Learning to fly under USHPA's 2016 RRG


This is separate from raising funds for the RRG (which will be a good long-term solution)...

Sharing my thoughts on how instructors will adapt to the changes and what matters to students.

For flying sites, the more quality instructors, the better, it grows the pilot base for the future.

speaking of growing pilot base, lets see, in in 1995 there were about 10,000 pg and hg pilots, 25 years later it has grown to about 10,000 pilots...  Is there a lesson in that 25 years history someplace?

I will try not to be provocative with my statements.

In my humble opinion there are several areas this sport could do a much better job at retaining student/pilots and improve safety at the same time.
One of those areas is training.
Briefly, based on my Hang Gliding experience, I believe a lack of training is definitely an influence to not continue in the sport. I am not saying the training I received was bad. I do believe when compared to all other fight training I have had, it was inadequate. I had too many experiences were I was shocked to find out I didn't know something that I believe I should have been taught before flying on my own. The USHPA and the insurance problem will hopefully push training standards forward to be more comprehensive.  Better trained students will result in a better safety record and more people sticking around.
Drop out rates in HG/PG are high. I believe instructors are not helping in this area. Not following a training syllabus and not having good training techniques are a big problem. The FAA fundamental of instructing is a good resource for instructors to read and implement.
If a student doesn't feel reasonably safe, 90% of the time that student will not continue. If a student doesn't feel confident in his training, he will not stay in the sport long.

I fly single, multi, and gliders. When I fly I feel safe, well trained, and feel I can deal with what will come along during the flight. I have confidence in the training I received.
When I  worked as an instructor, I followed a written training syllabus, had written lesson completion standards, I spent time before each flight covering the elements of the lesson, correlated prior learning into the current lesson, questioned the student about the lesson elements, used training aids to demonstrate and explain, explained lesson completion standards, did the flight, after the flight, reviewed the flight, asked and answered questions regarding what was taught, reviewed what the next lesson would cover, assigned reading to prepare the student for the next lesson, reviewed our next large goals (solo, x-country, checkride) and how our progress is coming toward meet those goals, etc. Basic training techniques. I believe HG/PG students would be better trained using similar procedures.

My 2-cent,


Interesting. Would you mind expounding on the specific experiences you had that shocked you?
I wasn't that impressed by GA instruction, either. When I got my sailplane ticket, I spent half an hour or so convincing my instructor that the elevator and rudder did not magically exchange functions once the glider was banked past 45 degrees.
I got agreement, eventually, but "that's how we teach it."
It was wrong information, but at least it was standardized wrong information.

Tim- This format makes it difficult to really cover adequately ant topic because of (my) time and space.

Briefly, your experience, as you relate indicated you had an experience with an instructor that had some confusion, or you felt the instructor was wrong. In your example it seems that the instructor was saying in a steep turn at slow speed you use your rudder to raise the aircraft's nose if it drops. Normally if the aircraft's nose dropped in a steep turn you would pull back on the yoke or stick to increase angel of attack and use opposite aileron to counter the tendency to tighten the bank while increasing the angle of attach. Flying a glider in a steep turn at a slow speed is different in this instance.     You would use the ruder to yaw the nose up. Whatever the case may have been, like in any profession there are people who are good at it and bad at it. When you add to this no or little established teaching protocol, it increase the likelihood that we will have inadequately trained HG/PG pilots. Glider training at some place, with some instructors, is similar to HG training in that it is much less formal than other training I have experienced. This is a deficiency that needs to be addressed as well. I guess some think free flight means freestyle teaching.

One of my main points is that how to effectively teach a person how to become a safe WELL TRAINED pilot has been established and demonstrated. We (USHPA with support and cooperation of the pilot population) should implement these techniques and protocol for HG/PG training.  Would you want your 747 pilot taught with "freestyle teaching" techniques? Initial CFI check rides are running 8-10 hours, and sometimes into two days. The FAA knows a well trained instructor is key to a safe pilot population. We could also touch on the point that a good pilot doesn't not necessarily make a good instructor. They are two completely different skills. The current way most people are taught to be HG/PG pilots do not follow these types of protocol. It is more like hay lets take a few rides and you can get the feel of it. It works, but it could be much much better. It is not that much harder or more expensive to do it much better, in my opinion.

My "I was shocked" statement was to say I felt the subjects covered were not inclusive of what I should be taught to the point it was a safety issue.

Tim,  you asked for examples of my "I was shocked" statement. I would prefer to avoid getting into specifics. I don't believe it is a productive use of time in this format and with this audience. I believe from past posts that I have a good take on how people on this form feel about these things. I don't want to make anyone angry or uncomfortable and I don't want to make enemies. One person told me Don stop posting these types of topics that don't accomplish anything. I plan to pop in every now and then and maybe post occasionally. We all share the love of flight and I don't want make this less enjoyable for anyone, especially if it accomplishes nothing positive.

