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    I am going to focus on P2 pilots but the same may need to be considered for H2 pilots.  We are having a lot of issues with P2 pilots launching and flying in violation of the CSS rules.  I have reviewed the CSS rules and the USHPA requirements for obtaining a P2 rating and I think the club needs to reconsider what I consider to be overly restrictive rules for P2 pilots.  To obtain a P2, a pilot must, along with many other things, log a minimum of 35 flights with a required ability to demonstrate an appropriate landing approach with the canopy lowered to the ground between each flight.  They must log a minimum of 7 flying days.  They must demonstrate symmetric and asymmetric tip folds for increased descent rate.  They must demonstrate 5 landings within 25 feet of a target in a location that requires sufficient altitude to require the pilot to set up an approach to avoid overshooting the spot.

    I strongly believe that a pilot who has achieved these requirements and obtained a P2 rating should be allowed to fly from some CSS launches other then the training hills without the supervision of a LOCAL instructor or sign off by a LOCAL instructor.   Limitations should remain as to the hours during the day when such flights could be made.

    The 750 would, of course, be the most reasonable launch to open up to P2 pilots without local supervision or signoff.  What’s the argument that a P2 pilot is not capable of flying safely from the 750?  It’s often difficult, expensive, and can be very frustrating to newer pilots to have to find a local instructor who is available and willing to provide the required supervision or sign off.  I know that at least one prominent local PG instructor will not give such sign offs to those who were not his students.  We need to have a discussion about eliminating this road block to progression by P2 pilots.  Doing so may greatly reduce the number of P2 pilots who are now flying in violation of the CSS rules.

    David Webb
    General Member

    I’m a green P3, and not an expert on USHPA regs or how they rate sites, but I’ll take a stab at this. Hopefully, someone more knowledgeable will jump in here.

    Marshall and Crestline are both, by definition, P3 launches, since you can’t see the LZ, so it seems like any attempt to classify those for unrestricted P2 use would be out.

    Seems like one could make an argument for the 750 (to remove the sign off requirement, it seems like it would have to be re-rated as a P2 launch). However, the scenario I’m thinking of would be a visiting P2 showing up, seeing that the 750 is a P2 launch (so they might assume that the launch, approach, and LZ are simple and good for beginners), and launching at noon to get some flights in. We all know that the entire area around the 750, the approach, and the LZ are pretty thermic midday, but the visiting pilot probably wouldn’t. We’re already seeing that visitors are just showing up and flying without reading the site briefings or asking for a site intro from the locals. Maybe the only thing that they know about the site before they fly is what it’s rated.

    The site sign-off issue, I know, is a hot topic at the moment (between instructors, students, and even USHPA/RRG), but to me, I think it’s a great way for pilots who have been learning and flying at our site for some time to be able to get more flights and experience under their belts. I think more advanced pilots or instructors would have more to say about how they feel about P2s having free run of a launch and the LZ.

    As for the standing issue of pilots violating the CSS rules – just about every case I’ve seen so far have been pilots that know the rules (and knowingly break them) going up to Crestline and launching. As said before, Crestline is, by definition, a P3 launch. They could have very easily chosen Marshall or the 750 to get more flights in (as some of the violators already had a site sign off) but they chose not to. Clear that in these cases, giving them more options wouldn’t have made any difference.

    Just my 2 cents.


    About the P2 requirements. The required flight count for P2 has been going up, and I believe it is due to inequalities of training sites. One can choose to train at a glorified training hill (200-300′) and obtain a P2 just from flying there, so the requirements had to be raised for them. Some P2 pilots from elsewhere arrive at our lowest PG launch and find it high. 35 flights at our site has a lot more value than some other sites. I have been pointing this out to USHPA, but it remains a core problem.

