When we teach SIV at Flyeo we are looking for 4 fundamentals from the pilot, skills that when possessed mean the pilot can deal with any situation that they are faced with. The best thing is, to gain these fundamentals you don’t need to do any of the more extreme manoeuvres or any stall if you do not wish.
1.Trust the harness
Trusting your harness means to use your harness as it was designed. It is the foundation of the fundamentals and until dealt with you will find it almost impossible to gain all of the other skills.
Imagine a rally car driver sitting on one of those large inflatable exercise balls instead of a bucket seat, as they speed around corners they are going to loose their balance and try to grab something to regain their balance. They are going to be using a lot of core strength to maintain their balance and their hands will not be 100% dedicated to steering as they will be trying to use their arms for balancing. Now imagine the same driver strapped firmly into a bucket seat, their balance is taken care of, they are fully supported so can relax their body and their arms are completely free to steer the vehicle. Our paragliding harnesses are exactly the same, the second we tense up and try and sit more upright we lose contact with the harness and our backs are no longer supported. It is then that balance comes in to play and our natural instinct is to use our arms to balance, which is a big problem for us paraglider pilots as we have the brakes in our hands. By trying to regain balance we can inadvertently pull large amounts of brake, creating a secondary event.
2.Dissociation of arms
This goes against our natural instincts, it goes against a skill we have been practicing our whole lives, ever since we took our first steps as toddlers… to fall without putting our arms out. This notion is hard for us humans to overcome as it is so ingrained in us, but it is crucial to piloting a paraglider. In everyday life if you ever exceed a 30 degree angle your instincts kick in and your arms will come out to catch your fall. We all know the feeling of leaning too far back in a chair and suddenly loosing our balance, your arm will flap around and shoot out to catch your fall. Unfortunately you will behave exactly the same way when you exceed your tilt angle in flight or when you feel you are loosing your balance. To dissociate our arms becomes far easier when we start to trust our harness, when we are fully supported and know that our harness has got us, we can then let our bodies fall with the knowledge we are safe.
3.Full use of the brake range
You may have heard the saying that most pilots only use about 30% of their brake range, but I would say it is much less… let me explain. The saying focuses on the deeper part of the brake range, the fact that a lot of pilots are timid with their brakes not wanting to pull a lot of brake and venture near the unknown stall point i.e they don’t use from 30%-100% brake. What it doesn’t take in to account is that a high majority of pilots don’t ever put their hands right up to the pulleys. Therefore they are not using from 0%-15% either, in turn it means they are actually flying around using 15% of the full range. The latter (0%-15% brake) causes much more problems from a recovery point of view. I’m sure most of you have seen youtube videos of someone having a cascade and when they take their hand off their brakes to throw their reserve the wing starts to fly again, this shows time and time again how crucial it is to be able to utilise the higher range of the brakes, and why we have to focus on it a lot in our courses. In fact it is such an important skill we wont let you progress to stalls unless you can demonstrate that you can put you hands right up to the pulleys in different situations. That sounds easy right? Unfortunately it’s fighting against our natural instincts again. When we are in a stressful situation we want to grab hold of something, this can lead to us pulling more brake to feel some tension in the line to make us feel more secure. Not only this but we are also working on our phycology. To put your hands up you are giving the wing its full power, this is exactly what we need to regain flight but when you are in that situation is hard to say “ok wing, I’m going to give you full power but I have the ability to take it all away from you again in an instance”. It takes no more skill to put your hands right up before catching the dive, but very few people would do it naturally as it goes against our instincts… it is all in the head.
It is all well and good to possess the first three fundamentals, but without the forth you would be lost as to when to use them. Situational awareness can only be gained from training. Repetition solidifies the sights, feelings and movements you are being subjected to helping you map out where you are in a 3D sphere, not only that but it allows you to see in to the future. “When this happens, that will happen next” “when I feel that, this, and then this happens”, the ability to know what is going to happen next, how it is going to feel, what you are going to do, removes all of the surprises and keeps you in control at all times as you will be ready with the correct input.
Now I haven’t been entirely honest, there is a fundamental not listed that oversees all of the others, it controls all of our actions and thoughts… the mind. It is such a big subject that I will delve in to our phycology over couple of articles, about how are mind controls our physical actions and how important it is to our flying progression that we train not only physically but mentally.
Also in a future article I will talk about the fundamentals of the glider and how even experienced pilots that can fly 100K or more can still lack some of the most basic understanding of how our gliders move, this will, unbeknown to then have been hampering them their whole flying career. I will explain a few movements, which once understood will directly translate in to helping your cross country flying.
It is a shame that SIV has a negative stigma. There is so much to learn about piloting, and within a couple of pilotage courses tailored to the individual pilot, you could gain skills that will last you a life time and ultimately make you a much safer pilot.