For you Tim, this one time, here are a couple summary examples of what I didn't know:
(1) When to push out in a turn. (learned from an article on the internet about this)
(2) It is possible to hit a thermal that flips your nose up and you could flip over or slide backward. Be ready to pull in, in strong thermals. (Gleamed this from an over heard conversation) I asked a fellow new HG pilot it they knew anything about this and they said "o my gosh, I never knew this could happen." "How scary." (Brief summary)
(3) Spins. Of course I know what a spin is. As HG pilot what do I need to know.

Again these are brief samples of examples.

Tim you have your private pilot glider license?  Where are you flying gliders?

I think I made the points I want to convey with these two posts. I will check for your reply and then I will check in from time to time and maybe post occasionally.

Happy flying Tim and everyone,


(1) When to push out in a turn. (learned from an article on the internet about this)

I just pulled my copy of Hang Gliding Training Manual by Dennis Pagen off of my bookshelf and in one minute I found the nicely illustrated answer your complaint quoted above at pages 128 and 129. Am I to believe that your instructor never suggested buying a copy of this excellent student handbook? It sounds to me like somebody isn't doing his self-study homework. As far as (2) and (3) above go, it reminds me of learning about sex and VD from locker room conversations. Rumor-spreading and rumor-listening is not training. First of all, no student pilot would be flying in conditions that could cause either the event described in (2) or a glider capable of entering a spin as described in (3). The type of training that you seem to want takes extra time and money. If you are willing to spend the money then you may be able to find an instructor willing to take the time and energy to do all these things for you. But if you read Pagen's $29.95 training book + his Performance Flying book, you'd probably have most of your questions answered or at least be prepared to ask only those things that may have been unclear to you. But YOU have to do your own homework Don. Nobody is going to spoon feed you anything in this sport for any amount of money. It's a labor of love that drives hang glider instruction and not the desire to get rich.

Why must these conversation always go toward me personally. It is not about you or me. It is about the topic being discussed.

The type of training that you seem to want takes extra time and money. If you are willing to spend the money then you may be able to find an instructor willing to take the time and energy to do all these things for you. I am suggesting training should change - yes this is what I would want. Yes Me and many others would pay for this willingly.

Nobody is going to spoon feed you anything in this sport for any amount of money. It's a labor of love that drives hang glider instruction and not the desire to get rich.      Spoon feed - too big to address here. OK, then let us start paying these instructors what they deserve and give them the resource to train us well. They can't eat love.   Here are some facts:

  1. This sport is not growing. As a percentage of the population it is shrinking.
  2. Many people don't stay in the sport.
  3. People leaving the sport is a larger problem than finding new people.
  4. This type of flight has by far the worst safety record of all types of aviation, in multiples.
  5. Now, no body is willing to underwrite insurance for this activity (THE RISKS ARE TOO HIGH).

Somebody like me (most people just leave and say nothing) comes along and says this sport seem deficient in pilot training when compared to other aviation training. Let's look at making it more like other aviation training. The response, on this forum, is all the reason why I am wrong and everything is fine as it is. OK, That is fine.

Me and others who notice the same problems will leave and take our resource elsewhere. Since I left HG'ing I have spent a considerable amount of money in aviation. Non went to AJ, USHPA, Wills Wings, any instructors or driver, no rentals, at AJ. Multiply that out by the people like me that leave year after year and it becomes quite significant to the sport. Again, people leaving the sport is a big problem for the future of the sport.

At some critical point your (the sport) numbers will be so small you will have 0 clout. The bright side is there is the desert near by and plenty of cliffs that no one will care if you jump off of with you HG.

I believe this sport COULD be a growing dynamic sport that has great training, great equipment, a great safety record that is getting better every year. The HG/PG sport should not be for daredevils any more. Wing Suit pilots are the new daredevils. Of all flying, HG/PG  is the easiest and simplest. Why should it have such a bad safety rating. Is it the equipment? No. The locations (AJ-very nice)? No. The pilots? could be. Is there a deficiency in the aeronautical knowledge base? No.  New pilots learning by "trail by fire" and teaching themselves by reading text books is not a good long term plan.

Keep doing things the same way and get the same results. No growth. Poor safety records and getting worse.

You seem to think the status quo is fine. I disagree. Do you think anything could be changed and done better when it comes to HG/PG pilot training?    How do you propose we address the dismal safety record? Do you care the sport is not growing and/or shrinking? How would you address this issue?

I don't plan to post any more replies, have the last words if you want.


Since Don(s) won't be posting any further replies I will speak to any pilot who is willing to listen and take responsibly for his or her own development.

I asked Don(S) whether or not he did his self-study homework using an excellent and readily available $29.95 handbook. And rather than answering my question he deflected my honest query into irrelevant tangents and otherwise obfuscating a very reasonable and sensible line of inquiry. I think it's apparent that Don(S) has not been doing his homework. Rather than fessing up he tried to sidetrack the conversation. I won't tolerate this. Safety of ourselves and of others begins and ends with individual responsibility.

