Two paraglider pilots dealt with nasty collapses at Dunstable today due to turbulence (around 13:00hrs 17th May). Both pilots recovered to normal flight and landed safely.
Anticipate more turbulence when the air is cold, the sunshine is hot and the wind is moderate to strong. This problem is often magnified between 11:00hrs – 16:00hrs when the day’s thermals really start to mix the air up. The cloud tops will often have a shredded appearance instead of a neat, well defined ‘cauliflower’ form.
- Look for signs of difficulties ground handling, collapsing wings and reports from recently landed pilots of “rough air”.
- Measure the wind speeds or pester those who are measuring it. Use this information as well as the forecast wind speeds to inform your decision whether to: go XC/climb in thermals/ridge soar/wait/go home/or in extreme cases even return to work.
- Low flying (take offs, ridge soaring, landings) when it is thermic are extremely hazardous, especially for low airtime pilots who have not yet done any 360’s or thermal climbs because collapses closer to the ground give little time for recovery. New pilots are advised to avoid the middle of the day in such conditions.
- Feel the air – is it smooth(ish) or are you having to control pitch, role and yaw a lot more than is normal? This can be felt on the ground before you take off.
- Keeping a little more break on during gusting winds allows more control of pitch movements.
- Practice weight shifting until it becomes instinctive.
- When caught in turbulence and dealing with collapse/s steer a safe course by looking where you want to go… and you will go towards safety.
- Sufficient altitude gives you time to think and react appropriately.
Ian Hopcraft. DHPC Safety Officer