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This forum is dedicated to discussions on how to grow the sport of hang gliding. We will take a methodical approach to collect data and come up with implementable ideas on how to increase our numbers. This includes effective marketing, lead generation, site access issues, improving regulations, lack of instructors, lack of sites, etc

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User avatar
By skoozey
#391004
This is started as a separate thread to avoid hijacking the "When did you start Hang Gliding?" poll. Airthug's retention description there is indeed a real issue -- and probably better covered in long buried threads I cannot find.

I think the two biggest things that cause early pilots to drop are: One, getting scared out of the sport and two, the instructor support gap.

We are already working on the first. The community is pretty good about trying to keep pilots within their skill envelope, discouraging flights in potentially stressful conditions, and keeping them on the right rung of the glider performance ladder. Always more good work to improve here.

But the second is more challenging to address. It's the "H2 gap". Up to the H2, we have an instructor at our side providing all the equipment we need and giving us detailed and specific tasks with immediate feedback on how to improve. As students, we see ourselves progressing quickly and doing amazing things (to us) like flying 10 feet above the ground.

Then we get our H2 and our instructor sells us a single surface floater and then, well, pushes us out of the nest. This is an incredibly challenging time as a student! Before, all we had to do was show up and fly. Interestingly, if you ask an instructor after you get your H2 "what next?", he will say "We're here everyday to help, Just show up and fly!".

This is where we lose pilots. There is a huge learning curve to joining this sport at the H2 level and most of it is on-the-ground logistics. There's harness, glider, roof racks, storage, travel, radios, hang waiting, a whole world of weather, and much more. You can easily add to the list -- then start the in-the-air list.

The problem is not that we don't offer good solutions to every one of these. It just takes a lot of personal initiative and time to solve them ourselves. This issue may account for the relative popularity difference between HG and PG. It goes with that well used line: "everything is better in PG, until you get in the air." H2's, by definition, don't have the air time -- but they sure are hit with the "everything" else!

What I'm suggesting is structured, instructor-led programs to go from H2 to H3. H1's easily see the value of paying an instructor to get their H2s. I think many would be willing to pay an instructor to help them get an H3. What might this look like? Maybe:

Glider and gear included
Weather analysis assistance planning flying days
Driver to launch
Preflight briefings
Flight plans with in-air tasks
Launch assistance, organizing wire crews etc.
In air guidance (tandem and formation flying)
Driver in LZ
Flight debriefing

There's a whole list of skills in this sport that we eventually learn -- mostly informally and always on our own initiative. In addition there's a series of problem solving exercises we have to individually go through to get in the air as we personalize our gear, transportation and find out who we can fly with. Let's wrap some of this stuff up in a syllabus and offer them to newly minted H2s ie: "Program X: get on board, show up and together we'll get you to H3 -- all inclusive!", or "Hi, I'm your personal flying trainer, here's my program to make you a great pilot."

Sure it may seem expensive to those of us who figured it all out in classic DIY fashion, and I'll be the first to admit that we may lose some of the minimalist bootstrapping ethic that I find so compelling about HG. But the novice gap is real and it coincides with the switch from formal education to informal participation. Isn't that something we can improve?
User avatar
By Lucky_Chevy
#391046
You know the Team Challenge format of competition answers a lot of these points. Pilots with less experience are teamed with veteran pilots for the purpose of flying XC. The competition aspects of the event are toned down and the event is really geared toward learning and flying with friends.

In the evenings or on the days when it's not flyable presentations are given on a variety of topics that are not normally covered in the basic H1- H2 training. For example: how to program your vario, weather forecasting, ham radios, landing strategies/clinic, how to thermal better, how to get good, etc.

Team challenges are fun for everyone and are designed to help everyone improve. I've been to the event hosted by the Tennessee Tree Toppers 3 or 4 times and have always learned a bunch. Their program requires pilots to be H-3s but it would be easy to adapt the format to H-2 pilots striving to master H-3 skills.
User avatar
By TjW
#391052
I think you guys are missing the obvious, simple, solution.
If hang 2s and 3s drop out, but hang 4s don't, simply issue everyone a hang 4.
Problem solved.
User avatar
By NMERider
#391054
TjW wrote:I think you guys are missing the obvious, simple, solution.
If hang 2s and 3s drop out, but hang 4s don't, simply issue everyone a hang 4.
Problem solved.
But that is exactly what's been going on for years and then all these H4s find they can't fly any better than an H2 and quit the sport thinking that it's hopeless.
User avatar
By RobertKesselring
#391072
The biggest challenge I faced immediately after coming home with my H2 was that there are no flying opportunities for H2s.

