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Addressing Joe’s comments

Filed under: Mountain days — Murray Hay @ 09:10 pm

Quote: Full of tales of broken lines and ground handling errors. Advice heard by no-one but the head-honcho himself.

Murray: During the day when necessary pilots were advised as to the issues both with the surface (exposed rocks) and the location of hazards (buildings/radio mast) in addition to the need to avoid the almost flat top area once the wind started picking up towards the end of the day. Are other posts/comments “full of tales of broken lines and ground handling errors?” Or do they simply mention in addition to the fantastic smooth and mellow flying the occasions when some lines were damaged and a pilot was dragged, in both cases due to location.

 Regarding ‘broken lines’ (as apposed to damaged outers) this was my understanding based on Joe’s comments made later as to “a few lines needing replaced”when he got in touch for my advice as to the best supplier of replacment line (Mike at The Loft).

Quote: Unseen maps and weather info.

Murray: Both were available at the pickup (on the hill top) and a number of the pilots in fact had their copy of the map in their harness/flying suit. NB. It is rare that we are out on the hills and I do not have printed weather information to hand in addition to the mobile internet access for updating the information.

Quote: Saving a pilot by talking him down on the radio.

Murray: Nairn (ex-BHPA student) has been flying and training with me for four months and has considerably more flight time and experience than many BHPA CP’s with several years in the sport, regarding this day it was only on the last flight, due to it’s new nature (first time ‘over the back’) and freshening conditions that he, as we had discussed was now flying with a radio as a back up should there be any problems with the mix of air we expected to find over the landing area. I would guess that Joe’s comments regarding Nair’s last flight may have been otherwise phrased if he had been more aware of the amount of training already undertaken. Nairn has a few ‘intresting’ stories about a certain Scottish BHPA school, familiar to Joe, his comments on their safety standards tend to match what I have heard from others including Joe….

Quote: Alas poor Iain however was not so lucky. He did indeed fall victim to a short scoot across the top of the hill. Granted, that part of the day is actually true. True, but not the full story. Unfortunately, because his ability sometimes takes a good kicking from his confidence, he does occasionally ask for a little assistance in high winds. Nothing wrong with that. Is there?

Murray: Joe asks the question on assistance, “Nothing wrong with that. Is there?” the fact remains that in the majority of cases “assistance” will in fact lead to the addition of extra “forth force” (or thrust) to the aircraft and as a result greatly increases the dynamic problems a pilot faces, human nature makes those near a pilot being dragged reach for the pilot/harness rather that assist by killing the wing.

This type of situation is of an even greater potential risk when the surface is snow or sand, a point I keep highlighting in safety training and had specifically covered that day.

Quote: On a more serious note, what I do wonder is, why every single person who did launch on Sunday suffered at least 1 big collapse?

Murray: Clearly I can not comment on Joe’s statement about “every single person” other than wonder why, if it is true, the individuals concerned did not mention this to me then or when speaking personally or on the phone subsequently when arranging this weekends training/flying, only Ian Archer on being specificaly asked (he was back up the hill in the landrover when I had landed so I only spoke to him today) said that he had encountered a number of collapses, he also commented that he would have no problem flying the same flight again in the future.

To the best of my knowledge both Alan & Duncan, who had decided to fly around via the north side encountered some minor ‘mixed air’, just as they expected, both are experienced pilots Duncan having re-trained back in 2003 and Alan over the last year. The ‘mixed air’ i belive was while over/near the wood at the back of the hill but based on comments to me nothing that caused any concerns to them. Chatting to Duncan Thursday, while aranging this coming weekends meet, he stated he in fact did not have any collapses… and with less lift at the time had landed on the east side rather than ‘over the back’. 

Quote: On an even more serious note (For those that haven’t been paying attention, that’s two serious notes in one article. One more and it’s called a rant) there does seem to be a difference of opinions as to the cause of the problems. Call it what you will, rotor, wave, wind-shear, whatever. There were definite wave patterns over the cairngorms. I definitely saw 2 pilots being forced down in their initial attempts to get over the back. Yes, there was a lot less wind in the valley than higher up on the ridge. That tends to be a major feature of being in the lee-side of the hill. Personally, I reckon there were indications of all three. But, what do I know? Air-detectives make your own mind up.

