Spring 2014 Safety Newsletter

Happy Spring UHGPGA!

Shane Denherder here, safety officer for the paragliding side of UHGPGA. Dave Chapman (Hang gliding safety officer) and I wanted to drop a quick safety newsletter on you to get your minds back in gear for the season!

As we all know, spring can be excellent for flying - as well as unpredictable and inconsistent. The biggest thing that gets people in the early season is that it's difficult to predict what kind of day you're going to get. Some days may be flyable all day, whereas some may be just like a mid summer day where you want to be down by 10:30. You might start out flying in ski clothing (or your European onesie) in the AM but the day quickly turns to shorts weather. Be sure to watch the signs of changing weather, be especially diligent about watching developing conditions, and tune into the decisions of others whom you respect.

Outside factors like this will affect us regardless of our experience level, so both novice and seasoned pilots need to respect springtime weather. When coupled with our lack of currency in the air, these factors can lead to surprising situations that can end our season quickly; or just cause an occasional "scary moment."

Our active members are looking forward to the season being fully "on," and hopefully taking steps to ensure they are ready for it. A handful of folks are dusting their gear off after a few years and making an effort to get current this year. We welcome everyone back, and hope that you will consider the following -

Practical tips to start the season out:

1. If you haven't flown in while, go grab a couple Southside sessions before before sending it big.

2. Volunteer to be a driver on the first couple mountain missions. Everyone can use the karma points, and it can help to soak up energy from those who have been flying all winter long.

3. If you haven't flown in a few seasons, touch bases with an instructor for a refresher.

4. If you're not sure about the weather, call your instructor/buddy to see what they think. Don't assume because others are flying that it's safe for you to do so.

5. Never be afraid to stick a fork in it if it doesn't look perfect. A session should always end with a good decision - and that decision can be made up front to not fly today. Remember this phrase, in case you need to save face - "I'm not that desperate."

Paragliding / Speedflying common blunders:

Making a top landing approach and not aiming into the wind. (hint - look towards Salt Lake City on the Northside, Provo on the Southside)

Not knowing your brake range on your new glider, and finding out where the stall point is the first time you encounter traffic/turbulence. Spin - deep stall - broken back. Know your equipment!

Approaching a Northside top landing from the East, over the houses - a hairpin turn (low) is then needed to execute the landing into the wind.

Attempting to bench up and being stubborn about the fail - if you're not going up, turn out and land into the wind. Don't hang onto the ridge until you're forced to land downwind. As you drift west on the bench, wind gets stronger and lift gets weaker.

Paying attention to bystanders in a crowded LZ during landing - our club hasn't hit a bystander in the past, and we're not going there anytime soon. If it looks crowded, go land in the weeds!

Hang Gliding safety tips from Dave:

1. Do an annual inspection of your wing and harness. Hang gliders tend to have a much longer lifespan than PGs and as such things wear out.. Most glider manuals include a section on doing inspections and that is a great place to start. Areas I have found to have problems are wear points, such as VG strings on pulleys, and zippers and sliders on harnesses. As you open your glider bag take a good look at where metal parts touch sail areas as wear from transport can cause undue wear and occasionally a hole in your sail. Also a new set of side wires are cheap insurance.

2. Repack your chute! nuff said.....

3. Go to the south side and practice some takeoffs and landings before attempting big air on the north side. On a nice day you can make several dozen flights on the south side and be fully tuned for spring flying.

4. Pick your spring flying days carefully. It is easy to find yourself trying to bench up while 20+ paragliders are on the bench doing the same thing! Get dialed in before entering heavy traffic, our fall gaggle flying skills are much better than our rusty spring skills… It is better to wait on launch until the traffic thins out than find yourself spending all your time avoiding collisions in the air!

5. Share the air, PGs can be great thermal markers! Remember, the same rules apply when entering a thermal with a HG, PG, or a sailplane. Low glider has the right of way, first glider sets the turn direction, and if you lose sight remain predictable.

6. Find a mentor (or become one!), someone you can go to the mountains with and improve your skills or pass on some of your knowledge. It's great to fly XC with another pilot or two!


The safety team wants each member to have the season of their life this year. Set new personal bests, break down old barriers, and fly our butts off! Always remember that flying is a perpetual learning experience, and everyone gets humbled periodically. Let's make it our goal for the 2014 season to only have the "slightly embarrassing" and "constructive" learning experiences vs. those that generate hospital visits.


Shane Denherder
Dave Chapman
UHGPGA Safety Officers