Launching and Staging
At some sites, there is room for multiple gliders to be set up on launch, but in reality, this is pretty rare. More common are sites where there is room for just one or two gliders to be spread out in a position to launch. Even if there is room for multiple gliders to be at the launch locations, it is bad form to do your preparation right in the space where launches happen.
Staging is the key word when there is any chance there will be another pilot ready to go. Staging a wing is doing the preflight inspection and connecting the harness to the wing. With this done away from the launch, you can then gather your wing up in your harness and connected and bring it to the launch. If there are others also ready, you can then get in line to launch.
Focus is necessary while going through your checks. During the inspecting your wing, if someone is talking to you, let them know politely that you cannot talk right then as you need to focus on your wing inspection. Routine is a key and distractions can take you out of this.
If you arrive at a launch and there is nobody else there, it can be fine to do all of the above right on launch. Unfortunately, not all pilots are taught this common sense. If you begin to stage your wing on launch and a pilot pulls up with a wing that is all connected and staged previously. If they climb in their harness and are ready to go, you should offer to move your wing off of launch to allow them to go.
Training Hill Launch Order
When multiple instructors are sharing a training hill, usually the protocol is that students are launched via a rotation of instructors. So, if one instructor has 5 students and another has just 2 students, it would not be a line of students for launching. This would be unfair to the instructor with the smaller class. Instead, the launches should be rotated via instructors. Since this makes sense, it should be easy to communicate this via the instructors.
Clear process: When you are on launch and are getting ready to go, get in the habit of going through a clear checklist.
- Clear yourself – Make sure you have done your connection routine. HHRB is my system, but use whatever system you have become familiar with. Also make sure your are clear on your flight plan and your head is in the right space for the flight you are doing.
- Clear the launch – Look around the launch area and communicate with other pilots that are ready or close to ready to launch.
- Clear the air – Look around to ensure that there are no pilots buzzing or flying near launch.
- Shout Clear – Just prior to lifting the wing, after making sure you have gone through the above steps, announce this by shouting – not saying, CLEAR! Some instructors use the term “LAUNCHING” as well, so either means the same thing.
Landing and Approaches
Standardized Patterns – Not all, but some sites have a standardized landing pattern. At some sites in Europe, there are even markers on the ground showing the pattern expected. If there is such a pattern in place, learn what is expected so that you can mix in with other gliders doing approaches. The reason a standardized pattern is in place is to prevent confusion and tricky situations from occurring.
Vertical Clearance – One thing that you can do while making your approach when there are other gliders near your altitude is to help create some vertical space. If another glider is slightly higher than you, you can increase your descent rate as you near your approach pattern by doing big ears for a short period. If you are in the other shoes and are above another glider, you can fly minimum sink to allow the lower pilot to move closer to the landing pattern sooner.
Communication and Predictability – If there is another glider on approach at the same time as you, eye contact with the other pilot will help each of you to keep tabs on how your are working with each other. We do this all of the time when we drive in traffic in a car. The key is to fly predictably and look around a lot to be aware of all else that is going on.
After Landing – If you are near a target / spot, others may be seeking a spot, so immediately after landing, look for other craft approaching. If other are approaching landing, gather your wing as quickly as possible and move laterally from the spot so that others will have access to the spot.
Rides to Launch
Take care of your transport – When you jump in and catch a ride up the hill, appreciate the fact that the vehicle’s owner spends money on Gasoline, Tires, Vehicle Maintenance etc. Throw them some $s at the end of the flying day to show your appreciation. Often they will try to be polite and turn you down, but insist on this!