HPAC Safety Advisory – February 2021

News from the Safety Committee

By: Kaylyn Gervais, Co-Chair, HPAC Safety Committee

Hello all, happy winter.

I would start out with a coronavirus joke, but I’d have to wait two weeks to see if you got it. Instead, let us fill your time with thoughts of safe flying. WooHOo! (Honestly, I’d rather be in Chile.)

Regretfully, like many of you, I’ve made the difficult decision to not travel this winter. To those who are bold enough to enjoy the sun, on a beach, with tequila (after significant airtime) please send photos! For the rest of us, enjoying the smooth flying of winter sled runs, we are lucky enough to have some extra time this season. Why not take advantage? The real question is how. Perhaps considering your approach to paragliding and hang gliding safety is an option, and maybe we can help.

The HPAC Safety Committee does an annual summary of all incident/accident forms submitted through the HPAC website. Each spring, we release a summary report. As you can imagine, this takes a while to complete, which means we typically start reviewing in the fall. In 2020, we’ve already noticed two trends for you to consider: tree landings and international incidents will be showcased heavily this spring. Stay tuned. In the meantime, consider these two trends using the three elements of airmanship: the refinement of pilot education, the deliberate use of proper equipment and a better understanding of inherent aerodynamics of para/hang gliding (pilot, gear, environment). Are you prepared?

The Safety Committee will only report on industry best-practices and trends that we identify through reports submitted (or cases that we are made aware of from local authorities). These reports are treated as confidential information (they are only seen by HPAC’s Safety Committee, unless we get permission from the author to share) and are used primarily to learn and prevent future incidents. We would like to remind all pilots that we are using this information carefully and make every effort to promote a culture of safety etiquette while maintaining discretion. This year, we have started sharing a few summarized reports (names/details removed) with current instructors, for their use in-class. A big thank you goes out to these four cases and their authors, for allowing us to share the information widely. We expect that conversations based on current, real-life scenarios will help foster meaningful learning environments.

The off-season is a time when pilots often source learning from in-class instruction, independent learning (there are some awesome resources out there!), tuning engines and/or purchasing gear. We all love gear; when was the last time you took care of yours?

There were many years where I (like many pilots) was overwhelmed with the idea of even looking inside my reserve. Instead, I took advantage of an amazing local school who runs a ‘reserve clinic’ annually – I watched and I learned… and I got very dizzy. Then ate pizza, so, all was forgiven. I am so grateful to the Instructors and many others for taking the time to help me realize the importance of gear maintenance. Do you know anyone near you who runs clinics like this? Feel free to check the HPAC website for an up-to-date list of current Instructors/Schools.

In part because of participating in clinics like these over the years, I now have an annual routine – I do things like check each line diligently, carefully inspect each piece of equipment and repack my reserves. This year, I look forward to a little extra time dedicated to caring for the various pieces of kit; I’m reinventing my deck with a new layout and spending quite a bit of time hanging in my living room. I will be VERY prepared for next season.

The most interesting find for me recently, was a free online course for meteorology through edX.org – thank you XCmag for the recommendation. I religiously read Honza’s articles and still feel like I have so much to discover, let alone implement. I do agree about life-long learning and would love to hear about your favorite resources. On behalf of my Safety Committee Co-Chair Suzanne, I’ll share one of her favorite resources, namely a new-ish series of videos from the Federation Francaise de Vol Libre, available here: https://federation.ffvl.fr/pages/securite-et-technique/tutos-facteurs-non-techniques.

Finally, I would like to introduce a new segment in these newsletters. Following this article, you can find two interviews based on a set of questions (see below) that we want to reuse to interview other pilots in the community. We are looking to hear from you. Who should we interview next? Over the next few months, we hope to showcase all levels of experiences, from pilots of all kinds. Let me know by emailing me with your suggestions (or your completed answers to the Interview Questions) at safety@hpac.ca.

