Yes, it’s that time of year when safety-minded folk start bleating about the dangers of Spring Thermals (Safety Matters – Skywings March 2014, page 11). It’s an annual bleat aimed at reminding pilots that this is a dangerous time of year. But why is it so dangerous?
1. Lack of pilot currency
Many pilots are just emerging from a winter of inactivity, brushing the dust off their wing and trying to remember where they hid all their flying kit. Those who haven’t maintained their flying currency are going to be very rusty; in other words, it’s going to take them much longer to do the things that they did almost automatically last season. Even those who have flown in the UK over the winter will have been enjoying smooth, thermal-free flying and are therefore also out of practice in handling thermals.
2. Strength of thermals
At this time of year the air and ground is relatively cold and the sun is relatively powerful. This combination leads to thermals forming and climbing quickly. You may read of thermals being described as “punchy”. This translates into your usual smooth flight being rudely interrupted as the wing gets thrown backwards on entering a thermal or half your wing going all light and floppy as you pass to the side of one. The strength and small size of the thermals and your inappropriate or poorly timed control inputs can combine to result in collapses and general unhappiness.
So, what to do?
1. Be aware of the danger – you’re reading this, so you are!
2. Avoid flying during the peak heating hours either side of midday.
3. Watch others’ experiences from the safety of the ground and ask yourself if you’d really like to be up there with them.
4. Remind yourself of your actions should you encounter a punchy thermal:
a. Fly actively (keep the wing above your head where it belongs)
b. If you get a collapse: HANDS UP!
c. If it all goes horribly wrong, throw your reserve early
Incident to report? https://contact.bhpa.co.uk/incident.php
Results of post-accident analysis of paragliding in the rain: http://www.swing.de/general-safety-notices/articles/paragliding-in-the-rain.html
If you don’t feel like reading the whole article then please just take away the message from the penultimate sentence: “…stay away from rain with every paraglider…”
The UK's best free flying club was formed back in the mid 70's. Rick Wilson obtained permission to use a hill that looked down on the Thames and with a few fellow enthusiasts called themselves the 'Civil Service Hang Gliding Club', which later became the Thames Valley Hang Gliding Club. More sites were obtained and Combe Gibbet, now regarded as probably the best Northerly XC site in the south of England, was first negotiated around this time.
As hang gliding became more popular membership grew and by the late 1970's the club boasted about 100 members. Volplane, the club newsletter started being produced on a regular basis early in the 80's and was voted by the BHGA (British Hang Gliding Association) as the best in the country.
In the late 80's paragliders started appearing on the hills. Mike Hibbit could often be seen at Combe Gibbet, being ridiculed by his hang gliding buddies, as he introduced a new way of flying, which so many of his contemporaries said would never catch on.
Over the years many famous names in both hang gliding and paragliding have been TVHGC members: Judy Leden MBE, World Hang Gliding and British Paragliding Champion: Tony Hughes, European Hang Gliding Champion: Hugh Miller, first World Air Games Paragliding Champion: Ken Messenger, Darren Arkwright and many others.
TVHGC is a friendly hang gliding and paragliding club with sites on the Marlborough and Berkshire Downs. To fly within the TVHGC club you must be a member of the BHPA or IPPI card holder with the required insurance cover.
Our club of 400 members has 10 flying sites within the glourious rolling hills of the Wilshire downs and Hampshire and Oxfordshire. These are in land flying sites which make excellent sites to paraglide and hand glide for both soaring and cross country flying. We have some of the UK's premier cross country sites that are regularly breaking records for distance flying. Many of these sites are flown all year round.
Our members are the most friendly pilots and very active will be seen regularly flying our sites. The club is blessed to have a great mix of newly qualified pilots through to very experienced pilots and many pilots who complete within local, european and world competitions. We have some of the best pilots in the world who achive record breaking flights from our local sites.
The club has an active social scene with regular monthly pub meetups and presentations. There is online forums and Facebook social media used for communication purposes amoungst our members.
With the great mix of experience within the club there is a coaching scheme which provides support to all pilots from new to old. This coaching is provided via forums, social evenings, on the hill side.
Every first Wednesday of the month you'll find us at the Swan Inn, Inkpen near Hungerford at the bottom of Combe Gibbet from about 7.30pm, wittering about flying, flying and more flying. The club is very friendly and we do our best to welcome new pilots of any ability. Joining the club will make arriving at new sites less daunting and mean that you will probably do more flying.
If your looking to join this excellent and well known BHPA club in England all we ask is you are a BHPA member or IPPI qualified and have the required insurance and abide by our club rules.
We hope to meet you very soon!