Many of us experience these situations: we are hurrying after work to catch the good flying conditions. We are already a bit late, writing the last quick mail in the cablecar and arriving on the takeoff with stressed out, anxious energy. The glider is prepared quickly and we clip in to launch. Unfortunately, we don’t notice the small knot in the lines, or maybe it was the speed-bar or we loose one glove on the parking.
Take-off conditions are strong… they would be good conditions on most days, but over-whelming in this rushed, unprepared moment, and we end up being close to a serious event. The best-case scenario leaves us with a frightening experience. In the worst case, it leaves us with a minor to serious accident.
Awareness is at the foundation of being an independent pilot. It is essential to take responsibility for our flight planning, actions in the air, during takeoff and landing.
Often it is just a small miss-step or an ignored feeling, that can leave us on the ground far before we meet our expectations.
…Other times it can mean a serious event in our paragliding career, literally taking us to the ground.
In a recent interview with Chrigel Maurer, in Thermik Magazine, he was asked if the x-alps made him a better pilot. Chrigel discussed that it wasn’t the x-alps itself, but the preparation and training before the race which made him a better pilot. In this phase, leading up to the world’s most physically demanding paragliding competition, he gained clarity about his abilities by building important routines and experiences. Doing his home-work enabled Chrigel Maurer to fly intuitively, providing more space to be in the moment, without thinking too much during the race. He was aware of the tasks and well prepared.
The same applies to our piloting- if we put effort into our preparation of flying we will become aware and clear about our abilities, flying conditions, equipment and surroundings. This enables us to gain experience and build routines, reaching a point where we can fly with a free mind and really enjoy our sport.
We don’t have to be Chrigel, or a pro in meditation, to nurture our awareness. It’s the small steps and actions that will preserve us, keeping the risks as low as possible and providing more space to really enjoy our flights. Building a routined-mind, on top of our technical abilities, is the key which ultimately defines our flying abilities.
This is not a new concept. In fact, airplane pilots use a written “check-up” list before taking off, bringing awareness to their level of preparation for the flight. Skiers and snowboarders use structured methods to check up the avalanche risks and personal and group condition before starting there tours. Paragliding pilots also use the 5-point checks and typically engage with the weather forecast but we lack in comparison to other extreme sport and aviation when it comes to self- competence and analyses. We are often too relaxed in this department.
Tools to Change:
This little download tool may inspire you to create or adapt your own preflight routine to better focus your mind. It’s designed to minimise the chance of failure, in safety and goal setting.
How to use the tool:
Print (right-click + save image) and laminate this card which can easily be kept in a harness pocket or cockpit with a dry-erase pen. Take some minutes before you get ready for flying to do your mental checkup and decide where you are in that moment.
Green: I am sure: it’s ok
Yellow: I am not sure yet
Red: I am sure, it’s not ok
- If you can mark the green smiley in every field you are well prepared for takeoff and you can expect to have a good flight.
- If you check the yellow field, try to find out if there are options or actions you can
take to shift the mark to the green field. Ask a question or obtain more information
- If you can’t shift it to green or red decide if it’s a risk you can handle.
- If you mark one red field, find out if there are possibilities to shift it to green.
- Even one red cross on the card is a serious reason to stay on the ground. If you fly alone think about how you can communicate or inform someone about your flight incase you need help.
- If you fly alone think about how you can communicate or inform someone about
your flight incase you need help.
- “Group” can be your friends, flying-partner, club members, pilots you meet at the takeoff or in the air.
- Feel free to add points yourself to build the most complete Check-up List for your level and ambitions.
As always, remember that flying is fun. Bringing certainty to our preparations offers greater confidence that we are in a good place to go out and enjoy our passion. Take profit and fly free =).
Stay tuned for the next post… a little practical example how and why it serves us to use the card! 😉