But Don(S) is not the only pilot who hasn't been doing his/her homework. Homework consists of more than mere book reading. In the case of hang gliding it includes physical practice. Lots and lots of physical practice. I'm not talking about launching at 1PM and landing at 4PM and boating around more or less idly for 3 hours. That isn't homework. I'm talking about launching and landing numerous times. I'm talking about the Big-O Loop, friends and neighbors. I would love to see more pilots out there using the Big-O Loop. I want to come out and use the Big-O Loop myself. I want to do this more than once every other year. I have good reason for this as many of you already know.

Pro golfers get out to the driving range and they practice. Pro bowlers get out to the lanes at midnight and they practice. Pro baseball players get out to the cages and hit balls or throw pitches at targets. The same holds true for not only any major sport but for virtually all of music. It's called playing scales. It's one of a multitude of forms of practice. Let's be like the pros who excel at their sports or their arts and do the same.

We have the Big-O Loop with a well-graded road up. We have a group of would-be HG X/C pilots who have been organizing bailout walks. This all bodes well for the future. I hope to see pilots working on their launches and landings. If anyone wishes to fly X/C then work on odd and unpredictable landings. read Pagen's Advanced book if it will help. Use the Loop to pretend you are landing out somewhere you've never been and set it up like you have just 300' AGL to prepare and execute with no do-overs.

It's fun! Let's make it as safe as we can while we're at it.

Thanks for giving specifics.

There was no confusion, on my part or the instructors. I was straight up told that the function of the rudder and elevator interchanged as the bank angle went past 45. That discussion ended with: "Well, you're right... but that's just the way we teach it."   I found this particularly disturbing because not only is it wrong, it hides important information from the student.

In that slow high bank turn, the tip of the inside wing is necessarily near the stall. Increasing the AoA with elevator, then, might stall it, and begin a spin. Trying to roll out with aileron will also increase the AoA of the tip by lowering the trailing edge of the wing, so that might stall it, too.  That leaves the rudder. Yawing out of the turn will actually speed up the wingtip, lowering AoA. So that's what you do. What's so hard about that?

The "interchange of functions past 45" fairy tale gives an answer to a student's question of "why do we pick up the wing with rudder in that situation?", at the cost of hiding the real reason: so we don't stall the inside wing.  Fortunately for me, I'm actually interested in why and how stuff flies, so I already knew that. I don't think all ab-initio students do.

As to your shockers:

1.) There is a particular time to push out in a turn? I didn't know that. I've always just rolled to the bank angle I wanted and controlled my airspeed with pitch. Worse, that's what I've been telling people to do for forty+ years.

2.) Paul MacCready worked out around 1973 that above about 12mph, there's a real possibility of turbulence exceeding the control authority of weight shift only aircraft.    I thought that was in Pagen's books, but maybe not.  You will teach all your solo students that wave rotor can rip the wings right off their sailplane, right?  Because not every student knows that, and that's scary.

3) Spins. In flex wings -- Trainers won't spin, intermediates mostly won't spin. Those that will, take an unusual amount of effort to get them to do so. Unlike GA, the base-to-final inadvertent spin is unheard of.  Rigid wings will spin.


Don't take this as me saying GA instruction is crap, or that hang gliding instruction can't be better.

I think we both desire the same end result. But you seem to have a much deeper interest in the form the training takes than I do.




A while back Rob made a training video on how to properly thermal with other pilots.

My question is why was there a need for this?  Isnt this a basic skill that should be taught before a pilot gets into the air? I guess they didnt read the book.. Or they were not "spoon feed".

I think that these instructors have the skills and are happy to train the pilots. I suspect many people come into the sport and think it seems so simple, a couple hours of "show me how to do it" is all that is needed.

And then there are those that say I can't afford more than a few hours of training. Do it as cheaply as possible.

I think training should be more inclusive. I want and would pay for it. Example - I want parachute deployment practice included in new pilot training. I want to deploy a parachute the first time ever in a life and death emergency? Why? To save a $150.00.

I think a very few people may leave because of the additional cost. Most would not. More would stick with the sport after training. Safety records will improve.

This would need to be a national effort to have a level playing field for instructors and standardized training of all the new pilots.


NMErider:  ad hominem



It's clear to me that this means agreat deal to you. PLEASE attend the USHPA board meeting March 9 through 11. Details here: http://ushpa.aero/news.asp?id=241

Talk to you Regional Directors: https://ushpa.aero/member_ushpa_directors.asp

Ask to have your concerns added to the board meeting agenda! Attend the meeting if you can afford it. I can't or I'd go myself. Many of us are likely to agree that some of these thngs should be included in training but are not. Get involved at the national level. This is a small community of under 10,000 and it's not difficult to have your say. Run for CSS club safety officer next election. I'll guarantee you at least one vote. 

See how easy this was?

Cheers, Jonathan

A bit of news posted here. File your school application online (not sent by mail) + SLD count entered online at the end of each traing day + Message to all US instructors soon.