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Pre-Flight Routine

It was a warm Southern California morning as we sat on launch, waiting for the first thermals to start rolling up the hill.  As we contemplated, talked, and speculated on the day a small group of local pilots showed up.  They were kind and offered their thoughts and advice.  As they began getting ready to launch we watched their preflight routine.  A fellow pilot in our group (an instructor) noticed the local pilot getting ready to launch had missed a few things.  He kindly pointed out that his speed bar was not attached, and that his reserve handle was broken and would not deploy if needed.  It was a great reminder to me that day that we should all have a solid and consistent pre-flight routine.

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Notice anything wrong here, besides the obvious speed bar attachment? Look closely at the make shift zip-tie reserve pins.

It is spring again, and many pilots who have not flown for a few months are finding their way back to the mountains. Regardless of whether or not your a new pilot, rusty pilot, sharp pilot, or an old timer pilot, we all need to find a pre-flight routine that works.  Making sure all the vital steps are followed is a great way to insure a safer flight.  Every pilot’s routine is different, and that is okay, so long as it works and is consistently followed….every single time!

 

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Since there is no right or wrong sequence, I thought I would share my 10-point pre-flight routine.  It may not be perfect, but it is one I have followed for many years and has served me well.


Pre-Flight Routine

My preflight routine begins as soon as I land from my last flight. I detach and fold up my wing every single time I land. This gives me a chance to do a proper line check and organize my risers in such a way that there is no guess work on the next launch.  It also allows me to quickly look over my wing as a whole during the folding process.  That way, when I am at launch I can be confident that my wing is ready to fly, the lines are clear, and properly aligned (A’s on top).

Another important aspect that should be discussed is of course whether or not to fly. This is actually not part of my pre-flight routine, because I will never even begin my routine until I am confident that the conditions are inline with my expectations and I have made the decision to fly.  To understand what I do to determine if it is safe or not even fly, please see my article on The Energy Equation.

We are now at the launch site and everything looks good and a decision has been made to fly.  All my stuff is now on my body, or packed in my harness.  My helmet is on and nothing but my wing and harness are on the ground. The 10-steps I do are quick and I make it a point not to stop, or be interrupted.  If by chance someone talks to me during the process, I start over and start counting again.

Step 1: I put on my harness, then leg buckle left.
Step 2: Leg buckle right.
Step 3: Chest strap left.
Step 4: Chest strap right.

I can usually take a break here, especially since my wing is usually folded up.  If I am flying with radios or instruments, I get them ready at this point and make sure the are turned on and checked.  I am about 60-90 seconds away from launching.  At this point I lay out my wing and unfold it.  I already know my lines are sorted and risers aligned so I can quickly connect to my wing.

Step 5: Riser left, until I hear the carabiner click.
Step 6: Riser right, until I hear the carabiner click.
Step 7: Speed Bar left.
Step 8: Speed Bar right.

I will often do another quick line check and make sure once again that the A’s are on top, and that the brake controls are pulled all they way out with no snags.

Step 9: Reserve chute handle check, just to make sure it is there and connected properly.
Step 10: Breathe.  This calms me down for just a few seconds so I can pause, feel the air and make the last metal preparations required for executing a proper launch.

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Paul, going through his pre-flight routine.

In the end, the local pilot decided he wasn’t going to need his speed bar, and that he didn’t think he would need his reserve.  He inflated his wing and set off into the sky.  As pilots, let’s all remember to follow a solid pre-flight routine. Regardless of what routine you decide to follow be vigilant and follow that routine every single time!  It is a great, and perhaps life saving habit to get into. Remember, If someone, or something interrupts your routine, don’t be afraid to just start over and get it right.  It makes for a safer and lower stress flying experience.  I hope to see you in the sky soon.

 

 

2017-01-27

Recovery

Out of the corner of my eye I see a small flutter of brown. I turn my head to see a bald eagle just off the tip of my wing turning back towards the mountains. I lean hard, bank my glider and follow his lead. Moments later we are met with dynamic rising air, pushing us upwards. With wing tips locked together we rapidly climb upwards, with each circle leaving the snow covered landscape below. This is not an uncommon occurrence in my life, it seems to happen all the time, but in this particuarly intimate moment with nature, I take a deep breath and realize how lucky I truly am.

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Last flight. The next day I could not walk.

Back in October of last year my legs and feet suddenly began to hurt.  At first it felt like really sore muscles. No big deal, so I kept pushing harder and harder, but as the days passed my condition rapidly deteriorated. I remember stepping out of a truck on a high mountain launch site, barely able to walk. That flight was breathtaking, beautiful, rugged, and memorable in so many ways.  The next morning, I could no longer walk. The pain and inflammation in my feet, legs and back was so overwhelming that my body could no longer stand upright, let alone push itself forward.