I’ll leave you with this additional question, dear reader – if you had to convince your favorite co-pilot to read only ONE text on paragliding safety (social media included!) what would it be, and when did you last read it? Let us know on our Facebook group site HPAC/ACVL Members.

Happy winter flying!

Kaylyn Gervais, on behalf of the HPAC Safety Committee


    • Pilot Bio: Name, typical /location type of flying, hours, number of different sites, support crew, motivation, goal, 
    • What’s your favorite near-miss, and how did it shape your approach to flying?
    • Take me through your pre-launch routine.
    • What do you do to improve your knowledge base? Who do you learn from? Recommended reads?
    • Let’s talk SIV – who, what, where…
    • What’s the coolest gadget you’ve discovered recently that supports your in-flight awareness?
    • Give us one impactful tip that could improve safety etiquette.
    • What’s the difference between a good pilot and an outstanding one? 
    • Is there anything you would like to share that we haven’t already covered?

Meet Guy Herrington.

He splits his time with 3 seasons in Pemberton BC, and (with a few lucky guests) runs tours in wintertime in Tenancingo del Degollado, Mexico. For those of you who know Valle, it’s just across the volcano with very similar conditions, but a small town, un-touristy feel.

Like most amazing pilots, Guy stopped counting his in-flight-hours when in the thousands, but still flies 200-250 hours per year. He is busy with students at Sea to Sky Paragliding school, tandems between 100 to 300 flights per year, and spends three weeks flying the west coast each way to Mexico and back (at least when pandemics permit). “Running a school is tough…” he notes, “…every instructor needs a few flights to re-connect with the magic.” He has pushed the limits of aggressive cross-country in Pemby and abroad, but has recently found bliss in the average flights of 2 to 2.5 hours. “Passion evolves…” he says humbly “… from super aggressive, big xc flights, to watching and sharing in my students’ successes.”

Guy’s support crew includes his local community, Fly BC (Jim Reich) and Paraglide Canada (Norm Krcmar) and Cayoosh Expeditions (Jim Orava and Corinne Stoltz) as he prioritizes community building, supply lines and communication. He looks to people like Rod Frew, Paul Bunten, Mikey Mann and Tony Evans to promote the lifestyle for his students and to support his tandem requirements. Together, they run a P1 course as a campout long weekend, where much is learned fireside after an already packed ‘long day of experience’. Guy also works with pilots like Randy Parkin and the Mount 7 crew in Golden BC to promote, coordinate and support events like the Canadian Nationals – keeping the lines of communication open, and working to change the sport from hyper-competitive to a healthier and more collaborative environment.

This might be why we get along so well!

“Building community is hard work. Starting as a student, I took it for granted – how much work goes in behind the scenes; like sitting on Boards, getting, and keeping landowner leases, dealing with the complaints.” This is also part of the motivation for Guy, he is always working to better relationship with folks like the Beer Farmers (Miller Farms) for landing zones and develop new (East facing!!!) launches.

Breaking into the tight-knit community of Pemberton was tough at first. “As an outsider, it took years to prove myself. I believe in the community and have worked hard to prove it. After sending big routes (safely), years of getting a school going, shuttle-driving and coordinating two Nationals, I feel well integrated now… but I’m not done…” he says with a smile.

“It’s all about getting new students to understand the value and the etiquette involved. If you had told me, when I started, that I would be doing all of this, I’d tell you that you were insane.” Along with many others, Guy proves that you never know where paragliding will take you.

What’s your favorite near-miss, and how did it shape your approach to flying?

“I don’t know if there’s anything favorite about a miss… nobody likes them. Everybody has them, though.” Guy recalls two in the valley – “one was a reserve toss at tree height in a spin, and the other was an asymmetrical cravat about 30kms back in the Ryan River Watershead, while following Igor.”

Here, I had to laugh… we’ve all tried to follow Igor.

