Mike's Presentation at the WW Demo Days Dinner


Did anyone happen to video Mike's presentation?  If so, I believe it is worthwhile posting on the forum (this and elsewhere).  Don S. I wish you had stuck around just 23 minutes longer to hear it.

I second that Kelly. Mike's talk really did help us to understand that safety isn't a simple numbers game. There is a very challenging human factor at the root of it all. BTW, to answer the initial "thought experiment" question/scenario, personally I would definitely NOT play that game.

Each time we get away with something in the sport of hang gliding we should not lower the bar of our acceptable level of risk until disaster strikes us.

We should set the bar (risk target) and then monitor the decisions that we made and compare it with our risk target before, during and after we fly. We need to bring our decision-making into the range of our risk targets rather than bringing our risk targets down to the range of our decision-making.

Obviously there are those of us who have risk targets that are in different zones than others.

My takeaway from Mike is that I need to self-monitor before, during and after each flight and see whether my decisions are on target. If my decisions were below target then I failed. If my decisions were below target and I decided to lower the bar of acceptable risk  because I got away with something then not only did I fail but I am now squarely headed for disaster.

This is what I saw Mike present by his references to the Apollo space capsule oxygen disaster along with the two NASA Space Shuttle disasters. Each of these disasters is a shining example of NASA management lowering the risk bar each time it gets away with something until disaster strikes. The reasons for NASA’s behavior are beyond the scope of this discussion.

What is relevant to me is that hang glider pilots have been doing since the inception of the sport in the 1800s. I don't mean the 1970s but the 1800s as this is a really old sport and old habits die hard in more ways than one.

So we each need to choose an acceptable level of risk and the decisions we make before, during and after we go flying should be close to that target. We should be routinely comparing our decisions with our risk targets and adjusting our decision-making to match our risk targets rather than the other way around.

So don’t lower your risk target each time you get away with something or you will be on a collision course with disaster.

My 2p Worth,


Another possible takeaway is that all three of those NASA programs undoubtedly had much institutional structure regarding safety and professional attitude toward safety.  What they lacked was an actual increase in safety.

The counterintuitive part is that that institutional structure and professional attitude toward safety programs worked against them.

I am sorry I missed it. I am always looking for more information to help improve my decision making and flight skills.

Since I didn't see the presentation, I won't comment on it. You know how I feel about safety. And I believe as a community we could do a better job with the whole issue.

Perhaps a part of the bigger picture is how often this type of information is made easily available to the pilot population. Humans have a tendency for memories to fade. What seemed important at the time, become less important and we tend to forget the details. The most recently learned information is best remembered.

Having safety information around the pilot areas helps our brains to keep that idea of safety paramount. Poster like "See and Avoid" or reminders like "Are you Hooked in" on the surface may seem dumb or "preachy", but they do really work.

I have some ideas I am planning to run past some people and see if maybe we can try some new things. If there is no interest I will drop the topic and focus on my own learning and habits.

Kelly, by the way thanks for inviting us over to your table. My wife and I enjoyed you and your families company very much. Please tell them we said hello. My wife started reading one of the books and said it was very good.



It's the essentially the same material that Mike presented in his 1998 article. If you or anyone else intereted reads this then you will most likely have grasped everything you need to know that you may have missed: https://www.willswing.com/why-cant-we-get-a-handle-on-this-safety-thing/



P.S. I suggest you take a tip from yourself and "drop the topic and focus on my own learning and habits."

Thanks JD for the link.

Based on your prior post it appears you learned something from Mike's presentation? If so will you change any behavior?

Do you think anyone else benefited from Mike's presentation?

I don't want to get into a debate on the topic. Just wondering if in your opinion, his presentation was beneficial.


ps Your vote against is noted.

Well Don,

Mike's presentation was certainly beneficial to Mike. After all, he won an award for it. But as you are probably already aware, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and "the best laid plans of mice and men oft gang agley". In other words, if pilots wish to remain accident-free they will likely seek out and find information that is useful to them. Presentations, mechanisms and silly wrist-band campaigns all be damned. 

You see Don, Mike only spent a few moments from his 20-minute presentation on the one slide that actually had any real takeaway material that we can apply on a daily basis and improve our odds of survival. The other 19+ minutes all sounded good but as a practical matter not something a pilot could really use and apply. It was academic. Don't get me wrong about academics. I love it.

But I also want to live and stay in one piece so I can do more big flights. So with that in mind I need material that is simple, straight forward and unforgettable. Do you get my drift? Let me give you an example and test you at the same time.

You have exactly twenty seconds to type and post the correct answer. No searching allowed. If you are unable to do this then you are at risk of falling to your demise. here is the question:  What is the single-most time-tested and proven method for making damn sure you don't fall out of your glider right after you launch?

