Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When Things Go Bad - Part 3

In prior posts I went through a few scenarios and recommended some possible solutions and procedures to consider when faced with these abnormal situations.  The main thing we are after, in looking at these situations is the ability to think and fly while working through the problem to it's safest outcome.  As mentioned before, all of these equipment and grey-matter failures can be avoided if you are conscientious with your gear, preparation, and anticipation of potential danger. 
SCENARIO 8 - Brake Handle Separation 
You huck off the hill with your brakes held in your normal way; When you pull the right brake, the handle separates from the brake-line, and your brake-line trails 10 feet behind you as you fly along.

No Problem.  You will still have plenty of control to safely get on the ground.  As your instructor (probably) told you during training, you can use your rear risers to control the wing.  Because you want similar control pressures, I recommend using both rear risers rather than using one brake and the opposite riser.  Be careful since the force required to control the wing may be different than that normally experienced while using brakes - consider the possibility of stall/spin, if over controlling.

Practice rear-riser-flying your wing every once in a while to familiarize yourself with the flying characteristics and control pressures associated with using the rear risers for control.

When you tie your brake line knots I recommend using the knot shown in the graphic here.  Click on the graphic for a larger version.
SCENARIO 9 - Tow Boat Disabled
You are attending your first SIV course, held at a local lake.  The instructor is a well respected acro pilot who gets right to the description of how/what/where you are going to do the maneuvers.  You excitedly hook into the tow-line and are soon airborne.  The boat tows you to about 200', when you feel the line go slack and you see the boat slowing until it's dead in the water. 
This may sound a bit far-fetched, but I've seen a variation of this happen at three different towing events. Any time you combine a boat, a winch, a long towing line, and a wing, you add innumerable complex failure points and something is bound to happen.  This means you need to be prepared and all parties need to have a plan.

When on tow, and the line goes very slack, (you realize something is ending the tow prematurely) your first thought should be to disconnect from the tow-line.  You may need two hands to accomplish this task since the force has been removed from the line.  Your priority should be to clear yourself from the tow-line.  Then steer towards a suitable landing spot while considering the wind.  If you are in a position where landing in the water is the best or only option, get as close to another boat or shore as possible.  If your safety boat has been disabled you may be in the water for a while.

You should be wearing a good life vest.  You should have removed the padding from your harness so you float face-up. You should have a hook knife readily available.  And you should have a plan if you hit the water without the aid of a rescue boat; because. . .
The very reason you are heading for the water, may be the reason the rescue boat won't be coming to your aid!  If you are fouled in your lines, you are in serious danger, since no rescue boat is coming.

 Scenario 7 covered some of the things to consider, and preparations to make, when landing in the water.  You may think that the water is your friend since the whole reason for the course being held at the lake is so you will land in the water if the wing gets out of sorts - but the hazards of the water are as real as any other time.

So - Here's the way to preemptively avoid the above situation.  If your acro-god instructor doesn't brief you (and the boat driver) about the tow pattern and the importance of a path that allows for a landing on shore if a low rope-break or boat malfunction occurs, you need to take responsibility for your safety, and do the briefing with them.  If, as is the case most of the time, your tow-boat is also the safety boat, there is a gap in safety if the boat is disabled due to engine or winch problems. You shouldn't be exposed to a water landing for any longer than necessary, early in the tow.  The best-case scenario is for you to be towed along a landable shoreline until you are high enough to return to a designated LZ.   If you find yourself headed for the water then all the caveats mentioned in Scenario 7 apply.

For some very sobering information, see this excellent study done by the DHV. It is obvious, from this study, that a timely arrival of the safety boat is imperative to a safely run SIV course.

SIV courses are very important in advancing your flying through increased familiarity and confidence in your ability to handle your wing in all situations - I value my time over the water greatly - but be aware that it is essential that your SIV is conducted by professionals who have good equipment and good procedures.

Fly Safe -
Tim

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