Thames Valley Hang Gliding Club

A BHPA Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club

Flight Safety Culture

Dear Fellow Pilots,

As you were kind enough to vote me in as your Safety Member at the AGM I thought I’d better introduce myself. I’m sure I’ve met many of you on the hill (Palm/Blue Sigma 8 with dark red helmet) and those that I haven’t please do come and say hi. I work in Flight Testing in which we enjoy an open, free culture in which people are invited to say ‘I got that wrong’ without fear of blame. In a ‘just’ society we accept that people will try their best but are, ultimately, fallible. I would dearly love to increase the feeling of a ‘just’ culture in paragliding where people can openly share their learning experiences with others.

There were 8 reportable incidents or accidents in the Club last year but as I’m sure you’re aware there will have been a number of others that weren’t reported and many, many more that would be considered close calls. It’s those that I’d like to focus on this year.

I’m sure you’ve all learnt from the mistakes, however small, that you’ve made over the years but it’s far better to learn from the mistakes that others have made and shared. I’d like to try and share with you some of those mistakes so please, please, please send me your stories of when you learnt something that others would benefit from or just had a close call. If you’ve ever been happy to be on the ground or have looked back and shuddered then I’d like to hear from you at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . I’ll share your stories and make sure your anonymity is maintained. We may just all learn something and even prevent the next accident or incident.

I’ll start.....

I took off with my chest strap undone. Since I got me new pod harness my preflight checks have become a bit more complicated with more string, clips and buckles. Flying at Westbury a few months ago I’d gone through all my normal routine (or so I thought) and launched into good ridge lift. I lean a long way forward in the harness when I launch and it was only as I became airborne and went to get into my pod that I noticed that my weight was more on my shoulder straps than normal, I then noticed that my chest strap was undone. Shaken, I continued to settle into my harness and fly away from the hill before finding and doing up the errant clip. This is a classic cognitive failure but what have I learnt? CHECKS… do you just go through your routine or do you do a head to foot check before committing yourself to aviation?

This is just meant as food for thought, especially as we’re all rusty after this horrible period of rain and wind. Please just take a few extra moments when you do manage to get back on the hill and make sure you don’t make any silly mistakes.

Happy (and safe) landings,

Nick Smith

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Photos on the front page by: Ian Pepper, Nik Valiris, Mike Hibbit, Mark Reeves and Martin Wareham

Photos in the gallery by: Mike Hibbit and other pilots of TVHGC

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