July 12, 2020 at 8:28 AM #9548
Alex – the figure 8’s are part of the PG pattern, and this established pattern goes to what Tim said about reasonable expectations of what the other pilots in the air are doing – this pattern is on our site briefings, should be getting taught to all students, and should be described anytime you’re giving a visiting pilot an in-person site briefing.
Not sure if you fly HG or PG, but PGs can’t nose down to lose altitude (not in a meaningful way, anyway – we’re not talking about speedbar or rapid descent techniques, as those are not advised close to the ground). We get “bumped” all the time, since thermals tend to kick off all over the LZ and especially in the approach area. The “box” that’s formed by the fence, the house, and the road give the PGs a safe area to perform sweeping turns (figure 8s) as they bring themselves down to the proper height to make their final approach to land. This is not a crutch but a simple and safe way of dealing with the reality of our wings and the weather.July 13, 2020 at 2:51 AM #9562Alex ChengParticipant
Yes, I know that figure 8s is the established pattern. The question is why? That’s the point of my last post. Why are we advocating tight maneuvers with multiple crossing flight paths all the way to short final? Why is this done close to rising terrain in a “box” that has a high probability of being congested? Yes, turbulence may be abundant, especially in the approach area, so why would you want to meander about and spend any more time than you have to in said area? It seems that Mr. Crouse was also bewildered by the pattern as depicted in the original post.
You can vary the glide between both PG and HG within certain limits, but no, you cannot simply nose a HG down to lose altitude, especially high performance gliders. You will just trade altitude for energy. The difference between HG and PG is moot because if we all stay in the appropriate side of the pattern, we are going to be flying with like wings with similar performance. It is your buddies that you have to deal with. What are you going to do when the sky shuts down and everybody shows up at in the same area at the same altitude? What if all they know is to do figure 8s inside the box, because that’s all they’re taught? Add a out of town pilot into the mix, who disregards the rules, and you have a high potential for disaster. I’ve seen too many pilots injure themselves over the years in that area to remain silent. Figure 8s going into final are not appropriate for this site. The reality of the matter is, people are going to fly poorly and make mistakes. Why not give them an advantage and teach them a superior, and safer way to land from the start? And as I said before, if they are teaching students to rely on figure 8s to lose altitude because of sloppy pattern discipline, it becomes a crutch.July 13, 2020 at 10:36 AM #9567Jana PivkovaParticipant
Just out of curiosity, how often do you fly at AJX and what pattern would you suggest we use for PGs that (in your opinion) would be safer to use with power lines, trees, houses & hang gliders present? Did you watch the video of Stephen’s tandem landing using the approximate pattern? We’re not doing figure 8’s low over the ground. We do them high up, and then bring it in to the grass when we’re about as high as the pine tree that’s by the house.
We’re all open to better ideas, but this has been working out just fine for most of us even with traffic. It’s not very often that we have more than two people coming in to land at about the same time. It’s quite rare and has only happened to me once or twice at the end of the day. When it did, we saw each other, we gave each other room and landed without problems using the figure 8’s. If we don’t have a preferred pattern, how do we all stay predictable to other pilots?
The good news is that the BOD is working on a video that will demonstrate & explain both the HG and PG approach. Hopefully that will help new and visiting pilots better understand why we do what we do at AJX.July 13, 2020 at 11:22 AM #9573John BenarioParticipant
I don’t fly PG, so I am only speaking from observation, but in Jana’s video of Stephen landing there is nothing that looks unsafe. Quite the opposite, Stephen’s approach looks quite safe, as it should because he is an excellent pilot.
Certainly more safe than cutting a HG off when the HG is doing 35/40 MPH and risking both pilots lives’. Perhaps Jana could get Stephen to give his take on the specified pattern as he is an instructor and is teaching students that pattern.July 13, 2020 at 12:06 PM #9575Jana PivkovaParticipant
Thanks John! I asked Stephen and Dan for advice before putting the diagram together. I made changes to it a few times before we finally posted it online, and Jordan helped me refine it by bringing the figure 8’s closer to the grass so that people aren’t losing altitude low over the house.
Stephen taught me how to fly and I watch him teaching new people all the time. He’s always asking us to make our turns between the house and the white fence, so that we don’t stray too far toward the hang glider approach, or into the power lines located just past the white fence. I don’t always get the turns perfect, nobody is expected to do that, but I definitely do my best to make my turn before the hang glider hill so that there’s no risk of collision.July 15, 2020 at 12:37 AM #9595Darren DixParticipant
I’ve been called out as a new paraglider pilot a couple of times for being in the hang glider landing zone, and I have to say, I totally get the point(s) of how it’s supposed to be done.
I have flown private airplanes, as has my family for 3 generations, and with that type of aviation, there is a control tower watching everything. (which sometimes I think there should be at Andy Jackson!)
At Andy Jackson, there is no control tower, there is no touch and go’s (except sometimes), there is no go back around.
Hang gliders come in hot at much higher speeds than paragliders. It is potentially very obviously more difficult, committed, and more dangerous to land a hang glider than a paraglider (depending on wind speed).
The potential for a landing paraglider pilot to not see a hang glider on final approach is quite extreme. I have had it happen 2 times in my only 18 paraglider flights. That’s unacceptable.
THEREFORE– I agree and understand 100% WHY paraglider pilots need to come in over the hang glider bunny or to the right,and NEVER in the airspace of an unexpected hang glider. This can easily be the most dangerous situation of all because there is no recovery from an unexpected incident at low altitude on landing. We don’t need broken backs!!
