|Wormingford Airfield, Fordham Road, Wormingford, Colchester,|
Essex CO6 3AQ Tel: (01206) 242596
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As you are all aware, we have had a few serious incidents and accidents lately. If you still feel that you are personally immune from an accident, consider this: all involved had a skill level that would have led anyone to say, with 100% certainty, that what they were attempting was well within their capabilities.
So, what went wrong?
All accidents contain the same ingredients, in greater or lesser proportion. In no particular order, they are:
Overconfidence: You need to know where your limits realistically are. Don't exceed them, or, having exceeded them once and got away with it, don't immediately raise your threshold - you have no idea how much good luck may have helped to rescue you during your recent scrape. It may not help you next time.
Underconfidence: Having got yourself, you think, slightly beyond your limits, you need to be cool. Do not panic, then abandon all your training and experiment. Stick to what you know works. Fly the glider. Ideally, fly it in the right direction. Remember, height and speed are energy, and energy is your friend. On the launch, almost whatever else is going on, if you are getting further from the ground and the wings are still on the glider, stay with it to a safe height before deciding to abort the launch. Off the wire, don't use the brakes until you need them. Abandoning the launch early, using brakes, or worse still the first followed immediately by the second, will put you immediately into an emergency situation, and may also leave you with very low energy, which is even worse still.
Incomplete training: We all have skills which we are not confident are as developed as we would like. That's life. You have a simple choice. Either avoid situations where you might need the skill you don't possess, or attain the skills you need by training and regular practice. Annual checks cover only the basic "survival skills" for gliding, but you still need to practise and remain current. The instructors cannot know what else you are unhappy about unless you tell them. It may be solo spins (in fact these are to become part of the annual checks), it may be circuits, it may be anything... don't wait for your own personal accident before you ask for some extra training.
Bad luck or bad planning?: In gliding there's almost no such thing as bad luck. If you need luck to avoid an accident, then your planning was poor. Plan to avoid situations that you cannot control with 100% certainty. Always maintain an escape route, even if it's not your favourite choice, and never abandon it unless you have a better one (e.g. never let a rough but landable field get out of range whilst trying to get to a smoother field you may never reach).
Denial: You are about to have an accident. Don't waste time asking "why me?", or thinking "it can't be happening", etc. - you need 100% of your attention on fixing the situation as best you can. If in the air, get the glider on the ground as safely as possible - anywhere - and worry about the consequences later, when you have time.
"I planned to do this, so I will do it...": At the expense of reassessing the situation as it changes? Just as circuit planning involves regular adjustments around the ideal circuit shape, anything in your flying can be aborted or changed if it no longer becomes safe to carry on. You are more likely to embarrass yourself with an accident by blindly following Plan A as the situation gets worse than you are by aborting your task or manoeuvre and landing safely.
Poor observation: Simply, if you don't hit anything, your gliding career will be long and safe. To prevent yourself hitting things in the air, your lookout must be maintained at all times. To prevent yourself hitting the ground, maintain your airspeed. It sounds obvious, but both require constant observation - if you get complacent about either you will have trouble. Remember that the aircraft that will hit you is more likely to come from above, below, or from the side.
Medical factors: Drugs, dehydration, lack of sleep, general tiredness, illness, etc. can affect you. If in doubt, do not fly. You do not need an accident to prove you were under the weather - you should already be aware of it.
Equipment failure: It does occasionally happen, even after a good DI, but you can be certain that a good DI will find the vast majority of the potential problems that could render a glider unairworthy. Most are obvious, some less so, but the DI should always be done rigorously, with independent control checks, and a parachute DI too. All faults found on club gliders must be reported to the Duty Instructor and Technical Officer, as well as logged in the DI book.
Other idiots: Fly defensively. Even very experienced competition pilots have mid-air collisions. Always assume that the other person hasn't even seen you, let alone knows how to fly close to you without hitting you. You should not need your own personal near miss or a mid-air collision to teach you this, but I can assure you that it works very well indeed. Obey all the rules of joining and using thermals (and read the S&G articles), and if in even 1% doubt, go and find your own thermal. You cannot reliably track more than one other close glider in three dimensions.
These are just a few things to think about, and no direct reference is intended to any recent event. However, if any of these ring any bells, ask yourself why. Gliding is not inherently dangerous if pilots know their limits, remain alert, stay cool under pressure, follow their training, fly only when fit to fly, and fly cautiously at all times. The air is, however, not our natural environment, and the penalty for getting it wrong is often severe.
Other points for this issue:
We have had some very interesting "situations" as a result of our extensions to the runway. You need to be aware that times of change are also times when accidents are more likely, until we get used to the new modes of operation. In particular, three points are extremely important, and I will act positively to make these points stick:
Chris Smith has fairly recently produced some new winch notes. Please would winch drivers make sure they have read and understood them. Until we have improved the position of the signal lights at both ends, please would cable hookers-on wait for a radio signal from the winch driver that the cables are safe before touching them.
We have now marked all club parachutes with ESGC and in some cases a serial number. Club parachutes are not to be taken off site for ANY reason without permission of a committee member, preferable myself, Kim Smith, or Paul Foulger. You have no idea how long it takes to establish where missing parachutes are - usually it involves looking everywhere where they are not, first.
There has been another glider/parachutist collision (double fatality). Cross-country pilots, do you know where to find the ATC frequencies to use if you want to cross a parachute drop zone? They are listed on your chart - look and find them if you are still unsure. If in any doubt whatsoever about the current status of the zone, you must avoid it altogether.
Before the next issue, no doubt the usual autumn condensation problems will be upon us again. Please do not launch if condensation could possibly affect the visibility from your glider.
Finally, never launch a glider if there are any objects within at least one wingspan of the launching glider. There have been several occasions where the wing man has failed to stop a launch despite objects that would have proved hazardous if the wing had dropped. The wing man is responsible for not only "all clear above and behind", but also "all clear on the ground". Any pilot who is unhappy to accept a launch should release and have the object removed.
Safety Briefing 1
Safety Briefing 2
Safety Briefing 3
Safety Briefing 4
Safety Briefing 5
Safety Briefing 6
Safety Briefing 7
Safety Briefing 9
Safety Briefing 10