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    David Webb
    General Member

    Y’all are making this safety directory gig a challenge. Another reminder to review the approach patterns into AJX. For the lazy, they can be found here in our AJX site briefing, or you can look at the diagram here:

    It doesn’t matter if you’re being told to launch into conditions you’re not comfortable with, or if you’re being told to land on the wrong side of the LZ. As the pilot, these decisions are YOURS ALONE, and the LZ approach patterns are for EVERYONE’S safety (not just yours). If you or if a more experienced pilot you’re talking to are concerned about avoiding dust devils in the LZ and, as such, are planning to avoid them by landing in another part of the LZ, consider not launching. It’s not worth your life or the safety of your fellow pilots.

    David Webb
    General Member

    Got a good comment and realized I should have included this above:

    Yes – the approach pattern does change throughout the day as the wind clocks around (so adjust accordingly), but the short version of the above stands: if you’re concerned about dust devils in the LZ, strongly consider if you should launch in the first place. Please.

    Bille Floyd
    General Member

    My take on that :

    OK — Ya got some Bad luck here  , and a nice juicy thermal, just got triggered

    from out of the parking lot, by a passing car ; do what-Ever ya need, to fly around

    that thing , and change your strategy, for the next time Ya go flying.


    It’s happened to Me , on both the PG and the Rigid-wing ; i feel Way more trapped

    when it happens on the PG because i got electric wires , guarding my escape

    on the west side . With the HG, i can go East, and figure-8 back when it passes

    or land out in the sticks.


    Don’t Die, trying to stay within the club rules .



    David Webb
    General Member

    Agree completely, Billie – I’d never suggest to not take the safer choice to land if something unforeseen/unexpected happens, but (just my opinion) thought that if you or someone that’s helping you out is concerned about dust devils in the LZ and your plan before you even launch is to just land on the wrong side, maybe that’s not a good time to launch.


    This approach pattern is not going to work for everyone ALL the time, but if you watch the wind socks as you approach (when they’re not pointing at each other) and you’re not landing in the middle of a hot day when dust devils are common, this approach pattern will work great and isn’t a risk of you dying if you use it. It’s the only one I’ve been using since I’ve started flying a PG, and I’ve never had an issue with it. I’m out of the way of hang gliders, I’ve not landed into a dust devil (thus far), and haven’t seen anyone else do so yet with my own eyes.

    Besides, dust devils don’t just stick to the parking lot area, they’re on the grass too, they just don’t have any dust to pick up to make themselves visible. I’ve seen them go all the way over to the hang glider side. You’re not much safer from them over there, but now you just might get in the way of a hang glider.

    Unless you’re great at looking around and making sure no hang gliders are coming in at the same time as you, landing in the hang glider pattern as a PG is asking for problems. There’s a major conflict of speed. HGs are a lot faster than we are, and we can’t get out of their way fast enough. We’ve had way too many of these in the last few months. That’s why the approach pattern keeps coming up. If some of these PGs were good at keeping an eye out, we could easily share the same pattern, but they’re not. They prove it over and over again.

    Alan Crouse
    General Member

    Do we really want the figure 8’s as depicted?  Shouldn’t the PG’s be doing a nice smooth DBF as well?  I have seen a dusty take out a PG low in the area described in the diagram (broken bones).

    Not a PG instructor so others may have better knowledge, but more time at low speed, close to the ground… seems like a not so good idea?




    Airspeed and pattern type (DBF or Figure 8) are unrelated. One can do Figure 8’s while keeping good airspeed and also increase their sink rate compared to a gradual (low roll) DBF pattern. I have seen a few pilots inappropriately apply significant braking while on the downwind phase of their DBF (maybe spooked by the high ground speed). #AirspeedMatters.

    As Jana mentioned, all areas in/around the LZ equally at risk of twisting air (visible dusty or invisible vortex). Lots of dust devils seen at the base of the HG training hill, after that area had recently been resurfaced and dust was available. Then back to more dangerously stealthy, waiting to snag the non-believers.


