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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby MikeLake » Sat Apr 16, 2016 3:18 am

Rick,
You are correct 100% competent 100% of the time is not achievable even for NASA, Ford, food producers, HG manufactures and the person in charge of the vehicle driving you up the mountain.

What you are saying (not wishing to put words in your mouth) is that more people, more equipment equals more to go wrong. I don’t think too many people would disagree with that.

I say this is manageable. Humans, the same humans able to put a man on the moon, can deal with it. I say we are good enough you imply we are not.
You say “Removing errors is simple. Stop involving multiple risk players”, “Allow only the pilot to deal with his own error”. I read this to mean “don’t do it”.

Don’t get me wrong there is much (much) room for improvement but I suspect you would rather towing just went away. Would this save or kill HG in the US? I wouldn’t like to speculate on that one. This is not even an issue in the UK. The threat here is the rise of Paragliding leading to the loss of HG instructors, everything else is trivial.

Bill, I agree with most of what you say except the one issue where we are on opposite sides. You have my respect all the same.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Bill Cummings » Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:09 am

Mike, I thought at first we weren't on the same page with weak-links but after in depth discussion we weren't that far apart.
Re:
Re: payout

Postby MikeLake » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:05 am
….frozen lakes of northern Minnesota State.

Now I must admit that sounds a bit extreme even for someone used to the English climate. You must be a hardy lot. I don’t think frozen releases have ever been an issue here and that possibility would likely require a particular set of failsafe procedures.

We are not miles apart on that topic of weak-link values after all, in fact it would seem I am standing right beside you. My bad.

If I’m not 100% happy with the winch-man he doesn’t ------

MikeLake wrote:Rick,
You are correct 100% competent 100% of the time is not achievable even for NASA, Ford, food producers, HG manufactures and the person in charge of the vehicle driving you up the mountain.

What you are saying (not wishing to put words in your mouth) is that more people, more equipment equals more to go wrong. I don’t think too many people would disagree with that.

I say this is manageable. Humans, the same humans able to put a man on the moon, can deal with it. I say we are good enough you imply we are not.
You say “Removing errors is simple. Stop involving multiple risk players”, “Allow only the pilot to deal with his own error”. I read this to mean “don’t do it”.

Don’t get me wrong there is much (much) room for improvement but I suspect you would rather towing just went away. Would this save or kill HG in the US? I wouldn’t like to speculate on that one. This is not even an issue in the UK. The threat here is the rise of Paragliding leading to the loss of HG instructors, everything else is trivial.

Bill, I agree with most of what you say except the one issue where we are on opposite sides. You have my respect all the same.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Rick Masters » Sat Apr 16, 2016 11:52 am

I say we are good enough you imply we are not.

Can we define "good enough?"
I've personally known over a dozen people, some close friends, who have died hang gliding - most on ultralights, but all were hang glider pilots.
All were skillful, experienced, advanced pilots.
I rationalized every death and told myself I could avoid making the same mistake.
By luck and skill, I managed to survive. None of this ever involved towing.
I accepted and shared the general opinion of other hang glider pilots that, despite the inherent dangers, we were "good enough" to have a pretty high chance of survival.
I still believe that.

But new elements have been added to the hang gliding mix.
People who love hang gliding have found new ways to milk the sport for money.
Instruction by towing leads the list.
Yes, once you reach altitude and release, you are doing exactly the same thing.
Flying a hang glider.

But a huge part of the sport, for me did not even involve flying.
I was a creature of the Owens Valley.
I would spend days on the sides of mountains, studying wind flows.
Katabatic downflows in the early morning.
The moment of stillness that set in when expanding air from the desert offset the drainage winds.
The ravens and raptors testing the budding thermal activity as the rising sun heated the canyon walls.
Then the big thermals would come, rising out of their sheltered pockets, roaring like freight trains up the sides of the canyons.
Carrying along dust and light debris, shaking the bushes within a defined area while other vegetation stood still.
Monster thermals lifting flying insects to altitudes they could never achieve on their own - chased by sparrows to 14,000 foot mountain crests.
All this was an intimate part of footlaunch hang gliding.
It was critically necessary to understand this to fly the Big Air safely.
Towing offers none of it.