    About using the 750′ launch instead of Marshall for a new pilot. The 750′ launch is more demanding than Marshall launch, due to its flat-to-sloped shape, smaller area, terrain bump in front/right. For a new PG pilot, launching is the biggest challenge, so the 750′ does not help in this regard. Also, late afternoon the typical wind direction (more Westerly) further increases the challenge of using the 750′, which receives it as a cross-wind. The main advantages of the 750′ launch are: Quicker turn-around for increasing flight count and practicing landing approaches, usable earlier in the morning as Marshall often has an Easterly (cross-wind) breeze until about 4 hours after sunrise. No safety benefit to do unsupervised flights from the 750′, compared to Marshall.


    I live primarily in Albuquerque but come out to my cabin in Crestline every 4 to 6 weeks.  In New Mexico, training hill sites are virtually non-existent.  Our only instructor teaches by towing and once or twice a year takes students to the Craters in Arizona for some foot launch experience.  The newer pilots have almost no good sites for practicing their first higher flights.  Thus we lose most of our pilots due to their inability to find places to hone their skills and become real pilots.  I encourage our newer pilots to go to places like Marshall to get airtime but I can’t mentor them there because I am not a local instructor.  I’m not an instructor at all anymore but I have been flying hang gliders for 40 years and paragliders for 20 years.  But I have at least 25 years of experience flying Crestline/Marshall.  So I can’t mentor newer pilots there.  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.    Seems excessive to me.  USHPA has always encouraged mentors so let’s let pilots with massive amounts of experience provide guidance to our newer pilots.

    David, regarding some of your concerns, I think P2s should be limited to flying during early morning and late afternoon, not mid-day in summer.  Such conditions clearly are appropriate for P2 pilots in almost all circumstances.  Isn’t the LZ visible from the hang glider launch?  If so, the P2 could launch down there and be in full compliance with the USHPA limitations for P2 pilots.  I actually prefer to launch my paraglider down there rather than in the dirt up at the parking area.   The LZ certainly is visible from Regionals.

    My thoughts on this aren’t focused just on reducing the number of rule breaking P2s.  I just strongly believe that the 750 and maybe Regionals and Marshall launches should be open to P2s early and late in the day.  We are very lucky to have good launches and a big excellent LZ that late in the day almost always has a smooth consistent wind that will be from the south or west or somewhere inbetween.  You should see what we have in our area for pilots to launch from and land on–small spots with cactus, rocks and shifting winds.  This issue needs to be strongly considered by the club.

    Gary Anderson
    General Member

    Rule change: not so fast

    Before considering a rule change I’d like to better understand how the P1, P2 and H2 pilots are doing here at AJX/Crestline. Many of us have real concerns with novice pilots because of the perception that they do not appreciate the “power” of the weather and therefore ignore rules on safe flying conditions for their level of experience. We have the impression that novice pilots do not appreciate the performance differences between HGs and PGs and willfully ignore approach patterns.

    Novice pilots are not restricted because they lack flying skills. Novice pilot are restricted because they lack the experience that is the basis for sound decision making. On any given weekend afternoon we can have 20 pilots scratching within 1/4 mile of AJX.  How many novice pilots are ready to navigate that scenario? Based on the current perceptions, they are not ready for that scenario.

    Perceptions are not good enough. Our local instructors train a lot of new pilots and CSS is in a unique position to understand how well the low hour pilot community is doing and how well CSS and our instructors are managing that community. It’s time we start collecting and assessing that data so we can make informed decisions.



    I agree with everything Gary said.  I get the hell away from Marshall launch area when the 5 o’clock crowd shows up.  I had one really near miss on a mid air there with a low airtime pilot who had no clue what he was doing and there are plenty of other areas providing good life.

    But regarding my suggestions about p2 restrictions, I think something that would be helpful would be to encourage an official or unofficial mentoring program for P2 pilots.  P3 and P4 pilots who are experiences with flying at Marshall could provide much needed advice and guidance to the newer pilots.  It doesn’t need to come from instructors.  I am certain that cost alone prevents many newer pilots from having instructors present to provide guidance.  And even if the P2 pilot gets a local instructor to sign them off to fly unsupervised, it would still be very valuable to have mentors there telling them that launching at 4 pm into 16 gusting to 21 in summertime isn’t a good idea.  I enjoy helping newer pilots progress in part to due self preservation by having better prepared and experienced flying around me.  I believe that the current rules actually hamper safe development.  This is a for what it’s worth opinion from me but I would like for others to give this some thought and input here or to club officers who could consider some reasonable changes.

