Launch and landing sites are frequently in tight spaces with little room to maneuver. Plus, you may be sharing the site, especially launch, with numerous other pilots. It’s not the place to have marginal wing handling skills. The USHPA has a ratings program where the P2 is most common. But don’t just get the rating. Poor kiting skills can be dangerous for both you and your launch mates. With motors, we usually have the luxury of room, not so on most hills.
Find a qualified and experienced soaring instructor who knows the site you’re wanting to fly.
Here are some of the areas you’ll want to address when going powerless.
1. Have good kiting skills in strongish winds. Most free flight sites have unforgiving options for a pilot getting thrashed by wind and strong winds can come up quickly when conditions are soarable.
2. Know what active flying is all about. Basically, you want to be adept at keeping the wing under control without even thinking about it. In fact, its knowing how to use the least amount of brake pressure to keep the wing mostly overhead. Fighting every nit and tiddle is just as bad as doing nothing. And knowing that movement is far different than pressure. In strong turbulence it can be possible to have full deflection of the brakes to maintain pressure. But knowing when to let off the brakes is equally important.
3. Fly with and learn how to use a reserve. Any condition strong enough to keep you aloft has opportunity to re-bag your wing. You want another.
4. Learn about micrometeorology. Knowledge of how wind flows around obstructions, where rotors are likely, and how thermals work becomes critical.
5. Don’t skimp on back protection. I’m sorry to say, but the current crop of harnesses have developed their safety features on the broken backs of numerous paraplegics.