Exceptional weather and safety

The exceptional weather we have been experiencing is bringing it's fair share of airtime and some amazing flights recently (a 300km DECLARED goal, a 125km triangle). However, at the same time I've been hearing more and more (and experienced for myself) that conditions seem rougher than normal for this time of year. This appears to be true across the whole of the UK, highlighted by an interesting conversation started by Wayne Seeley on the UK XC News Facebook page recently (see https://www.facebook.com/groups/311219245657721//).


But perhaps it shouldn't come as a great surprise. If you study the pilot handbook (p256) you can see that 'Established Tropical Contiental air can be very rough in the afternoon.'  The very strong sun generates equally strong thermals which then bounce off the inversion. There's a lot of energy in the system and if you put a cap on it the energy needs to go somewhere - turbulence is an energy dissapator.


So this post is a reminder to be safe. Not just during the current spell of good weather but on each and every flight. Each day needs to be evaluated on it's own merit, with all the information available to us to make our decision about whether to fly, where to fly and when. Ideally it would be nice to think that the more experience we gain the better we get at making sense of it all and to a certain extent that will be true. But, like a fly on an elephant's back, our view of what is going on is very limited. Early on in our flying career we will rely more on others to help with our decision making which is quite natural. The conversation started by Wayne is an excellent example of collective knowledge being filtered out to the entire flying community. What we do with this information is our choice. Personally I found it useful to learn that others have felt similarily about the recent rough air as it helps me gain more confidence in my own decision making. It is not a reason on it's own why I would not fly but it is something I would certainly take into account.


Another good example of such a conversation can be found on our own forum - see the following thread about flying on Sat April 21 (http://www.dhpc.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=2182). It's quite interesting to read the different viewpoints of the day and decisions made. Though there was general consenus that flying conditions on the day were marginal. Of course, marginal conditions in the UK are not necessarily a reason not to fly. But the very nature of a marginal day is that the day brings with it a smaller margin of safety. So if we do decide to fly on such a day it only makes sense to consciously fly more conservatively than we might on a less marginal day. This can take many forms - scratching a little further out from the hill than normal for example, or having a little more height before going over the back etc. And ultimately it may mean making the decision to land and wait for a while until conditions mellow out a bit, or trying a different site or perhaps calling it a day. All of these options are available to us - it's easy to forget sometimes especially when we see others flying.


So as always, happy flying and keep safe

David May

DHPC Safety Officer.


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