HELPERS AND SPECTATORS
Want to get involved in helping with Free Flight but you are not planning to be a pilot?
Flying spectators and helpers are welcome at many sites. There are benefits such as beautiful views, fresh air and good company. There may be a few flying sites that would be inaccessible or off limits to spectators. Spectators need to stay back from active flying areas for safety of themselves and the pilots. Launch assistants can be in the active take off area of sites because they are helping the pilot to move a glider into position and launch safely.
If you have an interest in spectating, you can call the local flying club and ask. Use the map to locate the flying site, look up the club on this website through the links for that site name and please make contact with the club.
Hang glider pilots safety check each others equipment just before launching. You will hear pilots say “Did you do a hang check?” or another pilot will say “Can you help me with a hang check?”.
This means they are going to go through a safety check briefing such as:
The glider has been pre-flight checked by the pilot.
Helmet on and latched.
Harness is hooked into the Glider properly on the hang strap and the carbiner is locked.
The Harness the pilot is wearing is buckled
Parachute pins are in place on the harness properly so parachute does not mistakenly deploy.
Leg loops of the harness are around the pilots legs properly.
The lines of the harness are correct and not twisted unusually.
No tripping hazards on the harness dangling there around the pilot’s feet.
The wire crew lifts the Keel (pipe-like tail section) of the glider and the pilot hangs there simulating control of the glider to make sure there is adequate clearance to move the body side to side and forward and back.
Sometimes a very experienced Launch Assistant would participate in helping the pilot go through the hang check.
Being a launch assistant would possibly involve helping pilots carry gear, helping on the “wire crew” for launching a glider.
There are different levels of wire crew experience required. A simple wire crew hold on the side wires of the hang glider as it is being moved into the launch position. Typically there is a wire crew assistant on each flying wire (side wire on each wing) to keep the wing from getting out of control in the wind. When a pilot yells “Clear” that means to completely let go of the wire immediately and let the pilot fly away unimpeded by any force on the side wires. Sometimes a “nose wire” assistant is neededto help control the wing in higher winds on launch, in that case an experienced pilot or very experienced assistant would cover that role. If you would want to be a wire assistant, ask and more explanation can be given.
At some sites an expert level wire crew made up of pilots only with experience in Windy Cliff Launch could participate in assisting that type of launch because it is absolutely critical that it is done correctly.
Paragliders have different checks on their equipment they perform prior to flying. They typically launch without assistance, though a pilot may ask you to help do something if you are there nearby.
Another task that helpers can do at a site is to take video of the pilots. Most pilots would love a video of their launch or landing. Some pilots may prefer not to be on video. You can just ask at the site if anyone objects to having video taken. Most pilots would be grateful for a video.
We often have friends, spouses, and potential new flying students who want to come along to pit crew for the flyers.
Shuttling of pilots vehicles is always a need in demand that helpers can perform. Sometime pilots fly away from the site several miles and need a vehicle with a glider rack to go pick them up when they land. The term for where pilots fly from is called “Launch” and where they fly and land is called the “LZ” or landing zone. Pilots leaving the site often say “I’m going XC” meaning I’m going cross county - and that implies a need to for someone to go retrieve them.
If you have an interest in helping, you can call the local flying club and ask. Use the map on this website to locate the flying site, look up the club on this website through the links for that site name and please make contact with the club.