Bob's Letter to USHPA Sent on February 8th, 2010 wrote:To: Dave Broyles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CC: Ken Baier <email@example.com>,
Mark Gaskill <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Rob Sporrer <email@example.com>,
Brad Hall <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Rich Hass <email@example.com>,
Rich Hass <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Lisa Tate <email@example.com>,
Lisa Tate <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Lisa Tate <email@example.com>,
Mark G. Forbes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: February 08, 2010, 04:03:10 PM
Hello Dave (cc Brad Hall, Rob Sporrer, Ken Baier, and the EC),
I was at Torrey Pines yesterday and I witnessed an incident. Rather than describe it myself, I'll just pass along what was posted on hanggliding.org this morning by another witness who I know was there...
Jason writes (http://www.hanggliding.org/viewtopic.php?t=15666
Witnessed an Incident yesterday- don't see the form on the USHPA
website- and knowing Torrey---this will never be reported
Sunday Feb 7
While standing in the landing area talking to a friend, I hear him say
"whats this guy doing"
I look towards the ridge to see a paraglider pilot flying directly downwind
low over the the PG set up area. The pilot then intiates a right hand turn,
impacting two stationary hanggliders, and crashing between several others.
After checking to see if everyone was ok and inspecting the gliders for
damage (one of them had a bent washout tube) Bob, the local RD, asks the
pilot who his instructor was and if he was on radio. Brad Geary immediately
tells the pilot to "don't even talk"
An immediate gag order was in place, no one knows who this pilot was, or
who his instructor was. The pilot WAS on radio as evidenced by the radio
strapped to his chest. And that he carried with him in his hand for close to
15 minutes afterward
I agree with Jason's description of this event, and I do not request any action be taken regarding the incident itself (unless it is found that the instructor on radio was willfully neglecting his or her duties to keep the student safe). We all understand how this can happen, and we can just do our best to minimize it.
But what does concern me is having a USHPA instructor tell a USHPA student to NOT reveal the name of his instructor to a Regional Director.
I certainly don't know all the legal requirements behind what a Director can ask, and what a student is required to give (I suspect it's zero). But we are supposed to be a self-regulated sport, and that means that our members (and particularly our instructors) are supposed to comply with standards of safety and accountability
within our organization. If an instructor is telling a student to NOT reveal the name of his own instructor to an official within USHPA, that strikes me as a fairly severe violation of those standards.
There have been other postings to that topic, and I suggest that you skim through them. I posted two comments myself (which I have included below).
I am not sure what action should be taken at this time, but having USHPA instructors telling USHPA students to NOT reveal their own instructor's name after an incident is NOT something that USHPA can defend.
Regional Director - USHPA Region 3
Bob Kuczewski's posts to the topic:
I agree with Jason's original reporting of the incident, and it was very very fortunate that the pilot wasn't hurt. He only hit two of the hang gliders in a very very dense area, and it could have been much much worse.
I also agree with Jason's reporting of the subsequent discussion. I approached the pilot (who appeared to be a young student - late teens or early 20s) after everything had settled down. I asked who his instructor was. Immediately, Brad Geary inserted himself and told the pilot "Don't tell him".
Now, the incident itself was very minor, and I was sure that the student had done his best to avoid those hang gliders. So I really didn't feel the need to say much to the student or to ask any questions of the student. But I did think it was appropriate and prudent to at least have a discussion with the instructor to understand if proper safety procedures were being followed. I suspect that discussion would have been fairly brief, and I was hopeful that the discussion alone might raise the instructor's safety awareness.
But what turned a relatively minor situation into a pretty big deal was having one USHPA instructor telling a relatively new student (USHPA member?) not to even tell a Director who his instructor was. That put that young student in quite a bind. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was caught in the middle, and that's why I didn't press the issue with him.If USHPA is going to have any credibility in terms of our instructor program and our safety record, we cannot have instructors telling students that the name of their instructor is a secret. That's lunacy.
Now maybe Brad was worried that I might "turn them in" over the incident. That was not my intention. But even if it was, there are (or should be) mechanisms in place to keep all Directors (Bob Kuczewski or David Jebb) from abusing their power. We cannot use "fear" as an excuse to go down a road where we condone instructors telling students not to tell who their instructor is after an incident has happened - regardless of how major or minor.But most of all, I am appalled that the instructor (whoever it was) did not have the integrity to step forward and be accountable for the situation. I suspect those actions would get an instructor fired at many good schools. The fact that this behavior is condoned at Torrey tells us a lot about how that site continues to be managed.
I am still considering how to best handle this matter...
Regional Director - USHPA Region 3
If this guy has students careening around the place all the time I would certainly think
it cause for concern. If this student was a fluke then maybe it's the student not the instructor.
I think you're missing the point here. We all know that students can freeze and make poor decisions. I'm sure it's happened to many of us, and our goal should be to try to minimize these events through good skills training, good communication, and good training of our instructors. We all agree with that.
The problem here is having an instructor tell a student to NOT reveal the name of the instructor who was supposed to be on the radio monitoring the student's safety. No one is blaming the student at all.
The fact that the instructor himself didn't step forward is appalling to me. The fact that Brad Geary (whether he was *the* instructor or not) would tell a student to hide the name of his own instructor is even worse. What kind of an organization are we running here when students are told by USHPA instructors to hide the name of their USHPA instructor? That sounds more like what I would expect from a street gang than from a national pilots association. Could you imagine if an FAA instructor was telling a student (who had crashed) not to tell the name of the student's instructor to the FAA?