Personal Journals about Hang Gliding

Re: Rethinking towing

Postby wingspan33 » Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:39 pm

Wingspan33 wrote:. . . Finally, in connection with the quote at the head of this post - "What has the first few minutes of my flight, . . ." THUD!!! - You've slammed into the ground and are dead.
You can't enjoy the rest of your flight if, while under tow, you are killed!

MikeLake wrote: Regrettably the same could be said for any launch method.


But, Mike, an error by the tow winch operator, or a decision (by the supposedly more experience Instructor) that the wind conditions should be okay for towing (when they are borderline), or a poorly designed or maintained tow system, . . . can not be at fault if the student is, instead, under close observation by a capable Instructor, in good wind conditions on a small training hill.

A philosophy of K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) eliminates many variables that otherwise add complexity and potential (fatal) error to a design/system. Towing (I think) is the most complex method of getting a hang glider to "altitude". Heck, I've witnessed a balloon drop HG launch and even that was simpler - for the hang glider pilot, at least.

Things can go wrong with any launch method used by a skilled hang glider pilot. But many more can go wrong - with some being beyond the ability of the low skill pilot to control or correct- while involved in towing.

It's just as undeniable that towing is more complex and potentially more error prone (among various HG launch methods), as it is that collapsible canopies can deflate and drop their occupant(s) to the ground.

I see this thread topic as a means of better understanding the inherent risks involved in placing beginner hang glider pilots in a particular situation Towing, in this case. Which is a launch method that adds unnecessary(?) complexity to an already demanding process. That process being the teaching a human being how to imitate the birds.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby MikeLake » Thu Apr 14, 2016 2:38 pm

“But, Mike, an error by the tow winch operator, or a decision (by the supposedly more experience Instructor) that the wind conditions should be okay for towing (when they are borderline), or a poorly designed or maintained tow system, . . . can not be at fault if the student is, instead, under close observation by a capable Instructor, in good wind conditions on a small training hill.”

Well, it all comes down to good equipment, good people and doing things properly. The differences are then minimal as most or at least some of the above could apply to hill training. What if the instructor has uprights that have been bent and straighten to the point or failing? What it the hill instructor instructs in poor weather conditions.

More stuff in the chain means more that can go wrong, granted, but this assumes s**t equipment and/or s**t people. If I forget to fit my crotch box and I get one in the goolies it’s hardly the fault of Cricket.

Then there is something to be said for training on flat ground, less fatigue for a start. A small training hill must be compared to ground skimming on flat ground. If a student drops a wing at 8’ the cart wheeling result is going to be about the same.

K.I.S.S. Well yes, but come on it’s not rocket science. The ingenuity of the human race shouldn’t make this too much of an obstacle or we would all still be flying Bog Rogs.

“It's just as undeniable that towing is more complex and potentially more error prone (among various HG launch methods)”
See above.

As I have said, in the UK 30+ years of tow training with very productive results and a good safety record. But maybe because our weather can be so s**t the method is so appealing. It has to be said HG training in the UK at the moment is a bit of a struggle
By the way I have no axe to grind, I say what I see.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Bill Cummings » Thu Apr 14, 2016 3:42 pm

From a post on a different thread.
Re: US Hawks Training Manual - Outline (Work in Progress!!)

Postby billcummings » Tue Apr 21, 2015 8:22 pm
LEARNING TO FOOT LAUNCH BACKWARDS!

Sara wrote:
"Sometimes that will be a mistake they made or a particular tip that helped them past an obstacle in their progress."


Bill wrote:
I’ve taught a lot of people to water ski. The best tip that helped them past an obstacle in their progress which proved to be just getting up on the damn things was to train them how to ski first and train them how to start last. It made the student not give up as quickly if they were having trouble getting up on the skis.

I attached an inch and a quarter pipe that extended out over the water to the port (left) side of the boat by ten feet.
With the student using two water skis they hung onto the pipe and with the solid support of the pipe they were able to easily get up on skis. I told them if they fell to just hang onto the pipe and we would stop the boat and let them climb the ladder into the boat and go back to get the water skis.