After countless doctor visits, I was still nowhere. Things spiraled out of control and I soon found myself in the Emergency Room fighting this mysterious illness. That led to several days in the hospital, along with every possible test known to mankind. I had my fair share of needles, blood tests, MRI machines, and head scratching doctors.  From back specialists to orthopedic doctors, oncology to infectious disease specialists; nobody could determine the root cause.  Eventually I ended up in the Rheumatology department. It was here I finally had some real answers, some actual proof, and more importantly a pathway to moving forward.  Unfortunately, there was so much damage in the tendons and soft tissues of my feet that healing was going to be a slow process.

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There were many dark days in pain sector 9, but I found hope and healing in the kindness of my friends. So many were eager to lend a kind hand, a listening ear, or just a few minutes of distraction. Even with all the help around me, I knew I had to do my part too.  So, each day I would try and walk just a little. I remember how excited I was when I walked 150 steps in a single day. Each day I continued to walk, step by step, looking, hoping, and praying for the opportunity to someday hike and fly above the mountains again.

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Circling with Bald Eagles again.

As I circle wing tip to wing tip with this majestic bald eagle I realize how lucky I truly am. Blessed for the opportunity to fly once again.  I am not fully recovered as I will never be fully rid of this disease.  Hard as it may seem, it is just something I must now learn to live with each day.  I may be hiking a little slower these days, but I am hiking again, flying again, and trying to enjoy the simple sensations that this amazing life on this amazing earth provides.

(For better or worst, I film stuff. This short video captures a few scenes during my recovery process. Not a great film, but a journal entry)

Recovery from DEAF Crew on Vimeo.

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Top 3 Tips to Making Better Videos

I was a photographer before I was a film maker. I was a film maker before I was a paraglider pilot. I was a paraglider pilot before I tried to succesfully merge all three together. Over the last 6 or 7 years I have made way too many videos related to paragliding (just ask my wife). Most of those videos are equally as terrible (again, just ask my wife). Through it all, I have learned many valuable lessons, mostly on how not to do it. Whether skiing, paragliding, climbing or backpacking, I have picked up a few tricks that will often lead to more memorable adventure videos.

In an effort to share, I thought I would offer my Top 3 simple tricks that will help make your next adventure video more meaningful.

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Unique shot angles make any video more interesting. It is always fun when people ask “how on earth did you get THAT shot?”

 

#1 – GET THAT CAMERA OFF YOUR HEAD
This is by far the number one thing that can make or break your video. The advent of GoPro and other personal cameras has caused everyone, by default, to unfortunately put a camera on their heads. Yes,I am as guilty as the next adventure sports guy. It was a cool idea at first, but we should all realize from a filming standpoint, a helmet cam is terrible idea. Over the years I realized that viewers don’t care about what you are looking at, they care about what you are experiencing. Therefore, make it a point to show them the experience, not just the view from your head. So, if you want to do just one thing to make your videos exponentially better, get that camera off your head!

Who is this Jerry with his camera in his toggles? Yeah, I admit, that's me. Just another good reason to get that camera off you head.
Who is this ‘Jerry’ with his camera caught in his toggles? Yeah, that’s me 6 years ago in Austria. Just another good reason to get that camera off you head.

As a side note: If you are into the “flying” sports like BASE jumping, skydiving, speed wings, and/or paragliding then a camera on your head can actually be a very dangerous proposition as getting your lines caught on your helmet can quickly become a safety concern.

 

#2 – MAKE THOSE CLIPS SHORTER
The attention span of most people is pretty short, especially when it comes to internet videos. Why else do so many videos these days have to say…”wait for it” in their captions? If you want to make you films more interesting and less…well…boring, then change the duration of your clips to no more than 5-7 seconds. You should be switching views to different angles or vantage points often. Yes, that means that for a 2:00 minute video, you will need 15 to 25 different shot changes. That may sound like a lot, but trust me, it is worth it.

 

#3 – SYNC TO THE MUSIC
No matter what you are filming, the audio track you chose will define the mood of your video. When choosing a track, be sure to first define the “beat” and then sync your clips to change with that beat. Some songs are fast, so you need to change shots every 3-4 seconds, others are slower and only require a shot change every 6-7 seconds. No matter what track you choose, be sure to sync your shots to the music.

 

Those may sound too simple and not that earth shattering, but you would be surprised how many videos violate not just one, but all three. Best of luck in your next video project. If you make a video you are proud of, feel free to send it my way or post in the comments as I would love to check it out. Happy Shooting.