Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Friday, July 29, 2011


People warned me about this. When I started flying tandems, pilots started telling stories about "someone" they knew who ended up never flying solo any more, or getting sick of flying, or...or....or a bunch of other worst-case scenarios because they were jealous that I was going to get paid to go play in the sky (at least that's my theory, ha ha).

My case of tandem-itis isn't too bad and is easily curable. It has to do with switching gears...let me explain for the non-pilots.

Paragliding wings are rated from beginner (big, fat stable wings that rarely collapse and practically fly themselves) to competition (skinny twitchy wings that have great performance but need constant attention in the air). Wings are now rated from A (beginner) through D (performance). Most tandem gliders, including mine, are rated "B", which means it's pretty stable but has good performance. My solo wing is a "C", which although is only one level higher is a noticeable difference. Also, the heavier you are on your wing the less it moves around, so on a tandem you tend to cut through most of the bumps in the air.

What this all means is that I'm so used to flying around on my stable tandem wing, heavily loaded and really only spending 10-30 minutes in the air, that yesterday when I went flying in slightly turbulent conditions on my lightly loaded intermediate wing...I got spooked. Not a lot, but more than I needed to be. Every little twitch & rustle concerned me and I couldn't figure out why. With over 100 flights this year you'd think I could just cruise through any conditions the weather gods threw at me, yet here I was whimpering at the smallest bumps.

After an hour of airtime I landed and contemplated on what just happened. My conclusion is that since I try to adapt to change fairly quickly I also tend to move on or 'forget' my actions in the past. For instance, after a day or 2 at the competition in Oregon, I got into cross-country flying mode & was staying up in rougher conditions than I would normally. When I came back & started flying tandems, I switched it off & went back into boating around looking for smooth air to keep my passengers from puking. But when trying to fly back in thermic conditions yesterday I was stuck in a tandem headspace and had lost that confidence so recently gained from flying in rougher air.

Knowledge is the first step I suppose. My goal is to be a well-rounded pilot, which means being able to glide effortlessly between tandems, solo, acro, cross-country...whatever the case may be. My transitions definitely need work, but at least now I know what I need to focus on. Today looks like a good opportunity - my friend may have a tandem for me and then after I can free-fly and as the wind is forecast to pick up later there may be a chance to practice some acro. Nothing like trying to fix everything at once!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bring your tandem to Woodrat next year, we'll team up to whip it around in the sporty air, and you'll be dailed in no time. With you flying and me working the instruments, it could work...