Every H2 site is H2 with observer. Most pilots live hours away from where they fly, and nobody wants to drive that far if it's not soarable. Most soarable days are too strong for a green H2, so it's essentially impossible for an H2 to progress except in a few, very special, very buisy, sites where there is always someone there.

What you are proposing is essentially an observer for hire program. I think it's a great idea.

Another idea that I think would improve the situation would be to develop some H2 sites that could be safely flown by a green H2 without an observer.

Another related idea would be to increase the requirements for an H2 rating so that there are places where a green H2 could safely fly without an observer.

The best idea is probably some blend of these and perhaps other ideas.
By gluesniffer
#391074
No h2 should fly without supervision. Whether it be an observer, instructor, or a more experienced pilot.

Schools need to teach students the skills to fly, the judgement to stay safe, and that the students are not in this sport alone. Students need to know that they must be a part of the flying community. One doesn't have to like everyone, but must be diplomatic with others, respect the rules of sites, give back to the community. We all must admit our faults and acknowledge we are not perfect and not let our ratings get to our heads. Always the student. Attitude is everything. With a great attitude, experienced pilots in the community will embrace new people and go out of their way to help. I know I will and have.
User avatar
By Mr Pou
#391076
gluesniffer wrote:No h2 should fly without supervision. Whether it be an observer, instructor, or a more experienced pilot.
So, if conditions are right, and no other pilot is around, an H2 shouldn't self launch from the mountain?
By blindrodie
#391078
So, if conditions are right, and no other pilot is around, a H2 shouldn't self launch from the mountain?
And there's the rub...:wink:

Should you? This is what "we" are trying to get at. What IS the definitive answer? What is the risk assessment (risk v reward)? What are the conditions? Has this H2 talked to locals/an Instructor/another pilot about "this" particular flight/location/launch? Why was this H2 the only one on launch that day/time?

People wanna know!

8)
By gluesniffer
#391080
Mr Pou,

In my opinion, yes, no h2 or low hour h3 should be out there alone. Who ever gave you the idea that this is ok has done a great disservice to the sport
User avatar
By Mr Pou
#391081
blindrodie wrote:
So, if conditions are right, and no other pilot is around, a H2 shouldn't self launch from the mountain?
Should you? This is what "we" are trying to get at. What IS the definitive answer? What is the risk assessment (risk v reward)? What are the conditions? Has this H2 talked to locals/an Instructor/another pilot about "this" particular flight/location/launch? Why was this H2 the only one on launch that day/time?

People wanna know!

8)
Preface: The package I had included 10 supervised launches. That's not to say that they won't assist, they will if asked. But, based on that one kinda assumes that you're good to go to self launch after 10 supervised launches.

OK, the day in question: One of those days you wake up wide eyed at 5am, *BING*, and you know you're not going back to sleep. So, I'm at the mountain at 6am, mid-summer day, It wasn't my 11th flight, but it wasn't long after my 10th flight either. Gently blowing in, binoculars show the wind sock and streamers limp in the LZ. Aviation apps show TAF for closest airport depicting surface winds variable at 3kts. Winds at 3000msl at 6kts blowing directly at the launch. Winds at launch (~2200msl) less than that straight in.

So I set up. When I'm almost ready to go, another student is setting up, but no instructor around. I triple check everything, then have the student give me an extended hang check. Everything good.

Got on the ramp, got into position, everything seemed good. Was I a bit nervous to self launch? You bet, but conditions were great. So I flew.

And the launch was fine and I enjoyed an extremely nice smooth sledder to the LZ.

12-02.06C2 states: "It is highly recommended that all flights be made under the direct supervision of a USHPA Certified Basic or Advanced Instructor."

So, highly recommended, but not must.

I thought I had put due diligence into the conditions before the flight, determined that conditions were well within my skillset, triple checked everything, and flew.

As for why no other pilots:

1.) Instructors don't come out until 9am or so.
2.) Too early for most students
3.) Experienced pilots are not interested in crack of dawn sledders.

