Scot Huber - 2011/01/02
Santa Rosa, California
Two years ago at age 55 I launched unhooked at McClure. The wind had been blowing in perfect at launch as we set up. Me, KM, and I forget who else were there.
The land owners showed up and started talking with us and asking wuffo questions and taking pictures. I normally am very focused and almost always avoid conversation setting up and prefighting my wing. I know if I don't get this part right or overlook something it probably won't be a fun flight! But seeing as how I'd never met them before, they being the owners and all, I felt obliged to break my focus and got involved in the conversation. I got done chatting as I put on my harness and walked over and picked up my wing. I (ALWAYS) HOOK-IN before I pick up my wing. With my brain wrapped around the last answer I gave to the whatsthisfor question, I totally forgot this part of my routine.
I walk to launch, it's blowing straight in as it's been doing all along, so I don't feel the need for a set down and looksee. I'll be cool and just keep right on walking then running off launch. Show these wuffos just how together us skyriders really are. Three seconds later I'm lying on my back forty feet below launch in the rocks trying to figure out what the hell went wrong.
Within two steps the glider had taken off, as it was blowing maybe twelve. I had gone to the base tube with my hands and assumed the prone position. Because I did this I, not being hooked in, was lying on the bar. Being pulled in the glider flew itself quickly into the hillside going straight down the hill.
I maintained my right hand grip a little longer than my left and was therefore flung onto my right side when the apex slammed into the ground. Both front wires snapped. Because my parachute is on my right side I was spared broken ribs. I had on a full face helmet which saved my face and head from injury also. I was basically alright more or less, some bruises and scrapes but no doctors or hospitals. Of course it could have been worse.
What I learned from this experience is that things you trust your mind to always remember, don't always necessarily get done. It's like locking your keys in the truck when you just pulled up to the beer store and your buds are waiting in the LZ for some cold ones. It's happened to most people numbers of times, the keys part. So the question to me is how do I manage the inherent fallibility of my mind to protect my bones?
What I've come up with is adding extra steps to my preflight ritual which necessitate using my body to cover my mind. I am adding patterns of actions in other words which don't use mental processes as the final go in the launch command. In other words I always set my glider down at launch and do a walk through, leg strap pull, helmet strap, radio check and, VG adjustment.
Of course I have to use my mind to some extent to first install this pattern and remember to keep doing it, but after a while I've noticed it becomes a habit which sort of takes care of itself. Now when I walk to launch I'm preprogrammed into a ritual of action which covers to some extent the fallibility of my brain to know if I'm hooked in or not or even think about it.
Of course there are other ways to go about risk management such as using a clip on HOOK IN strap on your nose or a short checklist on your basetube you look at before launching. I don't use them but have seen others doing so. I know hang gliding is dangerous, but so is driving or skiing or surfing etc. I think we all have to be attentive to and develop routines of action to mitigate our risks whatever we do. I know I want to be flying as long as I can, so does everyone who has ever done it. I need to be honest with myself and use the input of my friends when they tell me something I'm doing, or not doing, is going to bite me someday. We need to talk safety with friends and use each other to maintain and manage the inherent risks of flight.
Helen McKerral - 2010/04/26
I've always done a hangcheck which includes running my hands around the legloops but for the last six months or so I have been trying to ingrain Tad's "lift and tug" but it is very hard to make it a habit. Tad's manner could be annoying but I think his message was right. A lift and tug done immediately prior to every launch (not before you walk to launch, or do your hang check; the key is immediately prior to launch), every time, would help prevent these incidents (both unhooked AND leg loops, because you feel the legloops when you lift and tug, as well as the tight hangstrap).
Steve Kinsley - 2005/10/02
When Bob Gillisse got hurt I suggested that our local institution of the hang check is more the problem than the solution. I still believe that. It subverts the pilot's responsibility to perform a hook-in check.
Christian Williams - 2011/10/25
What's more, I believe that all hooked-in checks prior to the last one before takeoff are a waste of time, not to say dangerous, because they build a sense of security which should not be built more than one instant before commitment to flight.
Bill Bryden - 2000/09
This is an old topic with another tragic ending. Richard Morris Zadorozney died April 26 when he launched without being hooked into his glider. We discussed the topic of hook-in failures a year and a half ago and Luen Miller and Doug Hildreth discussed it almost annually for the decade before I started authoring this column.
Richard was an advanced pilot with at least fourteen years of hang gliding experience. He was a very active pilot, flying once and often twice a week year round. On the fateful day, he was planning to go X-C from a site about fifty miles east of San Diego with a couple of other pilots. Richard prepared to launch and had two spectators assist holding his side wires. Another pilot behind Richard observed his suspension and saw that it was looping up from the back of his harness up under one wing, suggesting he was hooked in, but it probably was simply secured to his shoulder area.
He did not lift the glider to do a hook-in check before launching and was reportedly distracted, talking to the wire-men just before launch about the relative safety of hang gliders versus the motorcycles that they drove. Richard did not loiter on launch and presumably was rather impatient to join a buddy in the air.
The Press - 2006/03/15
The Civil Aviation Authority is urgently pushing for new hang-gliding industry standards after learning a hang-gliding pilot who suffered serious injuries in a crash three weeks ago had not clipped himself on to the glider.
In a video, he was seen to hold on to the glider for about fifty meters before hitting power lines.
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