Attitudes towards Paragliding Safety.

Judith Mole provides a great podcast on Safety – human factors, simulation, training, mindset, and the need for candid discussion/examination of issues regarding it.

Part of the discussion brings up the idea of the ‘snuff list’ – an informal list of pilots who are likely going to hurt/kill themselves that is shared word of mouth. Invariably this list gets around and often draws the attention of the list-ees themselves.

The outcome of this attention can vary depending on the attitude of the pilot with respect to safety. Two cases from my personal experience:

There was one particular recent graduate that demonstrated an above average aptitude for the sport of skydiving and was quickly racking up jump numbers. Come the halfway point into the season, they noticed fewer and fewer folk available to jump with them. When they commented on this to our group, one of the more seasoned jumpers pulled them aside and explained the situation -> the jumper had gained a reputation for being reckless and was becoming known as ‘bounce bait’. No one wanted to jump with them for fear of getting hurt (or killed).

Fast forward to more recent years. It was getting late in the flying season and the days were becoming stable. Anyone out before early afternoon would only find sled runs -> which was perfect for me as I needed the quick turn around of top to bottom to get the flight numbers up for a rating upgrade planned in the new year. These conditions were also ideal for new pilots, still getting comfortable with their wings in calm conditions. After one such sled run, I was packed up in the LZ awaiting a ride back up when I see a wing snapping off relatively moderate wing overs just above the tree height. I recognize the low experience pilot based on the wing make and give a ‘you gotta be kidding me’ look to a pilot nearby. An exasperated shrug is the reply. Upon landing I approach the pilot and make an uncharacteristically tactful comment regarding the wisdom of low wing overs. The nearby pilot in the LZ also expresses his concern.

As for the jumper: The candid discussion struck a chord with the jumper and brought about a rather quick change in attitude -> the seasoned jumper invited them to begin working with our group to help get them squared away (we had a motto of ‘If you are new and too dangerous to jump with others – come talk to us’). By the end of the season they turned out to be a rather skilled and safe skydiver.

As for the pilot: Our concerns were brushed off. A year later….

I once commented to a fellow PG pilot, if my experience jumping is any indication, in time you will come to pick your friends based on the likelihood of them still being alive next year. A persons attitude regarding safety is a huge factor in that selection.

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