Guy’s advice is to “Write the report, analyze it and discuss it, lots. I still talk about them today. It was one of the scariest moments of my life, that spin, my wing was at the same height as I was, facing the ground at tree height. The reserve worked! It’s never too late to toss… if you’re still in the air, you have time to throw.”  He reiterates the importance of keeping your wits and thinking logically and smoothly. “Don’t overreact” he says, “it’s a balancing act – you have to analyze the situation and respond with equal and opposite force. If you get yanked, you must even it out. If you’ve got height, you’ve got time. Think.”

Most importantly, he says, the lesson is to not be embarrassed but to share the story so others can learn as you do.

Take me through your pre-launch routine.

“Have a system and stick to it.” Guy notes that most instructors promote a similar approach of starting at one end and working it through systematically. “Start at your toes, and work up, count out loud if that’s what works.” He acknowledges that if you change your system, you may change your routine. “There is nothing better than instructing to make sure you’re dialed; we repeat the same steps hundreds of times per year!”. 

Before anything, think. When you arrive on launch, “put the bag down and observe. If the conditions agree with the forecast from the night before, now we can start our pre-flight.” He’s a big advocate for informed flying.

Guy used to provide a weather report in the morning for his students and colleagues, but found they became reliant. “They stopped checking for themselves!” So, he also stopped, and taught the hard truth of learning for yourself as a pilot. He is still present and informed, of course, to confirm and question assumptions. He certainly vocalizes his observations.

“Hey Kaylyn,” he said to me on a particularly tricky comp day, “…hear those trees to the right?” I noted my observation and agreed. “At this site, that typically indicates fun things if you go for it.” He presented the information in a kind and calm manner and was absolutely right.

What do you do to improve your knowledge base? Who do you learn from? Any recommended reads?

“COMPETITIONS!” Guy cannot emphasize enough the value of learning cross-country skills though competitions, save maybe a specific clinic. “There are one hundred birds in the air all trying to do the same thing.” As a student, he would watch and follow, and analyze their decisions. “This doesn’t mean you are going to compete, but if you think about it like going to school, you will learn.”

“In my current state of learning, seeing my students out in front of me, I am always watching and preparing for the debrief. I find I learn so much from new pilots – they are experiencing things for the first time and so excited to talk about it!”

Guy is currently building a YouTube Channel where SeaToSky will host an instructional, online resource – from how to fold your wing, to how to untuck a cravat.

Let’s talk SIV – who, what, where…?

Guy’s a big advocate. “Highly recommended – in the sweet spot between 20-50 hours of flying” but he leaves it up to the student to decide where to go. In Canada, it’s tough because of access, but Guy does recommend going to someone fluent in the material (like Matty Senior or Brad Genushio) rather than someone who does it less often, or even once a year.

What’s the coolest gadget you’ve discovered recently that supports your in-flight awareness?

Guy laughed. “If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m not a techie.” He’s a person who believes in just the opposite – that flying is for disconnecting. “If you don’t know what you’re doing and the gadget breaks… then what?”

We bond on this point. We name-drop a few friends who also believe that ‘naked flying is the only way.’ With no equipment, no beeping or worse yet, no depressing sad-sinking-noises, you can still find the way. “Learn to listen to your wing.”

I am reminded of a mentor from Salt Lake who believes that the wing provides ‘all the knowledge you need’… “It’s just information” is a mantra I repeat often, especially in the spring!

Getting back on track, we note that fine tuning is known to be tricky. Guy likes a good vario that is simple and easy to read, no matter if his current set-up is for hike-and-flies or competition. “A phone is a good back-up, but the glare is tough… I like having a devoted device.”

Give us one impactful tip that could improve safety etiquette.

Including ‘flags’ in your pre-flight preparations. Realizing that there are red flags is important, but deciding what to do with them is key, even if it means you have to break you pre-flight routine. “People go through their whole pre-flight before noticing the dusty on launch.”   

Communication with other pilots is another key. “If there are no locals flying, that’s probably an indication… if I can’t communicate with another pilot, especially at an unfamiliar site, I don’t fly.”

