“Instead, if I bring a pilot out there they have to find and pay an instructor multiple hundreds of dollars to observe their flying skills that they have already proven to the instructor who gave them their P2.”
These are just my personal opinions (and maybe I’m wrong), but we have to try to protect our site from unnecessary accidents, and one way to do that is to have our professional local pilot instructors assess a new pilot’s skills. This is not the easiest site to fly and is rated a P3 site for good reason.
Most people are not aware of this, but some instructors elsewhere sign people off with a P2 before those pilots are ready for it, or they sign them off after a bunch of simple training hill flights, or they come from a site that doesn’t have the kind of topography and punchy desert thermals that we have here at AJX. I’ve seen a bunch of visiting P2’s come through over the few years that I’ve been coming to SB, that could barely kite & barely launch themselves off the hill, and the last thing we need is for them to come to our site and get wrecked. After witnessing their kiting and launching skills, many of them could use more training, but they’ve got their P2’s from elsewhere and think they’re set.
I understand the hardship of additional cost of a new site sign-off after having spent thousands of dollars on lessons and gear somewhere else, but their lives and our site are worth the cost. Local instructors need to be paid for their time (they have their own insurance costs to cover), and our site needs to be protected from inexperienced, potentially dangerous pilots. We can’t have them show up and fly without them at least getting a thorough briefing from a highly experienced local pilot first.
Yes, this mentor program sounds interesting, but how do we vet the mentors? Can just any instructor or let’s say P3/P4 pilot come to our site and mentor their students/friends there? I’m sorry to say it, but there are some bad instructors and bad P3/P4 pilots with bad habits out there. At least we know that our local instructors have years of experience flying our site, they have insurance coverage, and they have something to lose if our site gets shut down due to too many accidents. As good as they are at their jobs and as hard as they try to keep their students safe, incidents still happen, so what chance does a freshly minted P2 from a less thermic, less mountainous, less populated site have to stay safe?
Long story short, I wouldn’t want the site rating to change. This place can get crazy no matter what time of year it is. Our local instructors know what skills it takes to fly here, and seeing as their careers depend on it, they can be trusted more than someone who has nothing to lose, to assess these skills properly.