Home Forums Safety Andy Jackson Helmet Stickers Reply To: Andy Jackson Helmet Stickers

#10027
Jana Pivkova
Board Member

“Thank you for that information Jana.  I see now why I couldn’t find it. In another thread on this site, I suggested that restrictions on P2 pilots should be relaxed.  My suggestion has not been met with much support but I remain convinced that the current requirements are too strict.”

No problem. We’ll be discussing the current requirements with all of our local instructors and once they’ve come to an agreement on what’s best for both the site and visiting P2 pilot safety, we’ll update the website with new info.

“USHPA has long established requirements for obtaining a P2 rating and any pilot who shows up at AJX with a P2 rating must be presumed to have satisfied all of the requirements for obtaining that rating from a USHPA certified instructor.  They have logged at least 35 flights in which they demonstrated an appropriate landing approach.  They have demonstrated five landings within 25 feet of a target.  There are, of course, many other requirements that have been satisfied by the pilot to obtain the rating.”

You’re right that USHPA has certain requirements for obtaining a P2. They’ve recently made their requirements even more strict, requiring more flights and flying days, and have also updated the P2 written exam.

The problem is that many instructors around the country are far too lenient when giving out P2 ratings. We’ve had new P2 pilots visit our site in hopes of getting signed off to fly, but when they try to demonstrate their kiting, launching and landing skills, many of them are absolutely awful at it. I’ve witnessed this myself and often wonder how in the world they got signed off to fly solo. For this reason it is imperative that we have our own local instructors evaluate a visiting P2’s skills, because we seem to have higher standards.

Compared to other sites, ours is especially thermic most of the year and can prove difficult for some pilots. We have to make sure that we vet every visiting P2 pilot before we set him free. Our local P2s had the pleasure of learning all about the dangers of this site from day one, had proper training and were under instructor supervision for all 35 flights. Visiting P2 pilots are completely unfamiliar in comparison. Some learned to fly at the beach with steady winds and flew off a training hill 35 times. This is not going to prepare them for desert mountain flying.

I fully understand that these are fairly minimal requirements.  But many P2 pilots have done far more than satisfy these minimal requirements.  Many P2 pilots have flown quite a bit and have gained substantial skills including solid thermalling skills.  So we shouldn’t set the standards for flying at AJX based on the lowest possible skill levels of a P2 pilot.

Some visiting P2 pilots do have lots of practice, good skills & instincts, and that will be quickly apparent after they demonstrate them to a local instructor. We can’t simply assume that they’re good to go, we have to make sure for all of our sake.

This brings my arguments for changing the rules directly into the concerns raised in this thread.  When a P2 shows up at AJX, the pilot absolutely needs to have a discussion with an appropriate person regarding the pilot’s ability to safely fly at AJX.  But under the current rules, that person must be a local instructor and that often is not practical and it is expensive, sometimes prohibitively so.

We are extremely lucky to have good instructors with higher standards at AJX, compared to other flying sites. This is a difficult and dangerous site not suited to beginners without supervision. Who is better qualified than a local instructor? They are knowledgeable about the site, they have taught thousands of students on-site, and they are covered by insurance if anything goes wrong. They have to spend time with a new pilot. They’re paying for insurance, for rides, for other paperwork, and of course they need to be compensated for their time like anyone else doing their job. This is an extreme sport after all, and we can’t have random pilots taking on such a responsibility.

I have read multiple comments here that instructors possess superior skills to assess newer pilots’ skill levels and abilities to safely fly the site.  I strongly disagree with that position.  Instructors certainly are highly qualified for that role. But there are many pilots who are not instructors who have hundreds, or even thousands, of hours flying our sites.

Indeed you do not have to be an instructor to be an excellent and highly experienced pilot. However, liability for our site is a huge concern. Just because someone is an experienced and excellent pilot, does not make him the best option for mentoring. Will he or she take full responsibility for someone’s life or injuries, if the new pilot crashes during a mentor-supervised flight? Will the mentor pay for damages to property, if the new pilot crashes under his/her watch? Our instructors are not only very knowledgeable and experienced pilots who are intimately familiar with our site, they are also covered by PASA insurance. It’s a MUST at AJX if you want to teach here.

In 2019, I logged 150 hours of airtime on my paragliders at Marshall, Crestline and Regionals, flying mid-day and evening flights.  I spent about 20 hours on my hang gliders.  I have been flying those sites for more than 20 years.  In the past I have been certified to teach hang gliding and paragliding and served as an Observer under USHPA rules.  I no longer am an instructor.  So I am not sure why I would not be sufficiently qualified to determine whether a P2 pilot can safely fly our sites without supervision. There are many other local pilots who have the same or more experience as I have. So I simply don’t see why the club will not allow such pilots to serve as “mentors” or whatever you want to call them to assist P2 pilots in being able to fly.

It’s pretty simple. No matter how much experience you have, you are not covered by insurance to teach or mentor new pilots at AJX (if they have not yet been signed off to fly there). If you’d like to come out of retirement and obtain PASA insurance in order to be able to teach here, it’s something to consider. Otherwise we should leave it to current local instructors to make these decisions. When they make a mistake, their livelihood is at stake. If the person you are mentoring makes a mistake under your watch, you’re probably not going to want to pay $15,000 for a downed power line, or worse, when he/she crashes into it.

Instructors are often too busy to be available.  I know of one instructor who will not do sign offs for non students so that shrinks the number of available instructors even more.

