Paragliding Day 53

I arrived at FPS ~0900 hoping to snag a flight or two before an 1100 call. As I zipped past the lower parking lot I saw a forlorn-looking sunk-out pilot, jammed on the brakes, rolled down all the windows, told him to hop in, then shivered my way to the top (my extra layers were in my harness which was packed with my wing owing to last night’s northside hike-out).

At the top the wind hovered on the edge of manageable so I walked down to the far end which offers open field versus a lot full of cars lest I struggle and get dragged. I’ve had the “cheap lesson” of wrapping my wing over a couple of cars and don’t care to tempt fate thus again. As I got into position near the lip I sensed that the wind had strengthened further, saw 12G14, gave things a minute, then saw 13G15, and so began hiking down the hill to find a location of sufficiently attenuated wind that launching would not seem foolhardy. Other pilots of greater skill, meanwhile, soared the ridge tantalizingly.

I hiked down far enough that the wind did not seem crazy, unpacked my wing, walked my harness downhill, straightened out the lines, then… sensed that the wind was uncomfortably strong. I grabbed the lines near the wing, walked farther downhill, then walked the harness downhill, had a mind to set up, then… again found the wind worrisome. I repeated this process twice more before feeling like strapping into my harness was not folly. As I ran my safety check, to my chagrin I noticed the sheath on one of the brake cables had broken open, something I had not observed upon yesterday’s launch, and so likely not an immediate issue, but certainly indicative of a timely repair being wise. Then when I tugged the As to build a wall I found one set of risers evincing a worrisome twist. I also sensed that the wind was getting stronger. Ugh. I jogged rightward and uphill to depower the wing, put a knee on the right wingtip to ensure it stayed depowered, and then unclipped the wing from my hardness. Damn it. I took off my harness, pulled out the sack, stuffed the wing into it, hiked back up to my car, then went home.

Aviation accidents tend to happen not because one thing went wrong but rather several simultaneously. When several things thus go wrong almost always circumstances stem from multiple mistakes happening in concert. More often than not this owes to pilot stubbornness, a refusal to adapt in the face of evolving circumstances and awareness, regularly accompanied by inadequate training.

Perhaps in a nearby timeline of our multiverse I ignored all these signals because I allowed an over-eagerness to fly to dominate. I chose to inflate, the riser twist proved consequential, the wind gusted at just the wrong moment, I got popped off the hill unexpectedly with weird loading and compromised control, the brake line snapped, I had too little time to grab the rears to steer, I slammed into the ground, and broke a leg.

But not in this timeline. In this one I said “gaaaaahhhhh, fuck this shit!”, packed it up, went home, had a fun 90 minute introductory call with a friend-of-a-friend, ate a tasty lunch, went for a good afternoon’s skiing, enjoyed the sunset on the drive down, then wrote this journal entry while fending off aggressively cuddly cats and enjoying a vodka-and-tonic.

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