Back to "good enough."
In the past, hang gliding in the USA and also Australia has been fortunate enough to experience a few years of zero fatalities.
Yet, in the last 12 months, ten or more hang glider pilots have died here.
What has happened to our progress in safety?
40% of these fatalities were towing accidents with the tow line attached.
20% involved joyriding (Jean Lake) and the death of a child.
20% involved novices who, in my opinion, had no business whatsoever on a tow line.
Another fatality involved a novice flying into a cliff.
Perhaps Wingspan33 can help me out here,
Was Scott Trueblood trained by towing?
I have a deep suspicion that people trained by towing have been fast-tracked for profit at great risk to themselves.
If this is the case, we need to step back from such a high acceptance of towing and stop novices from towing until we can develop a better method OR realize that towing IS AN ADVANCED TECHNIQUE.
Like I've said, to me, towing is a different sport.
Right up there with speedflying.
But I don't really expect anything to change until the RRG is wiped out.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Rick Masters » Sat Apr 16, 2016 1:24 pm

20 Years ago:

Wakeup Calls
And Cleopatra, Queen of Denial

Dave Broyles © 1996
http://www.kite-enterprises.com/articles/wakeupcalls.htm

I hate to steal the name of a book to start my article, but since the concept of the book gave me the idea for this article, I guess I'll give credit where credit is due.

A wakeup call is where you are sound asleep and perhaps dreaming and a pesky buzzer keeps going off in your dream calling you back to reality. Well, we as hang glider pilots have been in a dream where we think we have this sport in hand, and it no longer offers the dangers it once did.

I have been in this sport a long time, and I have been, over the years, keeping track of the friends and acquantences that I have lost to the sport. A long time ago, the count was over 30 pilots, and I occasionally wondered why I still was flying and bringing new people into the sport. In fact, I sort of dropped out, racing bicycles for several years, only maintaining my ratings and teaching a few people how to fly who searched me out and twisted my arm.

When I came back into the sport seriously, in 1987, I noticed that the yearly fatality count had subsided, and the gliders, though sometimes harder to land were generally much safer to fly. Towing, which was the way I had started flying, was also much safer. We had new methodologies which allowed us to tow over land instead of water. In the past, water had provided a sort of cushion for our inability to tow perfectly safely by providing us with a soft place to crash. Now, due to Donall Hewett, Jerry Forburger, and his West Texas gang, and the various pervayors of the payout winch, which, of course, preceeded the platform launch by a number of years, we had methods which allowed us to tow safely over land.

Further, aerotow had developed from a rather scary concept of the early eighties into a mature technology on which a number of new schools and flight parks have been based.

Then, in a matter of weeks, I lost two friends to the sport again. One in an almost incomprehensible aerotow tandem accident, and another doing aerobatics in Colorado. Another pilot was hurt badly in Texas in an unexplicable towing accident, and the years death count has been climbing to the highest level since the seventies, a large proportion of them towing accidents. I could hear a little voice in the back of my head sayng, "Wake up, it's time to get up, you've been dreaming." Yeah, but I liked that dream. I liked being able to tell my students, pompously, "Yes, hang gliding was the death sport of the seventies, but now it is much safer than general aviation."

In the hang gliding community, a lot of pilots are saying, "It can't happen here." "Or perhaps, I'm too good. It won't happen to me." or perhaps, "We're as safe as we can be. Any more safety precautions would just be a waste of time."

In the military, a series of accidents such as we have had, would engender a task force to investigate the accidents, come to conclusions, make proposals and impliment those proposals to improve safety. So what can we do to create the task force to improve safety?

Well, the Dennis Pagens and G. W. Meadows can write another article on safety, which is what I am doing here, though I hesitate to elivate myself to the class of Gee Dub and Dennis. But, an article, if just published to solve the problems of hang gliding is all very nice, but solves no problems. It can be read, then the reader nods his head in agreement, then puts the magazine away and goes off to do the "Samo, samo"

We seriously need to rethink the concept of intermediate syndrome or more to the point, advanced syndrome and reevaluate everything that we currently think about the sport. For one thing, there have been a number of articles published showing how safe the sport is. Hey, throw that crap away. This sport isn't safe. A late breaking email just announced that another member of the BOD of the USHGA has been severly injured. Just among the august body of the BOD, there have been two fatalities, and several severe injuries since 1993. It's time that we realize that the sport is a form of aviation, and punishes mistakes in judgement severely and even more to the point, punishes pilots just for being there.

We need to develop better safety programs. The accident report and accident review committee are good as far as they go, but perhaps we need to go farther. Back in the old days, the regional director was expected to investigate every fatality which occured in his region. Perhaps, we need to take this a step further and create a budget for someone to investigate every serious and fatal hang gliding and paragliding accident in the U. S. with a view towards getting very accurate data about the sport.

