Friday, April 06, 2007

Mid-air with a model glider

I had a frightening experience today at Butser Hill. About 4 in the afternoon I was soaring the north face of the hill, having a great flight in light but thermic conditions, getting high, about 130ft above takeoff. I was the only paraglider in the air - there was one other pilot on the ground packing his wing away. But there were 4 or 5 model gliders flying the same ridge.

Suddenly - a model glider swooped out of nowhere and smacked into the top of my canopy, then tumbled off the trailing edge groundwards. "Shit!" I shouted, heart pounding, but was surprised to find I wasn't spinning or dropping. Looking up I examined the canopy and lines carefully - no damage! So I continued flying for another couple of beats, but I was rattled and had lost my rhythm, and did a clumsy slope landing a couple of minutes after the incident. (I probably should have landed straight away - wasn't thinking straight.)

I packed up slowly and walked back up the hill. I approached the model flyers (politely!) but apparently the guy who flew his model into me had already left. I was feeling angry at this point - at least he could have had the courtesy to stay around to speak to me!

Driving home, and thinking about it this evening, I have started to feel scared by the thought of what might have happened. 150ft above ground - hardly enough space to deploy a reserve. I always told myself that if I experienced a serious incident while paragliding I would quit the sport. Is this that incident?

I have filled out an incident report and will send it to BHPA tomorrow.

I feel like there was nothing I could have done to avoid this collision (a paraglider moves too slow to avoid a fast little model!) except maybe never fly at sites where models are flown. But that excludes nearly every site in S. England! Not sure what to do with this experience......


Phil said...

I find that incidents like these can become more and more dramatic and significant the longer you dwell on them without resolution.

I came pretty close to knocking a woman off the quayside in Padstow over the weekend (I was sat down and as she walked past me I moved without knowing she was there, almost tripping her, which could have dropped her over the side to a 15/20 foot drop into mud.) I got progressively more wound up about it the longer I thought about it, when actually the "incident" was something and nothing.

Think about what could have happened, and allow yourself to accept that it didn't. Then move on.

Keith Shapley said...

surely the answer is to start gemming up on the rules of Wings of War?

Peter said...

Thanks Phil, you're right. Responses I've had from the paragliding forum suggest that model gliders are so light they are very unlikely to damage a paraglider anyway, so although it felt like a narrow escape, it wasn't really.

Keith - good suggestion, trouble is, I always fly off the table in Wings of War!

Kieran said...

Viz Top Tip: Eliminate the cause of said problem by killing all model glider enthusiasts thus bringing some kind of closure to the frightening experience!