‘White out and deployment’: Amazing hang gliding footage

Wednesday 31 August, 2011

Video: Hang glider pilot sucked into a cu-nim and then throws reserve

Sucked in by a cloud extopaflyer tries hard to control his hang glider but decides to deploy his reserve

Amazing footage of being sucked into a cu-nim on a hang glider has been posted online.

Hang glider pilot and YouTuber extopaflyer has posted a five-minute video clip of hang gliding near Frazier Mountain, in the Transverse Ranges within the Los Padres National Forest, in Ventura County, California on 28 August 2011.

In the clip the pilot heads towards a big dark cloud in the hope that he can clip it and carry on into the flatlands beyond.

However, before he even reaches “the dark stuff” he gets hoovered up and spends several minutes fighting to retain control of his hang glider inside the cumulo nimbus cloud.

Eventually he throws his reserve. A few seconds later the camera cuts out. The pilot landed shaken but uninjured.

Heading towards the cloud above Frazier Peak in California

Heading towards the cloud above Frazier Peak in California

The hang glider pilot is sucked in – the ground is still just visible

The hang glider pilot is sucked in – the ground is still just visible

After being in the cloud for several minutes the hang glider pilot struggles to maintain control and decides to throw his reserve

After being in the cloud for several minutes the hang glider pilot struggles to maintain control and decides to throw his reserve

Looking remarkably composed, and with his hang glider flipped upside down, the pilot descends under reserve

Looking remarkably composed, and with his hang glider flipped upside down, the pilot descends under reserve

The pilot originally commented on his clip:

“I was running along the south edge of a large cloud street that ran NE from Lockwood Valley to the east end of Frazier Mountain. The line of clouds in front of me ran perpendicular to that street.

“From my vantage point it didn’t seem like the line was that wide. Not in lift at the time I thought that by the time that I reached the cloud line I’d be far enough below it to scoot past.

“But before I even reach the dark stuff I found myself whited out.”

Later, he described more of what happened, admirably admitting that he’d cut it fine and been caught out.

“I was going to write about my thought process leading up to this incident,” he writes on YouTube, “but I decided that it would be just an excuse for my bad decisions, including my disregard of FAA rules regarding ultralight aircraft and clouds.

“The bottom line is that I wanted have my cake and eat it too: I thought I could scoot under that cloud line and purposely cut it close in order to maximize my altitude for the long glide out into the desert.

“Once in the cloud the instinct was to fly fast and straight to get to the other side. However, afraid of PIO I popped the VG and tried to slow down. But the video doesn’t capture the surge of lift I was experiencing.

“At one point the base tube was almost ripped from my hand. Soon after that I no longer had control of the glider and the G forces seemed to be building so I thought the safest course of action would be to throw the chute. Fortunately, it worked out.”

In a follow up post Jonathan Dietch, a fellow hang glider pilot posted a clip of what the day looked like from his perspective.

Jonathan Dietch’s flight in the same valley on the same day

He describes his flight as, “62 miles of gorgeous coastal mountains to high desert valley. Climbs to 13,000 ft (4,000m). Convergence lift with some cumulus over-development, rain and hall near Frazier Mountain.”

On Cross Country magazine’s Facebook page Jonathan commented: “This is how his flight should have looked. I was there ahead of him [the pilot who got sucked in] and issued a hail warning over the radio. This also shows what the cloud looked like.”

The video vividly illustrates what can go wrong when flying too close to big clouds. A no-no for both paragliding and hang gliding most pilots are guilty of flirting too closely with them at some point in their flying careers. Most get away with it, although there are several examples of pilots being sucked into cu-nims and suffering fatal accidents.

Throwing a reserve while in strong lift, especially in a cumulo nimbus is a gamble. The updrafts inside a cu-nim could pull a pilot under parachute even higher. Strong winds, rain, hail, freezing temperatures and lightning are other dangers associated with flying near cu-nims.

Ewa Wisnierska famously survived a Cu-nim ride to 10,000m in Australia in 2007, and the ‘Croatian Survivor’ is one of Cross Country magazine’s most famous ‘There I was…’ survival tales.

Icaristics: A storm riders guide to survival

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