    Tim Ward
    General Member

    Jana’s absolutely right about there being thermals on both approaches.  There’s just more loose dust on the parking lot side because cars are driving over it.  When I was actively grading the undershoot of the HG side of the LZ, we had some really magnificent dust devils going right up the training hill.

    I also agree with Jerome that airspeed has nothing to do with the approach type of DBF or figure-8.

    It has a *lot* to do with why we separate the patterns, though. Relatively speaking, PGs are slow, HGs are fast.  We try to keep them separate so HGs don’t overtake PGs, and PGs don’t block HGs.

    The other reason for flying an approach pattern is so that people will know your intentions.  An approach is not just flying around randomly until it looks like you’ll impact close to the spot you desire.  We’re a busy site. Other people need to be able to predict where you’re going to go, and have a safe alternative.

    My glider is fluoro red, white, fluoro orange.  It’s bright, and  doesn’t blend in very well.  The last three PGs that have cut me off in the HG approach all said the same thing: “I didn’t see you.”  All three episodes had me losing my altitude off the southeast corner of the LZ before attempting a DBF approach.  I have to assume either they’re not looking, or they don’t recognize the fact that I’m in the pattern.  Which may be why I find it particularly annoying, because I do follow a pattern.

    One thing I don’t understand is why so many people want to lose altitude downwind of the LZ.  That’s just silly. I see PGs dragging  in low from the east all the freaking time.  Why?

    Is there some reason not to stay over the lift-generating hill and conserve altitude until upwind/crosswind from the LZ?

    Here’s my recommendations:

    Blow off your excess altitude crosswind or upwind of the LZ, so you don’t run the risk of not being able to penetrate to the LZ.  Get your initial point altitude for a DBF approach approximately right, fly that making corrections as needed. If you’re still too high, sure, a couple of figure-8s may be necessary, but you should be trying to minimize the time you spend in the low approach area.




    David Webb
    General Member

    Beautifully put, Jana, Jerome, and Tim. You did a much better job of pointing out quite a few important details about the approaches (not just the “what,” but the “why”).


    Here’s an approximate example of what the figure 8 PG approach looks like from the ground. This is Stephen landing with a tandem:


    Sometimes as I come into the pattern still up high, I go past the white fence if I’m a safe distance above the power lines, and sometimes I go a little bit past the house while making my turn if I don’t see anyone coming in to land. It’s not always perfect, but I mostly try to keep it between the white fence and house, in front of all the obstacles. I usually make my final approach from the house to the cone (if nobody is in the way), and I try to be as low as the big pine tree, sometimes a few feet lower, before I head toward the grass. That gets me close to the PG cone pretty much every time, with a good flare and soft landing.

    Alan Crouse
    General Member

    I think I was thrown off by the relatively small 8’s in the diagram.  In Stephen’s great looking approach, he goes east almost to the training hill, expanding the area covered by almost 50%.  In Jana’s description, she mentions going west to the white fence.

    The relatively small 8’s in the diagram seem to imply a rapid maneuver, or lower speed (I think).  Maybe I’m still off base somehow…

    Thank you,


    John Benario
    General Member

    It is a shame that something so basic to aviation safety as approach patterns requires so much debate.  Accident investigations try to determine why an accident happened so future ones can be prevented.  The “problem” with PG pilots cutting off HG pilots on final or PG kiting in the LZ isn’t the approaches or the kiting.  They are the result of the problem.  The “problem” is VFR pilots not following the two basic tenets of VFR: following established procedures and see and avoid.  I have been on final probably 20 seconds behind Tim, his glider is so bright it jumps out at you.  For 3 PG pilots to cut Tim off is astonishing. Equally astonishing is the two PG mid airing over Marshall some months back.  PGs are bright and slow moving.  Tim is bright and faster moving.  All should be easy to identify.  See and avoid.