You will have to accept that I did answer the question quickly and didn't search for it. And then wrote some more.

If I understand your question correctly JD, you are talking about lifting the glider to feel if it pulls against your harness? That would be my answer. If this is what you mean, I can say reminding me to do this would be helpful to me. I have watched a few very low time HG launch and not do this. I think the nerves can cloud the thinking processes and that is when some of these things being drilled in helps avoid mistakes.

I understand were you are coming from on your other points. So a few moments of Mike's presentation was relevant to you. It sounds like it may have helped you. That is great.

Do you think that everyone else gained very little from his presentation?

You have been at this a long time. There are others just starting out, and everywhere in between. Learning from experience is a hard teacher and can be deadly. Some things only experience will teach, other things can be learned the other ways.  Your experience and expertise is needed and valued by others. I value it. I want to hear from you if you want to share some of your hard gained experience. There are also more effective ways to share this wisdom and knowledge than just a word on the field or a blog post.

You said - "In other words, if pilots wish to remain accident-free they will likely seek out and find information that is useful to them. Presentations, mechanisms and silly wrist-band campaigns all be damned." I partially agree that pilots will seek out information useful to them. (maybe more on this some time later) Everyone seeking out there own information on there own is not what everyone does effectively. Some are good at it, some are not. Would you want a loved one learning this way? I agree that some campaigns are ineffective and silly. Presentation are useful to some people and to others they are not, such as yourself.

You said - "I need material that is simple, straight forward and unforgettable." You are stating the format you want information presented to you. That is valid. And optimal in many cases. But not always. More complex ideas can't always be broken down into that small of a communication. The idea is to make information easily available and people can take it or leave it. Most will be in simple straight forward formats. Sometimes, the larger format may be useful, like the parachute clinic some are requesting we have. You could come to that or not. I know I would come and I hope it happens.

Would you be willing to share your expertise. What would you tell a new pilot just starting to fly solo. What would you tell a person who flies very infrequently. Any tips? (You need not answer these questions now.)

I think there is a large body of expertise and experience that could be made into material that is presented in a simple, straight forward and unforgettable format. Admittedly Hang Gliders are are pretty simple machine to fly. I find them very interesting in that a guy with a couple hours can takeoff and land safely. On the other end of the spectrum put that same person into an unusual attitude or rough air and they may not be coming home that night. Power Aircraft are not so different. I have had a few guys solo after 4-5 hours of dual. I would never cut them lose after only 4-5 hours and let them seek out information on there own. There is too much they dont know that they don't know.

Many of these ideas are difficult to effectively discuss in short posts.

Trying to avoid getting into a long debate, perhaps we could talk in person some time?

What ever your response is to this please understand that my forum posts in no way are meant to imply I want anything imposed on you or anyone else.


I simply tell myself, "I am unhooked" and "Lift and tug before you get off". These derive from the Rob Kells technique of verifying hook-in by lifting the glider until the pilot feels the tug against his crotch and the gun owner's motto of "The gun is always loaded". These are very simple and effective ways of preventing accidental firearm discharge into human beings and inadvertent separation from launched gliders. There's no need for a dissertation or even a discussion about it.  Yet there have been lengthy and ridiculous debates and arguments about the propriety of competing methodologies of insuring unseparated launch. I know several pilots who have launched unhooked and at least one gun owner who parted his wife's hair during cleaning.

In general aviation there is a simple acronym that helps avoid landing accidents that I am sure you are familiar with. GUMPS. It's simple, straightforward and easy to use when needed. It helps prevent avoidable accidents precisely because it's easy to use when and where needed and while under stress.

Hang gliding safety in my inexpert opinion requires simple and effective tools. Otherwise few if any pilots are going to do perform the procedures or alter their decision making that needlessly complex or cumbersome tools and explanations intend yet fail to accomplish.

That is my point.

The lift and tug technique works great in conditions where it can be done safely. But there are situations where lifting the glider to feel the "tug" increases vulnerability. The following questions might clarify this.

When standing on launch in windy conditions ... where are your hands holding the glider? Are your hands applying the downward force at the trim point ... or well forward of the trim point? Why?

When you apply part of your weight to the hang strap to feel the "tug", are you moving your CG forward or aft with respect to the glider? Are you inducing a nose up or nose down response by the glider?

