Last revised: April 2008
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USHPA Hang-II Operating Limits
* 18mph max for smooth air, 11mph for gusty air *
* Launch slopes of 2:1 to 7:1 *
* Wind direction within 25 degrees of straight in *
Congratulations, you are now a 2 and flying solo! You've probably had your first few mountain or aerotow flights, been given a handshake, and then told to go find an "Observer" to continue learning about hang gliding or paragliding. This guide is meant to introduce you to the USHPA's Observer system, under which H2/P2 pilots fly with the sponsorship of H3/P3 (or higher) rated pilots, until they achieve their own H3/P3 rating.
The 2's Dilemma: You've tasted the air, and now you REALLY WANT MORE! But unfortunately, little of your training to date has prepared you to evaluate complex launch conditions, or changing conditions once in the air. You might not have a level of judgment that matches your willingness to fly.
The Observer's Dilemma: An Observer who's willing to sponsor a H2/P2 is obviously interested enough in the sport that s/he wants to see you succeed, so that our sports grow and new pilots join us in the air. But that Observer definitely doesn't want to see a new pilot get into an accident, which could potentially result in the loss of a launch or LZ. Not to mention possibly scaring the new pilot completely out of the sport!
Now consider the fact that great soarable conditions can be rarity, and you'll begin to see how the process of getting your own H3/P3 rating could become a somewhat frustrating experience. We hope that this protocol guide will minimize some of those frustrations.
All this said, remember: Observer Pilots want to hear from you! It's not a big deal, just call 'em some evening and introduce yourself.
Hang gliders and paragliders are typically single-place aircraft (no Duh!) and that means you are the pilot-in-command. It's ultimately your glider and your butt if something goes wrong in the course of a flight. The Observer sponsoring you is there to provide you with guidance, to bridge the gap between your flying skills and your judgement. Observers can give you an informed opinion based on experience, but they cannot make guarantees. Observers are not omniscient with regards to conditions, or your individual strengths and abilities. It is your task and responsibility to keep your Observer well-informed, and to decide if the Observer is right; before you launch and during all phases of flight. If you go down because you failed to follow instructions, that's your responsibility. If you go down because you followed instructions that proved wrong for whatever reason (misjudgement, changing conditions, what have you), that's your responsibility too. This may seem harsh, but the sports of hang gliding and paragliding are demanding.
You may not have noticed, but most 2's put a tremendous amount of stock in your opinions. If you told 'em to launch into an L-4 tornado many would run to their gliders and hook-in. If you make a call and your charge is involved in an incident, you own a piece of the outcome, whether you misjudged conditions, misjudged the pilot, or failed to take some simple and sensible precautions. The Observer program cannot be said to have any real purpose unless the Observers accept some level of responsibility for those they sponsor.
If you want to be sponsored by an Observer who has never seen you fly before, then contact him or her well in advance of your flight date. Several days, at least! Most Observers won't sponsor you unless they know a little bit about you. You should be able to provide the name of your instructor(s), a log that summarizes the work you've done on the training hill or on tow, and a detailed account of your first mountain flight(s). It will be helpful if you can provide the names of any pilots who might have been in the air with you.
When requesting sponsorship from an Observer who has worked with you before, contact him or her in advance of flying (perhaps the evening before, and certainly no later than the morning of).
Make sure that your Observer knows which sites you have flown and those that you have not. When flying a new site, an Observer will want to walk the LZ with you, discuss approaches, etc., which takes some time.
If you show up at a launch and request sponsorship from an Observer without prearrangement, then expect to be refused (and please don't be offended!). The Observer may have committments which won't allow for a last-minute change of his/her plans. You can minimize last-minute requests by working with multiple Observers, so that you have a backup if one of them can't go flying on a good day.
Arrive at the launch site and set up your glider before your Observer does. If conditions are ideal, your Observer will probably want to get you launched ASAP. You'll be asking a lot if he or she has to wait around for you to show up or set up your glider. It's YOUR job to accommodate to your Observer's schedule.
