Monday, October 25, 2010

2011 X-Alps Athlete selection announced

Tom Payne put this great table of the 2011 Athletes together:

Country Flag Athlete Age Supporter Glider Blog/website 2003 2005 2007 2009
ARG Martin Romero 36 Diego E. Romero MacPara Magus XC
AUS Lloyd Pennicuik 45 Paul Underwood Axis Venus link 17 X
AUT1 Helmut Eichholzer 36 Wolfgang Ehgarter Ozone Delta link 4 X
AUT2 Christian Amon 41 Mario Schmaranzer Swing Stratus X X
AUT3 Mike Küng 42 Thomas Arzberger Paratech P8 Proto
BEL Thomas de Dorlodot 26 Gatien de Dorlodot Gradient Avax XC3 link X 10
BRA Richard Pethigal 42 tba. Swing Stratus
CAN Max Fanderl 46 Penny Powers tba. link X 13
CZE Jan Skrabálek 41 Karel Vrbensky tba. link 11 15
ESP Ramón Morillas 44 Juan Morillas Advance Proto link 7 9
FIN Jouni Makkonen 40 Toni Leskelä Gradient Avax XC 7
FRA1 Vincent Sprüngli 46 Jerome Maupoint Gin Boomerang X X
FRA2 Philippe Barnier 36 Hervé Garcia Niviuk Icepeak
FRA3 Clément Latour 28 Gil Thomas Skywalk Poison 3
GBR Steve Nash 48 Richard Bungay Nova
GER Michael Gebert 31 Florian Schellheimer Gradient Avax XC3 link 5 X 6
ITA Andy Frötscher 42 Martin Klotz Skywalk Poison 3 link X X 14 12
JPN1 Kaoru Ogisawa 51 Masaru Saso Gin Boomerang 5 13
JPN2 Masayuki Matsubara 40 Tetsuo Kogai tba. X
NED Ferdinand van Schelven 27 Anton Brous tba.
NOR Ivar Sandstå 44 Inge Haustveit Niviuk Peak 2
POL Pavel Faron 37 Piotr Goc Swing Stratus
POR Nuno Virgilio 31 Samuel Lopes Axis Mercury
ROM Toma Coconea 36 Daniel Pisica UP link X X 2 X
RSA Pierre Carter 44 James Braid Gradient XC3 X
RUS Evgeny Gryaznov 39 tba. tba. 5
SUI1 Christian Maurer 28 Thomas Theurillat Advance Omega link 1
SUI2 Alex Hofer 34 Roland Moltinger tba. link 1 1 2
SUI3 Martin Müller 45 Yannick Flugi Gin Boomerang 7 light link 3 X
USA Honza Rejmanek 36 Dave Hanning Axis Mercury link


source: X-Alps website, Wikipedia, own research || Age at Race launch 17th. Jul 2011 || blogs tbc. || X means participated, but injured or disqualified/eliminated

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Flying Safe

Copyright ©2010 iStockphoto LP
I say this a lot. "Fly safe."* 

I think this a lot too.  You see, I've never considered having an accident as a reasonable possibility, as long as I "Fly Safe."

I began my flying life at 15, in sailplanes.  I was a skull-full-o-mush, as all 15ers are.  In order to afford my flying lessons, I became the 'airport kid' and worked around the airport - fueling airplanes, working the launch line, cleaning bathrooms etc; and I learned a lot watching the many pilots come and go.  Soon I was towing gliders with a Super-Cub and flying glider rides and intro-lessons.  All the while I was observing other pilots - noticing their different styles and techniques.

I developed an indelible image of the difference between a good pilot  and one who thought he was good.  The 'wanker' assumed he could overcome all variables - but never took the time to think them through.  The good pilots always considered the variables and made sure that the sum added up to a safe operation.  I'm convinced that this lesson saved my life - often - as I negotiated my early flying escapades while experiencing the insanity of puberty.  Applying this lesson has kept me alive during the ensuing 40 years and 25000+ hours.  I've made being a "safe" pilot priority one.  
National Air and Space Museum- Smithsonian Institution
Don't get me wrong - I did my share of stunts, over the early years, and I'm not dumb enough to list them here.  But I've always - even when doing things that I knew were on the fringe of stupid - considered the variables and made an effort to make the right call.  I've NOT done many stunts that just didn't pass my 'safe' test.  

You've all experienced 'Intermediate Syndrome.'  This is a kind of temporary insanity that many experience when they get just enough knowledge and comfort in their abilities to forget about "Flying Safe."
To my chagrin, I experienced a brief Intermediate Syndrome, in paragliders, just before I turned 50, and it resulted in injury.  It took five broken ribs to remind me that paragliders are not toys - they are aircraft that need the respect and consideration given to any other kind of aircraft.

For the last 30 years I've made a living flying airliners.  The most important job of an airline pilot is to consider the many, many, variables and still provide a safe, boring flight to his passengers and crew.  It's hard for me to fly my paraglider with a different mind-set than I do my 747. . . Does that mean that I never fly when conditions aren't optimal?  NO.  Just as in my airline career, I have flown in conditions that pushed (but never exceeded) my experience and aircraft performance.  The secret to increasing your experience level, and comfort in unfamiliar situations, is to do it in baby steps.  It takes time and experience.