According to Mark Twain, there is the lie, the damn lie, and the statistic. I hear people reassuringly state that statistically the hang gliding fatality rate isn't so bad. Only half of the pilots out there belong to the USHGA and so the fatality rate is only half what it seems to be. I don't believe it. I think that 90% of all pilots who fly regularly are USHGA members. If there is a large contingent of non-member pilots then the fatality statistics should show similar proportions, and in fact if our programs are worth anything, and I think they are, the non-member pilots should have a higher accident rate than the member pilots. Hang gliding fatalities, as opposed to injuries, are usually well reported, but there don't seem to be many non-member fatalities. So maybe, we need to determine really how much flying is done by non-members and what the real accident statistics are. I'm not sure that this is data that we want known by insurance companies.

So what about Cleopatra, Queen of Denial. Denial is a pop pshchology term for lying to yourself about the reality. A typical form of denial is telling yourself that only car accidents which happen on the highway at high speeds are dangerous so you really don't need your seat belt on that trip to the corner market.

A pilot from near me, was hurt severely in a towing accident. My first conjecture was that maybe we should consider using observers more consistantly in towing. The response was that the accident, while not actually seen by anyone, was not at all likely to have been helped by the use of a tow observer. I, then asked, if a towing observer wouldn't have helped, then what safety improvements could be made to insure that a pilot could tow, without signifigant chance of ending up a week in intensive care, or dead. The very frightening response was, ...SILENCE... I took this to mean, there is no answer but "We can not prevent this type of accident, but it doesn't happen very often ." Or possibly, the thought was, "I am a better pilot than the one who got hurt, and so this can't happen to me."

"Yo, Cleo! I didn't know you were a hang gliding pilot."

I already published some articles on tow which outline principles which I think will reduce towing accidents. We need to work on principles which will reduce other types of hang gliding accidents.

First, we need to eliminate denial. We need to admit that 1. Hang gliding is more dangerous than we generally admit to ourselves. 2. The person most likely to make a dangerous or fatal mistake is me, not you.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby MikeLake » Sat Apr 16, 2016 1:31 pm

Bill,
“I've witnessed a tow death as a result of a constant line tension device.
A pilot can be gusted into a lock out under normal line tension.
The pilot wanting to reduce line tension to regain control is negated by the mindless pre planned and engineered constant tension mindset.
It doesn't provide for times when less tension is necessary for survival. (Recovering from a lock out.)
Suggesting to simply release arrogantly assumes that the release will always work. What happens next is the pilot is thinking,
"Why the hell did I get talked into increasing the strength of my weak-link?”

The last paragraph I am at odds with as one should dismiss the thought that a weak–link is going to help a lockout. The automatic tension controlled winch and the weak-link knows not weather the glider is climbing skywards as normal or heading straight for the ground in a lockout. Only the winch-man (and the pilot of course) can recognise this and must ease up before the situation is allowed to develop. You MUST have a trained dedicated good winch-man. (I’m sure we agree on that.)

The solution offered is to have weak-link in the hope that this will, by magic, override the winch at the desired time. I believe a too weak weak-link presents a greater, always present, danger. I would therefore always error on the side of strong. I think I am correct in saying you would always error on the side of weak.

Rick,
Your big air experience sounds fantastic but just as exhilarating to me is flying over church spires and ruined castles at 1000 feet. I explore places I would never
ever go, I see uncannily straight long forgotten Roman roads and the watery delights of the Norfolk Broads. I fly over people in boats navigating the tree lined narrow waterways, waving to them and they wave back. Part of the experience is landing and meeting new people, being invited into their 400 year old cottage for tea and, on one occasion, some homemade brew that left me legless.
Only towing has opened up this spectacularly different part of England to hang glider pilots and the experience is every bit as valid as yours.

To repeat myself, you gain your initial gliding height by driving up mountains in a vehicle, I gain mine by using the power of a winch for a few minutes. You think this somehow dilutes the experience, I say the difference is insignificant because it is the gliding part we all do it for.
...

If the tow accident rate is a recent trend and is something to do with money/greed/fast tracking then I think your call to reform a worthy pursuit. What’s a RRG?
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Sat Apr 16, 2016 2:27 pm

Thanks for posting the great article Rick.

I've just sent an email message to Dave Broyles (with a copy to you) to be sure he knows about it and doesn't assert a copyright objection. Thanks for posting the link to direct folks to Dave's site.

Mike Lake wrote:What’s a RRG?


It stands for "Risk Retention Group" and it's a form of self insurance that organizations can use when no one else will insure them. That's what USHPA is now doing since their insurance carrier cancelled USHPA's insurance. You can do a web search on "Risk Retention Group" for more information.

By the way, it's great to see all the thoughtful discussions on this topic.    :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
Join a National Hang Gliding Organization: US Hawks at ushawks.org
View my rating at: US Hang Gliding Rating System
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Bill Cummings » Sat Apr 16, 2016 3:17 pm

The wife a hang gliding friend of mine wanted to learn how to hang glide. Her husband was a H4 and an observer.

