The only way to prevent accidents is absolute conviction to take care of all the little things.
You need to be confident that:
- Everything is working 100% properly
- All the required mainentance and repairs have been undertaken with care and attention
- Your Pre-Flight Checks and Post-Flight Checks are thorough and meticulous
- Your training and experience level meets the requirement of the flight at hand
- The weather and the terrain is well within your capabilities
- Your health and mental alertness is not compromised in any way
- You are familair with the region, the local airspace and the micro-metereology
One of the more common errors is flying over hostile terrain with too little height. In case of engine problems, your height may not be sufficient in order to arrive to a suitable landing field. Always remain within easy glide of suitable landing oppurtunities. This may involve adjusting your route, your height, or both.
Initial unexpected power loss will rob you of as much as Five Meters altitude while the wing surges to re-establish its correct angle of incidence. After that, your glide-angle will be less than you may be accustomed to from free-flying, due to the extra drag of the paramotor framework.
Your Airspeed may be significantly higher than expected (if you are a free flyer too), due to the extra weight of the motor and fuel.
The wind speed and direction on the ground may differ reamarkably from your original launching field, so you need to think fast!
This combination may catch many pilots by surprise, causing bad landings, injuries and damaged equipment.
Leave yourself some surplus height for the unexpected.
The motor may die or lose power at any time for a wide variety of reasons. Always expect the worst and plan for every conceivable situation. This will keep you well prepared for when things do go wrong.
On of the more critical moments is right after the takeoff, so absolutely avoid takeoff towards obstacles, bodies of water, power lines, fences, traffic, orchards, etc.
When flying in turbulence, consider carrying an emergency parachute and fly high enough to be able to use the parachute.
Never fly over water, unless you can easily glide to shore and still set up a safe landing. Still, you may wish to carry extra flotation (inflatable Life Jacket), and a Rescue Knife (hook-knife for cutting free of harness and lines)
Water landings are almost always fatal. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of an impending water landing, I hope you have been properly trained and done several refreshers regarding the special water landing techiques.
This is not the place to teach emergency water landing procedures, however consider the following:
- The motor may float for some time, but it will almost certainly keep your head pushed below the surface if you are still in the harness!
- You may be knocked unconcious upon impact with the water, or injure your neck.
- The biggest danger is entanglement with the wing's lines, which could hamper your efforts for self-rescue and could also endanger rescuers.
- Sudden immersion in cold water could place you into Thermic Shock and unable to rescue yourself.
- While in the harness, even if you get your head up to breath, you will ONLY be able to swim backwards (usually into your lines!)
- Consider that the wing filled with water could weigh over 2 tons, no pilot can swim against this weight, and also the participation of a rescue boat can be useless if it is not immediate.
- In light winds, consider landing downwind, in order to place the wing's leading edge downward, which will keep the wing inflated and the lines tensioned away from you (the wing will catch the wind). It also allows you to swim AWAY from the lines more easily, and you can see where everything is.
- If you have the time before impact, unbuckle your leg straps and your chest strap as soon as possible. You cannot accidentally fall out of the harness.
- Remove your boots if possible before impact
- It is good idea to bail out of the harness from about Ten feet above the water. However, it may be very difficult to judge your height, and you may fall too far. Water can be REAL HARD!
- Activate any flotation devices BEFORE impact
- Try to land nearest to any potential rescuers
Prevention: Avoid flying over bodies of water.
Fire in Flight is usually always Fatal! Avoid spilling fuel onto the motor, harness and your clothing. Clean any fuel spills immediately. Clean any oil leaks on the motor. Prevent the gradual accumulation of oily residue on the motor and harness by regular cleaning.
While mixing fuel and refuelling, practice sensible precautions. Do not allow anyone to smoke nearby. Beware of running engines, electrical devices, and any other sources of ignition. Beware of tilting the motor during handling and transit that may cause fuel to run out of the breather tube.
Consider fire-retarent clothing, such as cotton rather than synthetics. Keep a small fire extinguisher with your fuel mixing equipment.
Landing in trees can be dangerous
The danger exists not only in the initial impact, but also in the subsequent fall to the ground if the wing does not support you.
When you have no choice but to land in a tree, consider the follwoing:
- Chose a green pliable tree, as a dry tree may break with vicious splinters that may hurt you
- Too tall a tree may make recovery from the tree-tops difficult
- Too low a tree may result in subsequent impact with the ground
- Aim for dense foliage that will entagle the wing and lines, preventing a violent fall to the ground
- Consider access to the tree by rescures. Look for fire breaks or paths nearby
- Brace for impact by closing your legs to protect the groin, and cover your face with your hands.
- Do not land OVER the tree, fly INTO the tree.
If your feet just touch the top of the tree, the wing will fly past and may pull you off the top of the tree, possibly leading to a long fall!
The wing and the air within weighs about 15kg. This inertia will be significant.
- After impact, seize a sturdy branch that can hold your weight.
- Try to secure yourself to the branch, as the wind (and wing) may pull you free.
Also, after the adrenaline wears off, you may be too weak to hold on.
- Rather try to arrange rescue by radio or cellphone than try to rescue yourself.
Many tree landings procede uneventfully, but the subsequent recovery of pilot and equipment may lead to injuries without the proper equipment and training.
More to follow