Paraglider Control: Stall, Spin, Collapse!

Paraglider Control: Stall, Spin, Collapse!


It can be scary when your wing stops flying,
so let’s look at why it happens and what to do about it.
Here’s a common scenario, banking around in a small thermal that you really want to
hold onto, but the core is pushing you out, and you’re cranking that inside brake more
and more, and then … whoops! That’s a spin!
If you shoot your hands up right away, the wing will recover on its own, with a roll
then dive. Keeping your hands high allows the wing to regain the airspeed it needs.
I am pulling a bit of brake to dampen out the dive.
The slower you are flying, the worse the spin tends to be. Here I’m a bit slow to release
it, and I get a big rotation, followed by a big roll and big dive. I’m dampening the
dive again by pulling brakes as it’s moving towards the horizon, then keeping my hands high. Sitting upright in your harness can help prevent twists in the risers. This Advance Iota has very precise limits and reactions, which helps me to get repeatable results. Here are two spins side by side. Get a good
look at what the approach to spin looks like on those tips. You need to become familiar
with where this point is on your wing. You can see the behaviour is very predictable,
it does the same thing: spin, roll, dive. Remember these spins are pilot induced, they
are avoidable. If you lead your turns with weightshift and keep your speed high, the
risk of this happening is very small. Turbulence can knock you around sometimes.
Failing to control your pitch can cause a front tuck, though it’s unlikely to be as
big as this one. Don’t panic, it’s the simplest one to recover from. Most wings come
back with the centre inflated – give it a few seconds to stabilise. Then a single
solid deep pump on the brakes will get more of the nose open. There’s no need to do
any more here, I just leave the wing to sort itself out. With really big blowouts, and on high aspect wings, you need to be careful that the tips
don’t meet and tangle up. An immediate jab on the brakes can help to prevent that, but
in this case I simply wait for the wing to stabilise again before clearing the collapses. The most common collapse is the asymmetric,
where one side folds under. Don’t panic, the remaining portion of the wing will fly
fine if you give it gentle guidance. Move your weight over to the flying side, use a
touch of steering control, and your wing might have already recovered.
For larger collapses, use the same procedure, lean away, steer a little and wait to stabilise,
then use a deep clearing pump on the brakes. Let’s go through the procedure again to
get it hard-wired. First, check out the extent of the collapse. Then shift your weight to
the flying side. Then just a touch of steering control to avoid a spiral turn or the mountain.
Finally, do one deep pump to clear the collapse. It’s often not necessary.
The collapse does not require much attention, just simple timed inputs. So don’t become
too gripped by it, rather check where the terrain is. On a modern wing a full stall is unlikely,
but it can happen in the rain, or on a wing that is out of trim. If there’s no wind
in your face and your wing feels slippery, shoot your hands up and it will recover straight
away. If you hang on too long on deep brakes, you’ll
drop into a full stall. Easing my hands up to shoulder height allows
the wing to settle in a stable ‘backfly’ position. It’s simple to recover from this
by just easing my hands up and allowing the wing to pull itself forwards into the air.
Remember, the moves shown here are purely for educational purposes. Don’t try them
on your own until you’ve gone on an SIV. Here are some simpler exercises to help you improve your wing control.
When you pull both brakes together, the wing hangs back. If you release the brakes when
your toes start descending, the wing will dive forward more. Keep your hands up until
your toes start rising towards the horizon again, when you pull both brakes together.
This generates a big pitch, so start off gently. On the third cycle, delay your brake input
and use it to dampen out the dive. That’s the corrective input you want to use all the
time during active flying. Gentle wingovers can be fun, but make sure
you have at least 200m clearance above the ground. Lead with weightshift then follow
with brake to turn the wing. Keep the centre of the wing above the horizon to prevent surprise
collapses. The idea is to play with the energy of the wing and develop smooth coordinated
turns. Controlling your pitch and roll all the time will reduce these collapses and make your flying more fun. For more about common collapses, read the
full article on our website.