    John Benario
    General Member

    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.



    Our New England club dealt with the challenge of building P2 experience at our P3 and P4 sites by using site-specific mentors in addition to local instructors. The mentors could only supervise 1 or 2 pilots (depending on the site). This made a positive impact on the ability for newer pilots to get airtime and useful knowledge about sites, as well as reducing some of the accidents/incidents. Not a perfect system, but a good one.

    Marc Deschenes
    General Member

    Years ago, I saw a glider on Kagel launch sporting streamers. Come to find out, the pilot was attempting his first flight in soaring conditions. The streamers were a warning that the pilot was a newbie.

    Didn’t see streamers used very often back then, but when I did the message was clear and I kept my distance.

    Removed at the discretion of the instructor, streamers may be a good idea for fledgling pilots at AJX.

    Sent from my iPad


    Streamers are an idea, but to be honest, I’ve seen P3 pilots crash into each other and they wouldn’t have had streamers. It’s a good idea to stay away from other pilots at all times, no matter what their ratings are. I just assume none of the pilots see me, and I fly away from people. You want my thermal that bad? Take it, it’s not worth fighting over.

    The only people I will fly closer to are those that I agreed to fly with that day. We both know each other, we know we’ll get a little closer, but even then I’ll steer away if they get too close for comfort.


    I definitely am not advocating eliminating rules for P2 pilots.  My basic recommendation is to allow P2 pilots to fly everything up to Marshall before 10 am and after 6 pm in the summer months without instructor supervision or instructor clearance.  To address the requirement of seeing the LZ from launch, at Marshall they can launch down near the HG launch where the LZ can be seen.  Their P2 should allow them to do that with nothing further required.  Appropriate hours should be determined for such flights in non summer months.  Allow them to get the airtime they need to become better pilots.


    Reading some of the comments here, suggests that some are not aware of the available P2 signoff: CSS Paraglider Novice Sign Off. It covers things like time of day to fly, and use of a streamer. This process allows a local instructor to issue the signoff, after which the P2 pilot can fly unsupervised from Marshall or the 750, ahead of the general P3 requirement. The P2 pilot may have learned at the site from the start, or learned elsewhere and then work with a local instructor to achieve it: Like a “site tune up”.

    For the “P2 from elsewhere” pilot, yes he will cough up a bit of money, for learning what is special about this flying site and adjust his skills to match. Our thermal flying site’s challenge isn’t really about our nice launches or LZ, but more about choosing the right conditions to fly, and being able to predict the air you are about to launch into, before you leave the ground. Our local instructors are best suited to establish the knowledge and skill gap to cover on a case-by-case basis. If our P2 guy has awesome launching and landing skills (as most proclaim), then the adjustment and corresponding fee charged by the instructor will be minimal. If more improvement is needed, the P2 pilot will learn what is needed and compensate accordingly for the time and effort of instruction. This system is a good compromise to insure that those who fly our site have the basic tools to do so, to minimize the risk  to themselves and the site. Experience has shown that some of the worst damage done to a flying site, is by visitors who then leave their mess behind.

    Beyond the signoff, there is much more to be learned, and at that point the P2+signoff pilot should seek a mentor or trusted friend to keep enjoy flying the site and continue improving his skills. For best results, treat your mentor well.

    John Benario
    General Member

    Edit – was writing what Jérôme just explained.

    I heard a comment that a particular instructor will not utilize sign offs.  If that is the case perhaps not the best instructor for a given individual.  Choose another instructor who will offer sign offs appropriate to skill level.  Personally I agree with the concept of sign offs.  As a helicopter CFI it was up to me when to solo a student.  Some were skilled and safe at 8 hours.  Others at 20 hours.  Overall it sounds like a disagreement with an instructor, not a reason to change safety rules.  If a student has not been given a sign off it may be that his instructor is erring on the side of safety until the student has shown more improvement.





    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.


    David Webb
    General Member


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