Saturday 26 May 2012

Whether or not...

If there's one thing that preoccupies paraglider pilots it's the gift that keeps on giving; the endless conversational smorgasbord that is the weather. Yes folks, not only can we bore for Britain about being 'aviators' we can also do your head in with  mutterings about microclimates, frontal systems, convergence, inversions, convectivity and cloud tops. We have, indeed, looked at clouds that way.

Find a group of plots on the hill and listen in - they'll be easy to spot, huddled together, slowly advancing towards hypothermia and jabbering away about this cloud or that cloud; about whether it's going to get windier or whether grey, orographic whispiness will develop. They'll point at the sky and consider the implications of ice formations at 35,000 feet and they'll look far out to sea to try and read the wind in the waves.

Sometimes they will spook each other with tales of errant pilots, who turn up on the hill, quickly check out the current conditions, launch and fly... and then die horribly, sucked up into a vigorous cumulo-nimbus cloud. Or be picked up and dragged bodily backwards into the turbulent rotor-streamed air because of an unforeseen gust on take-off. Or... or... or...

Most pilots have had or seen an accident requiring medical attention or air ambulance evacuation, but it's almost never the fault of the weather. It's almost always pilot error and one of the gravest errors is being taken in by the phenomenon of 'ground-suck'. Just as a big cloud can suck you into its white embrace, the weather guru can persuade you that flight is too dangerous to contemplate and it's not unusual to find a gaggle of pilots sitting on launch in perfectly flyable conditions, waiting for a wind-dummy to show them the way.

Often I am that dummy because, having once made a living as an aviation meteorologist, I know that most of what most pilots know about the weather is bollocks. I'd rather be flying. So here's a short clip of me doing just that:

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