No falling no fear. Soon they weren’t losing their skis any more so I ran a ski tow rope through the eye bolt on the far end of the pipe from the boat then wrapped it around the pipe for friction to make it easier to feed out the rope.
The student would get up using the pipe and then grab the handle on the ski tow rope that was only one foot away from the bar/pipe. When they were steady with only one foot of tow rope out I would slowly give them more line until eventually they had 75 feet of rope out behind the boat.

All the students now knew how to water ski so they were determined to learn how to get up on the surface. I never again had anyone give up learning just because they were having difficulty getting up on water skis.

They would say, “Darn it I already know how to ski so I’m not going quit until I learn to get up.”

Foot launching hang gliders was much the same for me. I learned behind the boat (not a typo) by using wide trick skis and a swing seat hung from a hang glider. I did deep water starts and after I learned how to taxi on the surface of the lake up wind, cross wind, and down wind that was proof that I knew how to steer good enough to keep the wingtips out of the water. If the tips touched the water the pin man would release.

I had the weight shift figured out before ever leaving the water. Next my instructor Richard (Kite-man) Johnson sped up the boat and I was flying 30’ above the lake following the boat up wind, down wind and crosswind. Then slowing down to ski out the landing.

Much later we taught ourselves how to flare to a zero forward speed stop and plunge straight into the lake’s surface inches below our feet.
Now we knew how to land on the beach before ever having done it.

During the winter we went to a training hill to learn how to foot launch since we already knew how to fly and land.

As far as foot launching went we learned how to do it in steps.
Flying first.
Landing second.
Launching third (last).
It proved to be the most forgiving way to ease us into being foot launch pilots.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby wingspan33 » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:30 pm

Bill,

I have some experience gained while an instructor near Dunlap, TN (AKA Henson's Gap). Newish HG pilots would come up from a Florida water tow business and want to learn mountain flying. As I remember the general trend, they had little to no concept of how to foot launch. The idea of gaining necessary air speed for lift off seemed foreign to them. One or more of them didn't seem to understand the idea of how air speed was involved in getting airborne - or staying airborne. Since I never had a chance to go and see how they were being trained in their boat towing experiences, I couldn't know where the problem was.

But, at the time, as well as looking back on things, I gathered that foot launch training on hang gliders requires an understanding of the concept of air speed, and how to gain it during a proper launch run. The methods you speak of being used in your training, which may have been more comprehensive then that used with those who I encountered from the Florida water towing outfit, sounds interesting. I would think that some people gain an understanding of the concepts behind flying in a more innate/intuitive way, while some may only gain the more superficial "surface" concepts.

With hill training (which I almost always had to run these Florida water tow pilots through) an early hang glider pilot is forced to learn "first things first" as they say. Birds aren't born flying, or born landing. They are born, get an idea over many days or months about what these wings are all about (ground school), then learn how to get in the air. With short hops, preferably, they also begin to learn how to also land.

Some methods of teaching, which use towing, take things out of "natural" sequence. I like the idea of scooter towing because the student must run before the glider lifts off. And when the tow power is reduced, they must run a bit and learn to flair to stop their forward speed. Towing off a cart, and landing on wheels - as is the norm in some places - only teaches a person to fly. But lacking the experience of attaining air speed via an accelerated run and then slowing to stall to allow for a safe foot landing, leaves a great of many of the basic concepts somewhere off in the mist.

For these reasons, I agree with Rick that basic flat ground runs and then small hill flight training are how hang gliding best be taught. Other ways are certainly possible, including yourself as an example.

But introducing towing at an early point in training can, we have at least recently seen, lead to a fatally negative outcome. Towing is a more complex and dangerous beast, especially the land based versions. On the other hand, a gentle training hill with a good instructor and good equipment is typically much more benign.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby MikeLake » Fri Apr 15, 2016 2:24 am

“I brought up the topic in the context of two towing deaths of novices.
Do you have an opinion on that?”

“if you begin at the top of the first page of this thread and read till you get here, you should be "enlightened". There is also a much longer thread on the topic at HG.org.”