From a Kootenay perspective, I agreed here too. We do not have that many pilots as a community, and so we often end up flying alone. But I can tell you, for sure, if I’m flying alone, there’s at least one other pilot who’s sitting behind his desk, constantly monitoring my flight, if only out of envy. Check-in and -out are an important note for solo flying – find a desk buddy, make them jealous!

What’s the difference between a good pilot and an outstanding one?

“Attitude.” Almost without thinking, Guy replies quickly. “Many, most of the close calls I see are because someone’s either adjusting their camera or equipment right off launch… or they are trying to do something showy. The photos and videos are gorgeous, but people push too hard for them and that’s when mistakes happen.” His rule of thumb? Prioritize your flying and focus on your immediate situation, you’ll have lots of time for photos on the ground or in stable situations that are best well thought out beforehand. Your life is not worth a fancy moment on film.

Is there anything you’d like to share that we haven’t already covered?

Guy’s remaining piece of advice is for pilots to help build the paragliding and hang gliding communities out there. “This can be done in so many ways… invite pilots along on your adventures, join a club and help out Board members when you can. Help coordinate meets, whatever suits you!”. He would also like people to know that he’s always available to chat.

Introducing Keith MacCullough.

Hes been flying with Muller Windsports since 1992, where he learned with Willi and Chris Muller. Keith is actually a Novice Hang Glider as well as a Paragliding Senior Instructor and has been running Mullers Paragliding business since 2007. He’s been teaching for them since 1994.  As an Advanced Pilot, has represented Canada at three Paragliding World Championships and won three Canadian National Championships. Keith averages 100 to 150 hours of airtime per year flying mostly at the training hill in Cochrane AB, towing in the Flatlands as well as spending summers in Golden BC. Keith has travelled the world flying with friends, competing and tries to do two or three big trips every year.

I did quick math – and after almost 30 years of flying, that amounts to roughly 3,500 to 4,000 hours of airtime (not that he still keeps a logbook, unfortunately). This is in addition to the time he spends reading, teaching and working with Research & Development Teams for various factories internationally.

I have some catching up to do.

Keith looks to people like Will Gadd and Chris Santacroce for mentorship and relies on his steady crew of instructors to help build their community; namely Mark, Randy, Rick, Dan and Kyle who recently became a NOVA team pilot. Keith believes that its very important to foster group mentality and camaraderie especially when introducing new students to the paragliding world. He still loves being in the LZ when new pilots land after their first high mountain flight. Their eyeballs are so big!” he says with a laugh. But the real reward,” he continues, is watching pilots make better and better decisions throughout their careers. Watching a pilot recognize that its not their day and drive away from a flying site… thats secretly very fulfilling for me.”

Personally, Keith has very clear goals for his paragliding career. Hes still chasing the elusive 400KM flight in Canada, and a 200KM Out and Return from Golden to Invermere and back.

Lets all hope this next year brings the heat!  (Safely, of course.)

Whats your favourite near-miss, and how did it shape your approach to flying?

We both had a good laugh at this question, as I was there when it happened. We agreed that recovery takes time – major ring-outsoften require patience with yourself as you get back on the proverbial horse. He can laugh about it now. Keith recounts as I remember…

We were all out for an evening session, as the gusts started. For those of you unfamiliar, the Cochrane site is known for its gusts. At this site, 35kms an hour can be a great day for ground handling. The 40-50km/h gusts on the other hand, can be problematic.

One of our colleagues, let’s call him Jack, was at the edge practicing keeping the wing overhead facing forwards, just beside Keith. As Keith does, he got that instinct and yelled for Jack to call it for the day. As Jack lowered his wing, the wind switched 90degrees and Keith skyrocketed straight up a solid 300 feet off the deck, on his brand new demo wing – an EnB that he was trying to test for its first flight.

Keith worked hard and fast to save himself (from the ground he looked like one of those wacky-waving-arm-inflatable-tube-men) as he got pushed backwards diagonally across the next field and touched down softly only to be picked up again and taken further backwards. He mowed the lawn with his teeth for a while (while wearing a full-face helmet thankfully) until he came to a stop after a long drag. Those of us who could, ran over to help. Luckily, Keith was largely unscathed.