    The reason the PGs caused so much of an issue at Redlands airport was they did not follow the established procedure of the local traffic pattern.  No pilot can legally go to an uncontrolled airport and just decide not to follow the established pattern that is published in the AFD.  That is a good way to get a letter of investigation from the FAA.  If a CFI allowed a student to do that he would probably get his CFI suspended. (I understand the FAA has no jurisdiction over us, unlike certificated pilots)

    While there are egregious HG pilots out, the current issues seem to be predominantly PG related.  Because of that, let us try to determine why these PG pilots are operating unsafely.  If a PG pilot cuts off a HG pilot on final or gets hit while kiting likely both pilots will be equally dead or injured so it is in all of our interests to make sure everyone is operating safely.

    We, the club, need to determine why this portion of the PG community is operating unsafely and try to change the root cause so that everyone is safer.

    An analysis of PG instruction vs HG instruction may be a good place to start as safety habits are predominantly gained while learning. I have experience as a student in helicopters, airplanes, and HG, and as an instructor and instrument instructor in helicopters, so I have experience from both sides.  There are definite differences in the instructional environment between HG and PG.

    If the club wants to solve this issue and have everyone operate in a safer environment, then we should try to determine the root cause and work together to change it.





    I think I was thrown off by the relatively small 8’s in the diagram. In Stephen’s great looking approach, he goes east almost to the training hill, expanding the area covered by almost 50%. In Jana’s description, she mentions going west to the white fence.

    The 8s look small in the diagram, but actually cover a pretty good area. I’m usually able to stay within it when making my approach. People don’t need to be making perfect 8s, or turn precisely at the edge of the house, just as long as they’re away from the hang glider training hill and approach. I didn’t want to expand the 8s in the diagram, because I didn’t want people to think it’s OK to expand yet more over the HG training hill. There’s a little bit of wiggle room on that side. The other side has power lines, so when low, I wouldn’t recommend going farther beyond the white fence.

    As long as PGs are not flying over the HG training hill and landing on the grass at the base of it, they should be OK. It should be looked at as a ‘guide’ more than a written-in-stone rule. Besides, does nobody else think it’s fun to be able to hit, or at least get close to the PG cone to practice their spot-landings? 😄 That seems a bit tough to do from the HG approach.


    Lots to read here and good stuff. Just want to add that I experienced a little LZ congestion with a PG last Friday. The PG landed very close to the cone we HG pilots aim for. I tried to loiter to give him time to clear, but he was slow and I had to come in. Ended up landing less than 10 yards from him. It all ended well, but I did express my annoyance with choice of landing spots. He was apologetic and asked where he was supposed to go. I asked if he was new and he said this was his first time at our site. I personally can’t imagine flying a new site and not finding out how things work, especially a place as busy as AJX, but that was his story.

    If suppose its possible to miss the notices on the board, not check the website and make assumptions on how things run, so if you’re hosting a newby or see someone new, you might politely ask them if they’re familiar with our site. Assumptions and lais·sez-faire attitudes can ruin your day.

    Alex Cheng
    General Member

    Figure 8s on the approach end, especially over rising terrain is dangerous. If I have to do a figure 8 or S turn on my final approach then I’ve already f*ed up somewhere in the pattern. It’s fine for the more advanced pilots to perform and is good to add to your bag of tricks when there is no traffic, but it is a disservice to teach or encourage low time pilots to use this as a crutch to make up for sloppy pattern work. An example of a “crutch” built into instructions is when a new skier is taught to do a wedge or snowplow, to help them slow down. Then they spend many lessons trying to overcome this bad habit that they acquired. Tim is right that a person behind the landing aircraft needs to have reasonable expectations of what the person in front of them is going to do. Sylmar has a designated staging area to loose altitude before you enter the pattern. All traffic follows the same pattern even in a crosswind. Many incidents have occurred in the past because of pilots maneuvering close to the terrain. Now compound this with multiple traffic maneuvering back and forth on final, all trying to land at the same place.

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