Trusting your instincts 🪂

Trusting your instincts 🪂


I got back from an SIV paragliding course last month.

SIV stands for “Simulation d’Incidents en Vol”, which is French for “Simulation of Incidents in Flight”. In the context of paragliding, SIV refers to a type of training where pilots intentionally put their gliders into unusual or unstable configurations, such as stalls, collapses, or spins, and then learn to recover from these situations while in flight.

Every course is different

On this course we were practising a technique to exit a spiral dive rapidly. It involves exiting the spiral followed quickly by course correction and then the rapid braking of the dive that results after the glider climbs as it dissipates the energy built up in the spiral.

It’s not as easy as it sounds on paper, which is why it’s good to practise as safely as possible – over water, with a life jacket on and an instuctor in a boat waiting to pull you out if you get it wrong, throw your reserve and end up getting wet…

In my last two flights (of four) I made two mistakes.

Feeling the pull

Our instructor had described this feeling of being pulled forwards off a chair as the glider dives in front of you. In my first two flights I hadn’t been feeling it, possibly because my dives hadn’t yet been that dramatic or because I was braking the dive too early..

On my third flight I felt the pull, but became so transfixed by the power of it I failed to brake the dive at all – zero/ziltch/nada input by me – I completely missed the boat!

And in a testament to just how safe these gliders are – even a racy number like my new Niviuk Artik R – the glider collapsed (just as it is designed to do if flown by an idiot) before it flew under me AND just in time NOT to wrap me up like a gift as I fell towards it.

But I got pretty close and unfortunately as I plummeted past the glider my lines must have whipped the leading edge of the canopy and torn it in such a way that I didn’t notice the damage until my final flight was well underway…

Bailing out!

On my final flight the damage I had done to my glider on the third flight became apparent after a notch appeared on the leading edge of my canopy and progressively got bigger with each manoeuvre.

My second mistake was to enter my final spiral dive; I should have called it a day and gone to land safely.

But when you are under instruction – radio controlled if you like – sometimes you just do as you are told.

However, the flip side to that is that, as paragliding pilots, we are taught to follow our instincts and override any external commands when under instruction if the instructions don’t pass our “smell test”.

The instructor wasn’t seeing the damage evolve as I was, if he had seen it all.

And just as I came out of that final spiral dive it occurred to me that I was literally ripping my glider apart!

Instinctively, as I was climbing out of that very powerful spiral I decided to take the energy out of the glider by doing a manoeuvre called a dynamic stall instead of braking a very powerful dive – the first time I have performed this manoeuvre “dynamically”! This was exactly the opposite of what I was being told to do on the radio at the same time by the instructor.

The rationale for this was to exit safely without putting too much pressure on the damaged leading edge of my canopy as:

  1. The stall came in very easily as the glider flew behind me at the peak of the climb (instead of being the very hard braking input required if I had let the glider dive)
  2. The glider flew backwards for a time bleeding energy and height whilst taking pressure off the leading edge, and
  3. although there was always going to be a dive to catch upon exiting the stall, this was a much less energetic dive.

What does this have to do with the covidvaccines?

Sometimes it’s much better to follow your instincts than instructions.

It felt right at the time and I’d do it again.

Just like my decision not to take an experimental mRNA vaccine.