OK, let me have it!
User avatar
By RobertKesselring
#391082
gluesniffer wrote:In my opinion, yes, no h2 or low hour h3 should be out there alone.
I will never be out there alone, regardless of rating. Even an H5 can step in a gopher hole or something on landing and break an ankle. Having someone with you who can render assistance or call emergency services if needed is not optional (in my opinion). Your personal risk tolerance may vary.

However, being alone is not the same as being without an observer. Any friend can help me hobble across an LZ or call 911 for me.

if an H2 has been to a site with an observer. The observer has seen the H2 fly, has seen him make good judgments both in the air and on the ground, and is comfortable that he does not need direct supervision all the time. And if the Observer and the H2 have discussed what conditions the H2 can fly in and what conditions they should not. I see no need for a blanket rule that would supersede the judgment of the observer who has OK'd an H2 to fly a certain site in certain conditions.
User avatar
By TjW
#391084
gluesniffer wrote:Mr Pou,

In my opinion, yes, no h2 or low hour h3 should be out there alone. Who ever gave you the idea that this is ok has done a great disservice to the sport
There's your retention problem, right there.
Either the hang rating system means something, or it doesn't.
Either the instruction system turns out qualified pilots, or it doesn't.

Apparently, there's a large number of people who run sites who think the hang rating system is meaningless, and instructors do not turn out qualified pilots.

More likely, it's just easier to say "Well, we'll just keep the less experienced pilots off the hill. That'll be safer, and it won't affect anyone who really matters." i.e. me and my friends.

I'm not sure why they act surprised when they discover that the pool of experienced pilots is shrinking.

I volunteered, awhile back, along with some other people, to be a mentor to new pilots. Not a paid instructor or guide, just someone to fly with. So far as I know, none of us have been contacted. So there's some reticience on the part of new pilots as well.

But sites aren't doing the sport any favors -- and aren't making the sport safer -- by being extremely restrictive as to who can fly a site. That means new local pilots won't be getting experience. New pilots who aren't current are less safe than new pilots who are.

There's some sense in restricting when they can fly, so far as conditions go. But honestly, are the sites across the country so tricky as to be unsafe for any but the most expert pilots?
[/i]
User avatar
By remmoore
#391089
TjW wrote:I volunteered, awhile back, along with some other people, to be a mentor to new pilots. Not a paid instructor or guide, just someone to fly with. So far as I know, none of us have been contacted.
I'm not sure if you're referring to your specific area in this comment. I'm a USHPA Mentor, and have mentored quite a few pilots over the years. I don't know why it would be different in your area, but I would say it's working to some degree in my region.

RM
User avatar
By TjW
#391093
remmoore wrote:
TjW wrote:I volunteered, awhile back, along with some other people, to be a mentor to new pilots. Not a paid instructor or guide, just someone to fly with. So far as I know, none of us have been contacted.
I'm not sure if you're referring to your specific area in this comment. I'm a USHPA Mentor, and have mentored quite a few pilots over the years. I don't know why it would be different in your area, but I would say it's working to some degree in my region.

RM
I wouldn't speak for the whole area. Just my specific case. I'm glad it's working.
User avatar
By red
#391100
Campers,

On my first H4 "mountain" flight, I was a new H3, and I needed some H4 to "sponsor" me off. My "sponsor" tried a no-wind launch on the lower SE-facing launch, but it was actually downwind for him, and he was just below the crest, so he did not know that. He thundered in straight ahead on launch, and broke every tube in that brand-new borrowed glider, except for one crossbar. The sail was shredded. He was unhurt. I climbed to the higher NE-facing launch (a steep 100' or 30m trail climb) and launched in a light crosswind, but safely. I have since decided that because he wrecked that glider, he would not have been too upset if I had done the same with my glider. Instead, he had to sign off my logbook for a safe launch and a decent flight there. I found myself a better mentor, then.

I am all in favor of mentors, but new pilots, please know who is mentoring you. You will need a network of pilots/friends, to get the best advice once you are past lessons.

:mrgreen:
User avatar
By skoozey
#391101
So far this discussion is an excellent example of the point I'm trying to make:

RobertKesselring, Mr Pou and Gluesniffer having an active discussion about how to keep H2s safe and from scaring themselves out of the sport. We're good at this.

Lucky_Chevy's mention of the once-a-year Team Challenge for H3's. This has been a great source for things we know fledgling pilots need to learn but can't access as a standard flight training program. Some of the other major parks do similar events, which are usually the best supported events of the year.

