The safest paragliding sites can be made dangerous: fly a little too close to the top, and over the back you go! Fly too low behind the trees and whoops! How do you analyse the terrain to make sure you have identified the dangers? What do you need to look out for?
If you’re flying a new site, the first thing you should do is contact the local site flying club, caretaker or landowner. There are often restrictions that relate to things you can’t see, like the horse paddock you don’t know about that you’ll blunder over, or the big green field that looks like a good landing area but is strictly forbidden. Breaking these local rules is unfair on others because it’s really hard to protect these freedoms, and once a site is lost it usually stays lost. Nobody wants to become a Gestapo on a paragliding launch site. It’s up to you to behave in a way that doesn’t make it necessary.
When you get onto the site, there should already be club members around waiting to fly. If there aren’t, you’ve got to ask, why not? It’s probably not a flyable day.
Chat to someone and find out who is the most experienced pilot on launch, and ask him/her for a site briefing. This will cover the important things like special traffic rules, site fees, landing field arrangements, and might even help you score a ride up from landing later in the day.
What is often left out of these briefings is the dangers of the terrain. It’s often expected that you know how to fly, so Venturis (zones of accelerated airflow) and rotor areas (mechanical turbulence) can be glossed over, or pointed out in a vague kind of way. The idea with this video about Devil’s Dyke is to help you understand the way terrain interacts with the airflow so you can start to identify danger areas and form a sensible flight plan.
If you’d like to fly at Devil’s Dyke, please read the rules on the Southern Hanggliding Club website.
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