(I suspect) the reason this instructor has chosen not to do any sign-offs, is because he’s well aware that other instructors around the country have much lower standards, and he’ll have to spend a lot of time with the visiting P2 to get him/her up to acceptable safety standards. He’d rather not deal with that headache, and I can understand this.

Other instructors will do sign-offs, but one must plan ahead of time. If you know you’ll be visiting soon, make an appointment. You could show up and be lucky enough to get some time on the spot, but instructors often try to pair students based on their stages of learning.

It is just my strong opinion that qualified non instructors should be able to work with P2 pilots and sign them off.  The club needs to consider this and address how to determine which pilots are qualified for this role.

Who determines who’s “qualified” and who isn’t? It is my strong opinion that there is just too much liability involved to put something like that to work, as far as site sign-offs are concerned. Once the pilot is signed off by an insured local instructor, you can mentor him/her to your heart’s content. 😉😄

I also strongly disagree that there should be a requirement of 5 flights from our sites before a P2 can be signed off to fly without supervision. This goes back to my earlier statements regarding the greatly varied experience level of P2 pilots.  If a P2 has extensive mountain flying experience and thermal flying, and demonstrates that skill in one or two flights from Marshall, it is simply ridiculous to require the pilot to have 5 supervised flights. Of course, a brand new P2 without mountain experience may need many more supervised flights.  Each case must be decided by the supervising instructor or mentor. One size never fits all.”

We will discuss this with all of our instructors, and we may leave it up to them to decide how many supervised flights a visiting P2 pilot requires before they are signed off to fly our site. They might come up with a set number, or maybe it will be at their own personal discretion. Some visitors are more skilled than others, and that might become apparent sooner than five flights. We’ll let everyone know what the consensus is, once it is reached.

I agree with everyone who has mentioned how “spicy” our sites can be in summer conditions. I have many mid day summer hours on hang gliders and paragliders on our sites and have experienced the good, bad and ugly of those conditions. So most P2s should be very limited to flying anything other than early and late.”

That is exactly why we can’t trust just any P2 visitor to go straight up to launch.

“But as strong as our mid day conditions are, our sites offer nearly perfect opportunities for new pilots who fly early and late. The risks during such hours are about as minimal as you can get for our sport.”

That’s not always true. I’ve had some kooky flights late in the evening. I’ve also driven down from launch late afternoon/close to sunset due to very gusty conditions that never let up, while a few others launched into them. It really depends on the weather and season.

“I have flown around the US and around the world and I often tell AJX pilots who fly mainly locally that they just can’t appreciate how wonderful the sites at AJX are. Each launch is excellent, not filled with rocks, cactus, cliffs, etc., etc. The LZ is covered in grass and slopes uphill and has an overshoot LZ below it. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

That’s exactly why we need to protect AJX from mishaps and why we need to vet new pilots! It’s such a great place to fly with such an amazing (albeit nutty) community. It would be awful if we had to shut it down due to too many accidents and chaos. This is why it’s so important to discuss, respect and follow the rules. We have to police ourselves to keep it alive as long as possible.

“At the end of each day, you can almost bet your last dollar on having smooth winds in the LZ from the south, southwest, or west. There are some obstacles not far from the LZ but in smooth early and late air, they pose minimal risks to a qualified P2 pilot.”

-Qualified- key word. We need someone knowledgeable to assess their skills first. Can’t just take their word for it, because there are a surprising number of pilots who grossly overstate their flying skills! 😂

David, you said that the instructors will get together and decide what should be required for supervision of P2s before sign off. I disagree that our rules should be set by instructors alone. This is a membership organization and all members who so desire should be involved in any such decisions. Rules are easier to accept when they are voted on by members.

If you don’t trust the local instructors to make the right decisions, the very people who’s jobs and livelihood depend on producing quality pilots with minimal incidents, who can you trust? Most of the pilots who fly at AJX have been taught by said instructors!

So those are some of my thoughts. None of this really has much of an impact on my life. I live in Albuquerque but own a cabin in Crestline so I come out about one week every 4 to 6 weeks to get some serious airtime. I can fly our sites anytime I want since I have been actively flying since 1980 and have advanced ratings in PG and HG. I have no financial interest in any of this. But I have never forgotten the excitement of getting started in flying hang gliders first and paragliders later while also remembering the frustrations associated with advancing my skills. AJX offers nearly perfect facilities for helping new pilots advance safely and without so much frustration. Non local pilots should be encouraged to come and utilize our sites for that purpose.”

Non-local pilots are encouraged to come fly our site if that’s what they want. We love getting visitors, but we want to make sure that everyone is safe in the air. We want to know who we are flying with and that they know our rules. Not only that, we want to prevent unnecessary accidents. We just had a visiting pilot absolutely wreck himself. It’s a miracle that he’s still breathing. That’s what we’re trying to stop from happening. Our site is amazing, but also with a LOT of dangers.

“I am confident that all of this can be done without any lack of safety or risk to our pilots or sites.  I also am absolutely willing to help P2 pilots or any other pilots who need some assistance or mentoring. My only goal has always been for every flight for every pilot to result in a fun, safe flight. But sometimes rules that are too restrictive can actually lead to other outcomes. Let’s not let that happen.”

Some people think the rules are restrictive, and others think they’re just right. We have to protect ourselves, our visitors, and our flying site. We have USHPA to answer to these days and our continued existence depends on them being able to insure us. It shouldn’t be hard to understand.

Anyone who doesn’t want to spend the extra $$ to get signed off to fly at AJX, can in the meantime fly a P2 site elsewhere until they have enough flights, hours and experience to earn their P3. At that point they are able to fly our site unrestricted.