Paramotor Safety

 

Tragedy: Wingover Fatality

2017-06-11 Ph | Fatalities | Steep Maneuvering Risk Article

Our heart goes out, again, to the family and friends of a fallen pilot.

For the third time this year, a paramotorist has died doing steep maneuvering. It means paramotoring is as risky as paragliding, reminding me of the effect speedflying had on that sport. I relish the freedom to do these things but think that better education could do a lot.

Crashing from wingovers, spirals, and other steep maneuvering is a well trodden path to maiming and the grave. Speedbar use aggravates it.

Some risks we can't avoid since they require vigilance; things like not having the risers attached properly, hanging on the lip of an open gate, for example. I've done that. We all make mistakes but cranking and banking is a choice.

It's like trip to the grocery story of risk. Picking up a jug of low-level wingovers is a lot of risk. Doing it steeper, lower, with less training, with less experience, on speedbar, in turbulence, through your wake, and so on all make it worse.

Lets not try to "ban" the activities but lets help each other understand what's at stake, what types of maneuvers are really risky and what can we do to mitigate them.

The Accident

Mo Sheldon and others were at the flying field when the fairly experienced pilot launched, climbed out at full power, entered a moderately steep 180 degree turn around, took a small collapse which steepened the turn, throttled up to full and pummeled into earth. He bounced 8 feet, landing on his side. Mo Sheldon was only 30 feet away and rushed to his side to help cut him free and administer CPR. It was too late.

Why

Wingovers can range from mild linked turns to barrel rolls. But even mild ones harbor a surprisingly dark corner: they unload the wing.

Remember the accident where a pilot, flying a tandem wing, took a large collapse and cratered in? Flying lightly loaded makes that more likely. On a wingover, the wing unloads towards the top at which point a collapse becomes more likely. Further more, as the wing comes forward, angle of attack decreases, making collapse even more likely; lines can't push. It's like doing steep climbs and dives where the wing is unloaded at the top and rocketing forward. As it gets forward the angle of attack can go negative which guarantees a frontal collapse. This is covered in an PPG Bible illustration.

Lastly, to minimize collapses, the wing must be kept perpendicular to the slipstream which requires sometimes non-intuitive brake input. Good coaching at a maneuvers clinic will help with this.

All these situations can be managed but it requires VERY high level skill and attention. Every time. Anybody can do wingovers but it's also an easy maneuver to botch. Combine that with flying through turbulence, like your own wake, and it can go very poorly.

Mo Sheldon, who watched the whole thing, will have a more complete report. 


© 2016 Jeff Goin & Tim Kaiser   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!