It turns out that for every pound of harness "tug" that you force out of your glider, you're transferring your CG aft, and we all know what that does to the nose (and the angle of attack). To make you feel the tug, your glider has to lift a significant portion of the weight of your harness and then lift even further to give you a solid sensation of "tug". Every ounce of that "tug" is transferred to your hang strap (which is at trim speed) and away from your hands on the forward raked portion of your control bar (which is faster than trim speed). Shifting your weight aft does the same thing on the ground that it does in the air - raises the nose and increases your drag (both of which will decrease your airspeed and control at launch). That's just physics. So a lift and tug in strong conditions is somewhat like testing an airplane's flaps during the takeoff roll (rather than in the run-up area). Don't increase your risk of a blown launch at the most critical moment of flight to do a check that could have (and should have) been done just prior to that most critical moment.

The answer to not launching unhooked isn't sticking religiously to one technique or another ... because you'll eventually find yourself in conditions where your favorite technique fails. That's the exception that will kill you. The answer is having the DISCIPLINE to ensure that you apply SOME confirmation method ... each and every time.

That is my point.

Just a note of further clarification ...

There's nothing wrong with "lift and tug" prior to the launch sequence.

But launching itself should be 100% about launching. The moment of launch is the most dangerous 5 seconds of our entire flight.

Any compromise during the launch sequence to accomplish anything else detracts from that focus. The launch proceeds from the optimal position on the ramp ... with the glider at the optimal angle of attack ... and with the pilot holding it in the optimal manner for a strong launch run.

If a pilot finds that those "optimals" are best satisfied with a tight hang strap from before the first step (in the existing conditions), then that's fine. But a blanket statement that pilots MUST start their launch run with a tight hang strap is a suboptimal compromise of the launch itself.

To be fair, Jonathan didn't exactly say that pilots must start their launch run with a tight hang strap, but his comments are highly reminiscent of Tad Eareckson's statements to that effect. I agree with Jonathan that "there have been lengthy and ridiculous debates and arguments" about this topic, and I'm hoping to video tape the effect I've described above at the upcoming Otto Lilienthal celebration at Dockweiler beach on May 23rd. I expect the video will show that lifting the glider off the pilots shoulders and into the "tug" position will increase the angle of attack. That might help settle these debates.

I look forward to seeing lots of Crestline folks at the upcoming event. We have pilots coming from as far away as New York and Florida for this gathering. You can see the growing list at:


I hope to see you there!!!

It wasn't part of the official presentation, but Mike went on to say that he was really struck by two things 1) that people really did like his presentation, and (more the message for the people listenting) 2) that those test pilots (pilots at the top of their game) considered HG pilots REAL pilots, and that they considered hang gliding a legitimate and respectable form of aviation.  Mike's takeaway (for us) was that if those guys consider HG pilots legitimate, maybe HG pilots should think of themselves more as legitimate aviators and treat themselves as such (like pre-flighting, regular maintenance, and other applicable GA procedures).

Jonathan GUMPS is what we do before landing (gas, undercarriage, mixture, propeller, switches).  I think you mean CIGARS (controls, instruments, gas, attitude, run-up, safety/seat belts).  I'm sure we could make an appropriate acronym for HG, if one doesn't already exist.

My main takeaway was the idea of reviewing flights even when things don't go wrong (most of the time, knock wood) to ferret out decisions that were not optimal.  What went right that could easily have gone wrong?  What would or could I have done differently? 

He had the point about setting objective goals while flying - "I'm going to drift with this thermal and then leave it at such a point that I'll get back out over the ridge with x hundred feet clearance." When you get back to the ridge ask yourself "Am I at least x hundred feet over?" If not, modify the parameters next time.

Somewhat related is my practice of setting a hard floor altitude before venturing out of the fishbowl.  "Thermals are decent today but a bit sparse.  I'll head to Sugarpine but turn back when I drop to 5,600 MSL.", for instance.  I'll only modify the floor altitude to a lower one (like another hundred feet) if I find some extraordinary reason to expect getting up again.  Sure, I turn back before reaching Sugarpine a lot and don't have great stories about low saves over Verdemont.  I don't have to bleach my shorts very often either.


You are spot on as we need to put as much energy into reinforcing and rewarding good decision making as we do in discouraging poor decision making. 



I finished paying for my WW,U-2 160 in febuary this year ; all i bin flying

since my legs ran away in 2007 ; was an Exxtacy and various PG's.


Anyway -- Wenesday , Sparkie drives my new, (used) glider to the Demo days, and i

flew it Thursday , Friday , And Sunday ; I was Spent, because all my museles

hurt from Not flying a Rag-wing in so many years.


So Monday , i'm a grand over the bill-bord after 1.5 hours of nasty gurbage air

and i remembre Mikes speach . I landed before all my focous went away ; good

thing because my landing i could NOT consintrate . Another Hour, and i Might

have Crashed !


I need a Gym , before flying another Rag, again !!!