Pay-in towing with Mo Sheldon

This valuable training tool has some dark corners of its own.

There have been a number of serious injuries and at least one fatality during towing operations. As a training aid it is valuable and widely used to introduce new students to flight without the risk of damaging gear. 

After observations and consulting with one of our sports most prolific tow operators, these recommendations have been developed to make the practice much, much safer.

These will be fleshed out in an upcoming book, the PPG Instructor Manual.

  • Longer towlines are better.
  • The turnaround pulley should be avoided. It introduces several risks including the possibility that a snag could happen, eliminating the possibility that the tow operator can remove tension from an out-of-control student.  Plus it reduces the effectiveness of cutting the line in an extreme emergency since the line must slide along the ground for most of its length, even if cut.
  • Weak links must be used! The argument proffered by some pilots about the inconvenience and risk of weak links braking at inopportune times is only applicable for those towing hard, usually trying to achieve high altitude. The risk of high altitude towing for powered paraglider training is not worth it!
  • Overtowing can quickly become catastrophic. A pilot should never be allowed to leave the ground unless his wing is FULLY overhead and flying normally.
  • Student towing should never exceed about 30′ of height and never get closer to the winch drum of 400′.
  • At the very first sign of trouble, winch pressure should be reduced and the student allowed to land.
  • Tow operators must be trained.
  • Towing training is best done with a tow operator and the instructor. The tow operator must be able to cut the towline on the instructor’s command and must be thoroughly trained.
  • Tow with a special Tow Assist bridle ( which reduces the chance for lockout as well as the chance for launching in a stalled condition.