So, ask yourself, "Do you Fly Safe?"

What does it mean to "Fly Safe?"

MY definition of a safe pilot is one who I would allow to fly with my family aboard.  Before making the determination of a pilot's "safety," I look at his/her competence and knowledge (experience); mental state; and  motivation on the flight.
  • Does the pilot have the experience to fly in the conditions that exist presently and those that may occur during the flight?
  • Is the pilot experienced enough to anticipate problems and avoid/compensate for these problems?
  • Is the pilot thoughtful in planning the flight and aware of the responsibilities she is assuming?
  • Is the pilot's competency on that aircraft type sufficient?
We have to remind ourselves that there is an important passenger on board, even when we are flying alone ;-)

So, do we "Fly Safe"?

From the standpoint of flying paragliders in Cross-Country events, when I answer that question honestly, I must admit that there are times it appears that I could have flown with more safety.  When I am on a XC flight and get low on the terrain to pull out a save;  When I explore the lee to contact a booming lee-side thermal; When conditions at launch are *sketchy-but-flyable* and I decide to launch before it gets worse;  All of these situations are second-guessable.  The important factor is that I am aware that the safety margins may have been reduced in these situations but, after weighing the applicable variables, have decided it is, indeed, safe.

I know that this appears hypocritical - "It's OK to do dumb things as long as you realize they are dumb."
That's NOT the takeaway here.

What I'm saying is, in the dynamic world of aviation, awareness of your risk at all times, and weighing all the variables, is imperative.  To blindly dive into the lee without a consideration given to the consequences, is idiotic - to fly into the lee after considering the sun angle, winds, and plan of retreat, is "Flying Safe."
In a sport where the prize monies are paltry; the fame is but momentary; and the bragging rights only last for the weekend; ask yourself, "How much are you really willing to dip outside your safety envelope to win a task?"
Answer that question honestly, when in the heat of competition, and you'll know my mindset while competing. Consideration of your risk/reward when it's important is the key.

At the moment I have four friends in physical rehab after flying accidents that occurred while pushing the limits of safety.  I'm sure each of them has a different perspective on the risk/reward calculation than they had prior to pounding.  Please consider their outcomes and daily struggles when you are making critical safety decisions in the heat of battle -
Fly Safe -
*Even though it's improper English, I live with it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

2010 PWC Superfinal Results and some News

The US team is heading home from Turkey and they can hold their heads up high.  After 7 tasks in 11 days, the US pilots all flew well and brought home 5th place in the Team standings, of which Cross Country Magazine says, "In fifth place was Team USA. The seven pilots flew strongly to show that they are now a true force on the international stage."

Congratulations go to all seven guys:  Nate Scales who was the highest scoring US pilot, at 23rd - Josh Cohn placed 28th - Eric Reed at 49th - Len Szafaryn at 54th - Nick Greece, who was leading after task two, finished at 59th - 2010 US Nat'l Champion, Jack Brown, at 88th and Brad Gunnuscio at 92nd.

Thanks for representing the US Comp pilots and flying well! 
Final Results are HERE

The PWC format, for the foreseeable future, will retain the 'Superfinal' format, with 5 regional tests before selecting the qualifiers for the Superfinal.  This format was overwhelmingly approved and will continue to improve the chances of US pilots to qualify, and participate in, the highest level competitions in our sport.

On an interesting note; The PMA has announced:
“The PMA believe that from the material point of view a significant way to improve safety in FAI cat.1 competitions is to restrict them to EN–D gliders. Open Class gliders have their place in competitions but FAI cat.1 is not that place.”
Read the full Cross Country article HERE.

I've gone on record as being in favor of such a move, and I still believe it would help our sport grow and improve the quality and safety of our competitions.  I do believe that there is a place for full-on racing (uncertified) ships for use in the PWC that will provide a venue for the highest performance and R&D for the manufacturers.  Much like Formula One and America's Cup racing, there is a place for the spectacular performance of a "cost is no object" type of class*, but I feel that competing mano-a-mano on whatever performance wing will provide better 'sport' for a larger market.  Admittedly, I am flying an EN-D wing in competitions and this obviously biases my opinion, but my choice of wing is due to my opinion that my EN-D wing provides a increased margin of safety and handling not exhibited by competition wings.

I am not cynical enough to assume that the PMA decision is to boost sales by requiring serious competitors to purchase a Cat 1 comp wing and another to fly in PWC events - I hope they feel it will stimulate the market and expand it.  Am I naive?  I hope not.

Do I think Cross Country Competitions will become safer?  Probably not.  Quite simply, it's the stuff between the ears that, ultimately, provides a safety margin.  You can fly a Cessna 150 into trashy air & the result will be ugly.  Pick your line intelligently and fly safely - THAT's the measure of a good pilot. . .
* By 'cost is no object' I mean $$ is no object. . . Unfortunately in the sport of paragliding, the cost to compete on the highest performance wings can mean the cost is your personal safety - This I find unacceptable.

Fly Safe,