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It is interesting to read this thread and consider the recent PG accident at Marshall. Every pilot is a potential mentor. The first time I flew Crestline I went to AJX and walked it and talked to a number of pilots there. Then I drove to Marshall and looked around. Then I drove to Crestline. Because not being able to see landing from launch was new to me, I set up and then started asking the folks about lift patterns, required glide ratios, bailouts, etc. One of the pilots pointed out Ken and said he was highly experienced, talk to him. I listened to Ken’s advice for about 40 minutes and at that point I decided I had enough preparation. I had a successful, enjoyable first flight. I am a H4, but I didn’t know anything about CL/AJX, why wouldn’t I put the effort into site review?
I would suggest that there were other pilots at Marshall who, if asked by the accident pilot, would have have provided the advice “you haven’t flown for a while, you don’t have a current rating, or USHPA membership, or CSS membership, perhaps your first flight back shouldn’t be in gusty summertime midday conditions and perhaps you should get your memberships in order and follow the site rules when you come back so your return to PG is safe and enjoyable.”
As far as the rules hampering safe operations, as Gary says, data would be needed to reach that conclusion. CSS has a small list of rules that if followed would go a long way to keeping everybody as safe as possible. A small group of pilots, primarily visitors and novice PG pilots, do not want to follow those rules. Would eliminating the rules make everyone safer? Without seeing evidence to the contrary I am staying in favor of having rules.
In the airlines the mantra has changed from “operating safely” to “operating at a risk level that is sufficiently low” because nothing in life is 100% safe. Is HG safe? No, but I can make the risk level acceptably low by being prepared and following rules. Following the few rules that are in place would go a long way to making the risk acceptably low for all involved.