Always set up your glider and be prepared for flight. Imagine this: Your Observer flies while conditions are too strong for a new pilot, then returns to launch in the late afternoon or early evening, as conditions go magic. But you're sitting there, glider not even set up; talk about a wasted opportunity! (OK, if it's raining or blowing 50mph on launch, _maybe_ you don't actually set up right away ;-)
Prepare a flight plan before flying, and be prepared to discuss it with your Observer. Some considerations: at what point should you head out to the LZ; how will you turn after launch; if it's soarable, where are you going to fly; how will you lose altitude over the LZ prior to your approach; etc.
Maintain a log of your flights, and always record the wind velocity and gust factor at launch in the log. Have your Observer initial the entry for each of the flights you make.
Actually, two logs would be a big plus. The first could contain concise flight summaries (location, wind at launch and in the LZ, thermal activity, a few comments about your flight). The second might be a more detailed log, in which you describe each of your flights, the weather, new things you've learned, etc. The concise log would be useful to an Observer who wants to get an overview of the conditions you've flown in, and the other Observers you've worked with. The detailed log would be useful for your own review, to get a sense of your overall progress.
Be willing to run vehicle shuttles to the LZ. Everybody has to run shuttles, it's one of the prices we pay in our sports. But since your Observer is out there specifically to help you get some airtime, it would be a very nice gesture if you were able to provide him or her with transport from the LZ. You might want to team up with another H2/P2 in order to make this easier. And if you are following Rule (5), then the time required to run a shuttle becomes pretty insignificant.
Find out what your Observer's favorite post-flight beverage is.
NOTE! Observer information in this table might be out of date. Current contact information is available in the on-line CHGPA roster in the Members-Only area of our website (www.chgpa.org). If you join CHGPA, you will be given the username and password required for the members area. If you aren't ready to join, or if you are a visiting H2/P2, then please contact one of the CHGPA Club Officers listed at the CHGPA site; they will be happy to help!
Once you have achieved your Hang-II or P2 rating and have begun to fly with the sponsorship of an Observer, you really should start acquiring certain items of equipment. At a minimum, you need:
Of these recommended items, a radio is probably the most useful (cellular phone coverage can be spotty at our flying sites). If conditions are not suitable for you early in the day and your Observer decides to fly, then having communications will really simplify arranging a flight of your own if conditions improve later. Your Observer might need to be picked up in the LZ, want you to consult with other pilots at launch, etc. And as you progress in your flying abilities, you'll probably find that in-flight radio communication is a major plus.
*To prepare for the exam, take practice exams at www.qrz.com/p/testing.pl. To search for test locations, go to www.arrl.org/arrlvec/examsearch.phtml.
A great way to get to know the free-flight pilots in your area is to attend the local club meetings. These meetings are also an excellent way to meet Observers; bring along your log book when you're just starting to fly high, so that the Observers you meet can get an idea of the experience you have.
Greater Washington, DC
Capital Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association
Greater Baltimore, MD
Maryland Hang Gliding Association
West Virginia, Western Maryland & Southwestern Pennsylvania
Mountaineer Hang Gliding Association
Hyner Hang Gliding Club
Flying stories are an important part of every club meeting, and these stories can be very useful to new pilots. You are likely to hear many topics discussed, including launch technique, cross-country flight, radio use, meteorology, other hang gliding sites outside the local area, you name it. So stop by a meeting, you'll find them both educational and fun!
Another resource available to you are the online CHGPA Forums, which many of the area hang glider and paraglider pilots participate in. The forums are a great way to introduce yourself to the free-flight community, especially if the next club meeting won't be held for several months.
NOTE: If you are reading a hard-copy version of this protocol guide, you might want to check out the on-line version available at the CHGPA website (www.chgpa.org) in the Educational Topics section.