Not only did we discuss this event as a group, but Keith spent some time analyzing the situation personally. He recognizes that even when a pilot knows their home site very, very well, instinct plays an important role. Hes still grateful to have been rocket-man for that day, rather than Jack. Some people have lots of dumb luck, with an innate ability to save themselves. Im not one of those people; for me its skills that gets me out of it. I knew I had to keep the wing open, at all costs, and it took every tool in my kit to keep it flying. Someone with fewer tools might not have had the same outcome.”

Of course, as all friends do, he took the opportunity to ask when I had last ground handled… “Practice, Practice, Practice!”

Thanks Coach.

Take me through your pre-launch routine.

The most important part for Keith is watching the conditions. Predictability is key” he says. Keith watches and listens for a minimum of 15 minutes. Hes waiting for a nice thermal set with consistently timed intervals. If its not stable enough to predict, Keith suggests, its not stable enough for wanting to fly in it. Is it FUN flyable?” is his favourite question for students.

If the conditions are good, then Keith begins his set up, including the typical 5-point checks etc.”

What do you do to improve your knowledge base? Who do you learn from? Any recommended reads?

I read everything paragliding related.” Keith replies very quickly. He likes to know what other Instructors are talking about, and how they are talking about it. Everyone explains and understands concepts differently. Everyone has a different way of looking at things.”

I also hang out with pilots better than me: I still compete for that reason.” Keith is constantly looking to further his understanding, and how to best translate it to his students and their probable situations. Some of the information is directly useable, some is funny, some is not. Its important to be yourself – its like a buffet of information, great mentors pick the right stuff at the right time.”

Lets talk SIV – who, what, where…?

100% guaranteed good idea, within year one or two, depending on the student.” Keith recommends heading to an Instructor who teaches SIV more than once a month, and several within a year. They should teach SIV consistently and often. No one in Canada is consistent enough at this time.”

Keith tends to send students to Bozeman Paragliding. Andy Macrae is very calm and professional.”

Whats the coolest gadget youve discovered recently that supports your in-flight awareness?

His new favourite is the Air3 instrument, a Belgian tablet with mapping software that has elevation lines, a Vario built in and a camera. Its beefy, and not cheap, but those elevation lines are really something. And its so clear.”

Give us one impactful tip that could improve safety etiquette.

Keith teaches his students to rely on the collective mentality. He suggests that helping each other has benefits beyond personal improvement. His suggestion is for pilots to take advice without having hurt feelings. Its all information for your encyclopedia. Its the pilotschoice to use the advice or not but listening should make you consider it at the very least.”

Community is very important for Keith and the Muller team. Flying is such a small part of what we do, at our home sites and while visiting others across Canada and internationally. We may not all head to the same bar at the end of the day, but we share rides, hang out together while waiting, sharing information in preparation for the day ahead.” Instruction exemplifies this, as its fundamentally about managing community. We care, otherwise we wouldnt do it.”

Whats the difference between a good pilot and an outstanding one?

The ability to walk away….sometimes not launching is the best skill one can possess .”

Is there anything youd like to share that we havent already covered?

Flying in Canada is tough.

Most of our flying is very rough, on the worlds scale. We have a short season, so if a pilot doesnt travel, that means they also have a very long break in between cross country seasons. We have tricky terrain that varies dramatically. Flying the lee in Lumby is very different than your typical day (if there is such a thing) at Golden for example. Different again from towing in the Prairies… and then we go East, it’s different some more! The learning curve is like a hockey stick, even when transitioning between Canadian sites.”

To this point, Keith reinforces the need for pilots to feel a part of their community, and always make contact with the local community when travelling. The collective mind” he calls it, can raise your attention to conditions of you, your environment and your equipment. Dont fly alone.”

Right.” I rebutted, and we both laughed. Im often flying alone at my home site. Its something I cherish about this sport actually. But, as discussed previously – my ground crew keep careful tabs. Safety first!