I’ve just read all the posts on HG.org but could see nothing much about the actual event other than an overview and a bit of speculation.
I can’t have much of an opinion with no real information at hand.

Apparently we are all waiting for an accident report, a report we are never likely to see. Perhaps this a good starting point for a re-think.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Bill Cummings » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:38 pm

Apparently we are all waiting for an accident report, a report we are never likely to see. Perhaps this a good starting point for a re-think.

Now that gave me an idea Mike.
Make a list of rules to live by. Just state a rule that we all know from experience that can't be ignored. For the people that find a stated rule insufficient and they have to know why -- then have multiple clickable links to in depth reports on accidents that resulted from not following the cast in stone rules.

1. When the crosswalk signal says walk -- you still must look both ways before crossing. [ link to how many people die each year.]
2. Always use any available safety restraints provided in motor vehicles. [link to how many people die each year in spite of restraints.]
3. Always weigh your risks ahead of time. [link to greater chance of death by cop than a terrorist.]
Oops -- I strayed off topic. Above are only deadly rules that we hardly concern ourselves with.
BUT I think everyone gets my drift.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby MikeLake » Fri Apr 15, 2016 5:05 pm

Re-think towing rule number one. 100% competent ground crew?
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Rick Masters » Fri Apr 15, 2016 5:25 pm

The problem stems from the fact that there is no 100% competency.
In reality, the idealized "100% competent ground crew" is competent only, say, 99.98% of the time.
That is, one in one thousand tows, the driver makes a mistake and the reelman makes a mistake.
Add to that the pilot. He may be the real wild card. Novice? Advanced? Day dreaming?
Look back on the Jean Lake incident.
The driver was the wild card. There was no "reelman."
I have previously tried to explain how errors expand as factorials.
Errors multiply themselves.
Removing errors is simple.
Stop involving multiple risk players.
Allow only the pilot to deal with his own error.
The liability insurance crisis exists for a set of reasons.
No one inside is being honest about identifying the reasons.
The only way to forestall disaster is to pull back on risk.
No one is doing this.
When hang gliding is outlawed, only outlaws will fly hang gliders.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Bill Cummings » Fri Apr 15, 2016 7:01 pm

Rick,
I have developed procedures for how I tow. I don't tow like the USHPA tow manual recommends because their procedures don't come up to my safety standards.
Even pictures in the Towing Aloft book when it came out indicated that not enough thought went into procedures that were in use.
I tow counting on the fact that at any second while under tow the vehicle, winch, and person on the ground assisting will screw up.
I can be towed too slow. I expect that can and will happen. (And has happened).
I can be towed fast but the procedure doesn't allow for too fast. The weak link won't take too fast. I don't use a strong weak link.
The tow operators can't make me loop or hammerhead stall no matter what they try. They can't force me into a lockout.
I'm like many others. We know the furnace, water heater, oven, house wiring, stairs, garage door, bicycle, swimming pool, car, walking, mosquito, bee sting, snake bite, and a lot of other things can kill us or injure us. But each of us has a choice to make.

And,"To each his own," said the farmer as he turned and kissed the cow.

I realize Rick, your concern is for people that don't know the risks. In my opinion too many tow instructors still haven't got it figured out yet so you are correct to want to separate that risk from basic hang gliding like all the other unacceptable things that have been driving up the insurance costs.

Right now I see insurance and the FAA as the biggest risk to the future of hang gliding. Neither one are actually working FOR us. Oh, and only three more days (18th) is the last day to send in any tax due for the FAA peoples' pay check that do our bidding.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby wingspan33 » Fri Apr 15, 2016 7:24 pm

I'd like to interject here that this is one of the most in depth and thought provoking topics I have followed in a long time. I have great respect for each of the people who have contributed here. The definition of hang gliding towing "safety" is being increased not insignificantly.

But will those with the "power" (U$hPa Tow Committee members) be listening to any of this? :?: :?: :?:

Seems like the U$hPa Tandem Committee isn't listening to a word said here over on that other thread topic. :thumbdown:
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