Murray: The area of rough air high over the landing area was a result of the mix of two masses of air, the valley air up to a couple of hundred feet above ground level was almost calm as indicated by smoke drift houses at Balintuim, above this the pressure wind was from the NW at about 10-15kts just as the forecast had indicated to expect towards the end of the flying day, on a personal level cutting low as I did I encountered exactly the conditions I would normally expect in these conditions/situations with the predictable results on a DHV 2/3 wing, modified or not! It is worth also mentioning that (I was the last pilot to launch) the wind late in the day at ground level was not “gusty” (at take off) rather simply a steady 15kts.

NB. At no time was there any indication of wave below and in the lee of Morone, from ten years experiance flying in these sorts of conditions/locations I would not expect either wave that low, nor rotor from such a smooth rounded ground shape.

Quote: Also, I wouldn’t imagine for a minute that ‘ he who wants to be obeyed’ would intentionally put anyone in harms way. However, the decision to allow a very low airtime pilot with less than a months experience……

Murray: I get BHPA ‘trained’ pilots coming to me with less than 5 hours airtime (often over several years) and they are regarded by the BHPA as “qualified”… while Nair (ex-BHPA) in FOUR months training and flying with me has flown on 15 days and is probably on about 30 hours airtime so far.

Quote: When you consider that trying to teach a beginner how to do big-ears via the radio is hard enough but to do so in such extreme turbulence and rapidly failing daylight and then have them attempt steep 360 degree turns with big-ears pulled in to get down, it really does call into question ones sanity.

Murray: It would do if that was in fact the case, as it happens it was not, I don’t know where Joe gets “steep 360 turns” from when in fact Nairn was doing 360’s and at times simple turn reversals, simply to remain over the same general area while descending in Big Ears, once he was below the lift from the ridge on the east side of the valley and into the near calm air it was a simple straight ‘no wind’ glide across the valley, passing with plenty of clearance over the river (to save the walk) to land next to me.

NB. as indicated by the shape of his path over the ground and down/into wind ground speed (during 360* turns) the wind speed Nairn was in was about 10kts while over the valley at height. 

Quote: Although, despite appearances to the contrary, we are NOT actually paid up card carrying members of the ESPC club, Iain and I have always been happy to meet up when invited and have had many a good day with some of the guys in the club. After this post, I doubt that it will be happening again any time in the near future.

Murray: I seen no reason why Joe & Ian would not be invited many more times in the future should they wish, both are safe in the air and are good company on the ground, the only concerns I ever have, have always regarding ground handling/layout & launch choices, exactly as I stated in my comment to Duncan’s post and in my own post.

Quote: However, it is hoped for the sake of safety, especially the fee paying publics’, that lessons from the day will be taken on board. Murray is a good instructor when he sticks to what he knows. As I’ve always said, ‘if you want to develop your ground handling Murray’s yer man.’ For everything else you have to make your own mind up.

Murray: In this as everything pilots should and will make their own choices, provided they are prepared to live (or not!) with the likely consequences, on that note personally I would never advise training that generates the accident, injury & death rates produced by the BHPA, I do not expect everyone in the sport to agree and as such no doubt sport wide we will continue to see the sort of accident rate I find totally unacceptiable.

Quote: Just a suggestion, perhaps actual training activities should be kept to smaller hills where local knowledge is greater and the conditions more forgiving. At least until the CFI has a little more experience on the larger hills.

Murray: Suggestions are always welcome, however with many 100’s of hours flying in the mountains in the Glenshee area, both solo and tandem, over the last ten years it is hard to see how much ‘more’ could be needed.

Quote: P.S I was going to include some photos of the day but every one I looked at had Murray in them. How does he do that?

Murray: Probably because I spent the day either tandem flying or assisting/checking pilots at the (advised!) take off location and often again at the retrive/LZ and the camera was pointed where the most activity was going on!

Murray Hay

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