briefing and the permission of the duty instructor beforehand.
b) The whole point of a circuit is to arrive at the final turn, with sufficient height, and with plenty of options available should the unexpected occur. Flying a good and safe circuit is not easy even in ideal conditions. Please refer to my article in the last issue of "Winglet" for some ideas on how even the most experienced pilots can improve their circuits. I strongly recommend training flights with the altimeter blanked off. If you are a solo pilot and have not done such a flight recently, then ask to do one with an instructor.
c) Low final turns are not acceptable for any reason. Any pilots who survive such a manoeuvre will be assumed to be in need of re-training. If you are unable to make it to the desired final turn position by 300 feet, then reposition your final turn and if necessary land up by the winch.
a) There has been a significant number of recently-observed situations in which an obvious undershoot was developing, but the pilot reacted in an inappropriate way by raising the nose of the glider. This is a potentially fatal error. If you notice that the reference point is appearing to move up the canopy, then shut the airbrakes completely until you are back on the correct approach path, and then you may extend them again. Never use the airbrakes as confirmation to observers on the ground that you correctly estimated the conditions: if you need to shut them then do so well before you run out of energy. If you always fly a standard BGA circuit and level the wings after each circuit turn, you will be able to estimate the wind conditions with greater accuracy.
b) One or two pilots are getting overconfident when steering the gliders on the ground run after touchdown. Whilst it is sometimes helpful not to finish the ground run in the centre of the strip, if this manoeuvre is poorly done, the resultant ground-loop can be instantaneous and may cause serious damage to the glider. I will assume that any pilot who comes to rest at a very different angle to that of the approach has lost control of the glider on the ground run.
It was felt by the Committee that now the club is expanding we should have a regular morning briefing at 8:30 in the clubhouse. Obviously, not everyone will be able to attend, but if anyone misses the briefing, please ask what issues were raised. Instructors will be able to give a quick briefing on forecast weather trends, NOTAMs, information about the state of the gliders and other equipment, and any other matters arising. Please be at the briefings if you can, and let the instructors know if there are any points you would like them to go over. I do not intend to go around shouting at people about safety matters, because we are all of us responsible for our own and others' safety, and I hope not to have to make my presence felt directly, but I would like to ensure that a culture of safety (common sense, forethought and awareness) prevails. If anyone has any concerns about any safety-related matter, please see me at any time.
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