The learning is out there if you know where and when to look, who to ask, are eligible and have the personality to chase it down.

I really loved Mr Pou's list of all the things he reviewed and checked ahead of time prior to a simple sled run. There is:

- self-taught weather analysis
- personal glider and gear at launch and set up
- self-taught launch check lists
- self-acquired judgment and decision criteria
- self-acquired launch [hang check] assistance

This is a great example of that initiative that drives pilots to stick with the sport in a vacuum of support.

To experienced pilots, what he pulled off here is logistically no big deal. We only argue about the safety of it. What I notice is that only a fraction of H1's and a few more H2's would know how to do what Mr. Pou did. I assure you, a bunch of H2's woke up that morning and wanted to fly but didn't know how to manage some element of it -- so they didn't go.

Remmore's and TjW's mentorship mention is important.
I think these programs have the ability to solve this retention issue....except, they're not programs!
They're usually just some dude's phone number and a fresh pilot has no idea what to expect or what's needed, or when is a good time call, and so on. Again it only works for those of us out there who are gonna figure out how to fly no matter what.

There are great instructors out there who know how to take us step by step to a solo flight. Now all we need is one to step up and offer to take us, in the same structured way, through the next [rating] levels.
User avatar
By Mr Pou
#391109
skoozey wrote:Lucky_Chevy's mention of the once-a-year Team Challenge for H3's. This has been a great source for things we know fledgling pilots need to learn but can't access as a standard flight training program. Some of the other major parks do similar events, which are usually the best supported events of the year.
I am signed up for the Wingman Weekend coming up at LMFP. I'm really looking forward to flying with more experienced pilots and absorb as much information as I can. But even more importantly, I hope to have fun and develop friendships that will help me grow in the sport.
- self-taught weather analysis
You give me too much credit. I'm a former instrument rated private pilot, and one has to have a pretty good understanding of basic aviation weather to pass the PP and IA written tests. From THAT training, and spamcan flying on my own, I learned what questions need to be asked and where to go[1] to get answers.

[1] Although it may be overkill for HG pilots, I love the ForeFlight app for iPhone, as it has almost the entire suite of aviation weather tools in one place.
User avatar
By DAVE 858
#391116
I can understand feeling intimidated as a newly minted H2 Pilot. However, a newly minted H2 SHOULD have all the necessary skills to not die as the result of poor technique or judgement of conditions. Unfortunately this does not always happen with every H2. A good example being the first post of the following thread:

http://www.hanggliding.org/viewtopic.php?t=34638

HOW IN THE f--- ARE WE ISSUING H2 RATING TO SOMEONE THAT DOES NOT KNOW WHAT A GRAPEVINE HOLD IS!?!?!?

Being an instructor is a really hard job in the fact that they are placed in quite a precarious position. How do you tell someone they are not cutting the mustard after they have invested thousands of dollars & time training? How are they going to handle hearing "this isn't your sport & maybe you should take up bowling."??? This conversation almost never happens & ratings are bought & not earned & people either scare the s--- out of themselves & quit or the community is left to deal with trying to sort out what was missed or lacking throughout the course of instruction. An observer can only do so much as far as being a mentor goes.

One possible solution to this predicament is that instructors should be more selective with who they take on as a student. Maybe some kind of pre instruction interview or application process. I think it helps to know a prospective students background & find out why they want to learn to hang glide & even make them acquire letters of recommendation from a rated aviator of any type. At the very least, instructors should ascertain whether or not the student is physically financially & mentally capable of completing the program.
User avatar
By zamuro
#391118
I would be curious to know what is the average time nowadays in different locations (e,g Europe, Australia, US east & US west) that take a person to be able to fly solo from altitude from the moment he/she decided to give HG a try?

Back in the prehistoric times when me and many of my friends learned to fly it was a few months and a year max (in a tropical country). I have heard of stories of several years. If this is true (regardless of cause), you have right there one reason why most quit. Only an unusual level of perseverance will help somebody stay a year or more without a real taste of what is really flying a HG,
User avatar
By EricH
#391128
It's too bad more instructors don't fly themselves, and take their more experienced pilots with them.
When I learned with Jim Woodward at Natural Flying, he stayed with me after H2, and at Bay Area Hang Gliding I do that with my students.
I tell them when formal classes are over that I become their coach, and we'll just go flying together.
I'll take them for their first cross country flights:

Or take them back to the bunny hill...

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