Due to her vast intelligence she decided to have anyone but her husband to teach her.
Having a mate teach you to drive a car or how to hang glide is without a doubt the most brain dead endeavor any married couple ever set out on.
She signed on to have a scooter tow rated instructor teach her to hang glide.
In a rare display of wisdom her husband stayed away while she took lessons.
The husband called me and asked if I would go with her to watch her scooter towed learning process.
Over the phone I asked the husband, "She is going to LEARN by towing???" (This didn't sound like a good idea.)

At this point I had all the HG towing sign offs but hadn't been around any scooter towing operation.
The scooter tow trailer was set up by the glider and used a pulley at the opposite side of the field.
As her instructor explained how every slow step was going to take place in the learning process I started feeling a little more at ease watching a student learn to hang glide by towing.

With a 5 mph wind her instructor launched her and maintained her altitude at two to three feet above the ground while she was lined up with the pulley. At the smallest deviation the instructor came off the throttle and she came down running out the landing. Later tows she was able to stay lined up with the pulley.
Until this day, if asked, I would have said that a pilot should be at least a H3 before attempting to tow. The only safer way to learn to tow, solo, that I can think of is water towing.
The scooter tow operation that I watched that day was safer than a training hill.

When the instructor decided that his student was off course he had them land safely because the student was already at the LZ and not half way down the hill with no other option than to watch the student get further off course and the situation to develop beyond all hope.
Learning to HG by scooter towing doesn't require a release to work or fail. While just off the deck there is no need yet to release.
I'm able to list other problems with foot launching that towing will mitigate.
Doing both foot launch and towing, and having learned by towing over water, I get to throw it back in the face of foot launch only pilots': "Learning to foot launch just added another layer of complexity to something I was already doing safely and without injury." (Over ground things changed.)
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Bill Cummings » Sat Apr 16, 2016 3:50 pm

The last paragraph I am at odds with as one should dismiss the thought that a weak–link is going to help a lockout.


Mike did you see my post above your last one?
Actually it is my belief that a strong weak-link can make a lockout worse.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby MikeLake » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:06 pm

Sorry Bill, two old farts misunderstanding each other. It must be so amusing to the youngsters.

My position is this.
A tension limiting winch should be calibrated to give a desirable climb rate, with a weak-link value something more this, if not it would be difficult to get off the ground.

A tension limiting winch does not up its tension in order to break a weak-link in a lockout because it doesn’t know the difference between a lockout and normal flight.

This means the weak-link does nothing to help a lockout. It may or it may not break, probably not.

Some would say the answer to this is to reduce the value of the weak-link to ‘help it break’ in a lock-out.

I say this is wrong because it increases the likelihood of a weak-link break for every other normal flight.

I would disregard the notion that a weak-link is ever going to help me in a lockout and have it calibrated to be much stronger than the winch tension.

On the whole I favour link values that are beyond the stronger end of what is currently considered the correct value.
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Re: Rethinking towing

Postby Rick Masters » Sun Aug 21, 2016 9:49 am

Image
Nancy Tachiban, novice

Image
Tomas Banevicius, novice

Towing adds additional risk to hang gliding.
Of course it does.
http://www.hanggliding.org/viewtopic.php?t=34243&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=260#
Scroll down to ziggyc's post and those that follow.

Reading posts of instructors on hanggliding.org turns my stomach when they place blame on a novice.
It is the responsibility of instructors to protect novices.
Novices should never be put in situations where they can kill themselves in a moment of fear or confusion.
Hang gliding instruction has lost its way and now threatens the future of the sport.

There was never some magic point that hang gliding evolved to where towing became a necessary part.
It has always been optional. It has generally been regarded as a choice for advanced pilots.
It only became popular when instructors and flight parks realized they could make a ton of money doing it.
It's sooooooo convenient.

The prominent idiot who claims towing is safer than footlaunch leaves me speechless.
You cannot pile on additional layers of risk and complexity to hang gliding (or anything else) and make it safer.
The historical record makes this obvious. Towing is dangerous. There are additional risks.
To some, such as myself, these additional risks are totally unacceptable.
Furthermore, towing is kiting, not hang gliding.
I don't recognize kiting as hang gliding.
To me, it is foolish and unnecessary and brings unneeded additional casualties to our sport.

Novices are endangered by this tow-centric commercialization of training.
A genuine national hang gliding association would not play a role in this commercialism.
No endorsement. Maybe no comment would be wise.
Any towing should be the responsibility of individual chapters.
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