I repeat, there is no control tower. This needs to be followed religiously. I have been guilty of it myself, so I ain’t no preach, I’m just saying I get it.July 15, 2020 at 12:59 AM #9596Darren DixParticipant
I have to say even as a total beginner that 180 degree turns, maybe a little more than than just to stay behind the landing zone not only keeps you into the wind (and those over 180 degree turns are necessary to stay out of the hang glider landing zone). I have been warned about 360 degree turns on landing. It’s obvious now. those figure 8’s can lead to not seeing an approaching hang glider or even an approaching paraglider. It’s essential to definitely see other gliders on final approach.July 15, 2020 at 8:05 AM #9597Tim WardParticipant
The vast majority of airports don’t have a tower. There may be a CTAF to announce your presence and intentions, but there’s no requirement to have a radio or use one if you have it, and making an announcement doesn’t give you any sort of right-of-way.
But they do have traffic patterns.
The reason for the traffic pattern is so that people are in predictable places, even in the absence of a tower or a radio announcement.
It’s not obvious to me how turns keep you from seeing other traffic, especially from vehicles with as unobstructed a view as hang gliders and paragliders.
I suspect that in many cases, PGs just aren’t looking for/don’t recognize the consequences of a hang glider descending on the southeast corner of the LZ. That guy that’s “way out there” and “not a factor” will shortly be going downwind at above average speeds. That’s not to spite you. That’s the accepted pattern.
I’d also like to point out that the landing pattern is not the place to extend your flight duration. This is true for both HGs that circle directly over the northeast corner of the LZ instead of losing altitude somewhere near the southeast corner as well as the PGs that feel duty-bound to eke every last second of flight out of the light lift over the HG training hill. Land. Getting vertical separation from other people so you’re not landing at the same time is probably another conversation, but that should have been done earlier.July 15, 2020 at 8:47 AM #9598
All great points, Tim. Regardless of wing type, I think we can all agree on:
- Always clear your turns! ESPECIALLY when you’re in the approach pattern and ESPECIALLY late in the day when lots of pilots are coming into AJX, your head should be on a swivel.
- If you’re not comfortable with a crowded approach, consider postponing your launch until the air traffic clears up a bit, or (if conditions and your skills are good), stay up and away from the pattern until it thins out before making your approach.
- The approach pattern is DEFINITELY NOT the place to get more air time. Once you’re in it, you should approach and land as efficiently as possible. Not sure if this is the preferred spot, but if I get close and I’m either too high or still encountering lift, I’ll move into the clear area northwest of the LZ and west of the powerlines to burn altitude, as that tends to be upwind of the LZ late in the day (making it easy to move into the pattern once I’ve gotten down a bit). Also, if the pattern all of a sudden becomes mobbed with pilots, I can easily aim for the bailout on the SW corner.
We have an established traffic pattern, which creates expectations for all of us (we expect the HGs to be generally on the East side, and the PGs to generally be on the West). This isn’t really up for debate. I’m a somewhat greener pilot, but I don’t see how the approaches could be modified to make them more efficient or safe. We have to work with the terrain and weather features that we have and stick to the well-established pattern – it’s when pilots “go rogue” that we have problems. Would be like if I decided one day to start driving on the other side of the road because I thought the Brits were onto something great. Crashes would happen.July 15, 2020 at 9:07 AM #9600Tim WardParticipant
The original scheme , as I recall it, was for PGs to fly the mirror image of the HG approach.
In both approaches, during the middle of the day, there can be significant lift, so by the time you get to where you’d like to make your turn on to base, you’re a high. So sometimes it would be necessary to fly a small number of figure 8s instead of just a base leg. On the HG side, one day I had to go out and start the approach over again from a lower altitude twice.
Somehow, in the PG pattern this has morphed into only doing figure 8s in the area defined by the Cross-Country Ranch. I don’t fly PGs, so I can’t say whether this is easy or hard. I do think if there was some initial control point upwind and away from the hill that was routinely rounded before going back downwind to do any remaining figure 8s then pilots wouldn’t come in as low over the trees. I’ve watch Dusty make approaches like this any number of times.July 15, 2020 at 10:49 AM #9603John BenarioParticipant
A couple more comments. Darren is a new pilot who is fresh off instruction. How is it his instructor didn’t ensure with 100% certainty that Darren, HIS responsibility as one of his students, was not fully aware of the site rules before allowing him to go solo? One would expect that a new student would be the most aware of rules because the learning process is so recent.
Secondly, as David reiterates, the approach patterns are the rules for our sandbox. If you don’t want to play by the rules you are always welcome to go to another sandbox. The Sylmar website states that you are not allowed to fly over the neighborhoods. That is their rule. You must abide.
The approach patterns are part of our rules. You don’t want to abide by them, go to Sylmar and work on abiding by their rules. Think of the rules as our version of the FARs.July 27, 2020 at 7:10 PM #9734
Request for everyone: say hi to pilots you don’t recognize. I’m a shy introvert, but usually just doing that is enough to get pilots talking and also makes learning that they are new to the site very quick and easy. A quick briefing on the area and the AJX approach pattern, I think, would reduce a lot of trouble and danger with out of towners, and also have them walk away with a much more memorable (in a good way) flight.
We just had some HG pilots visiting this weekend that could have had a much better time for themselves and other pilots in the air if they had bothered to look at the site guidelines (one nearly clipped a PG doing figure eights in the PG approach and another overshot and landed in the bushes), so for those folks (since we can’t make everyone do their homework), an unsolicited in-person briefing would go a long way.
We will also be making some adjustments to some of the pages on the site (home page and the “Join” page) to make skipping over the approach pattern info a bit harder.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
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