As we break out our gear after a long winter of having our feet planted firmly on the ground, we are undoubtedly a little rusty on some of the finer points of our sport. Looking back over years of flying it is easy to see that the first several weeks of the flying season tend to have more incidents, and therefore more dangerous then the rest of the season. With this in mind we reached out to Chris Santacroce of Super Fly Paragliding in Sandy, UT to get his personal list of the top 5 things to keep in mind for a successful flying season.
PN: Chris it is always a great feeling when the snow melts, the mountain roads open, and the sun is shining on a new flying season. In your experience what are your top 5 things for our readers to keep in mind as they take to the air this spring?
Chris: Good call – this is a question that everyone should be asking themselves. I am not a big fan of having an agenda when it comes to flying – nobody has an agenda about their driving – we just go drive as a matter of practice – we have to in order to survive. Flying should be treated just the same way. Now that you have decided against making this THE year to go big – some details:
The first one is sort of a self-check – how I’m I doing? Am I on the front side of the curve – 20? 30? 40? years old and getting better at everything I do? Or am I slightly on the backside of the curve – for whatever reason – my health – my fitness – my focus. Am I preoccupied with more or fewer things then I was preoccupied with last year? This is very important – focus. On a scale of 1-10, how “on it” am I this year? Compared to last year?
PN: That is a great point. There was a time when I was paragliding and skydiving 5 or 6 days a week, but the last several years I have found myself behind a desk for a majority of my week. I am sure there are plenty of other people out there in the same boat. What is your 2nd check?
Chris: Second is the environment – how is the year unfolding – it’s worth noting that it is a bit drier and a bit hotter then it has really ever been. This is bound to change things – am I flying the same exact spot that I have been flying for years? Or am I in a brand-new environment? Did I move from mountains to the coast? Vice versa?
PN: If you are flying a new location it is a great idea to tap into the local knowledge-base before going at it alone. I am a huge fan of flying with a group of locals and not being the first to take to the air. Take some time observing how the locals are working the conditions in the air as well as on the ground. What is your 3rd check?
Chris: How is my kit looking. Remember the mantra that if any part of your kit looks or seems old and nappy then it is. We should all be hunting for the very best kit we can get. Paragliding is cheap – it is hard to spend more than $12,000 on all kinds of gear. A broken ankle costs more than 12 grand so make sure you are spending as much as you can on every last bit of safety equipment and excellent gear that you can find.
PN: That brings up a question about buying used gear? I am sure you have seen some real horror stories. Lets save that for another day. What is your 4th check?
Chris: A look at ones flying history could be really valuable each year – were you the type to learn quickly – did it take you a while to work things out? Are you slightly accident prone? Or do you have a solid record of keeping yourself out of trouble. Remember – if you have never had any trouble and you were really quick to learn new things – that just means that you are more likely to have a problem this year
If you have been banged up a bunch of different ways and had all sorts of episodes then you are probably proceeding with caution and that’s a good thing. See if you can do this kind of inventory a few times during the year. It should give you a solid indication about how you should be proceeding.
PN: That reminds me of a conversation between a couple of really experienced pilots back when I first got into the sport. It went something like this: “How many hours does he have?” Asking about a guy just strapped a motor to his back for the first time. “Probably a little over 500 hours” The other guy responded with “That’s probably the most dangerous time in a pilots career. That’s enough time to think you know it all and start forgetting the little details that keep you alive” That stuck to me this day. Whats your last check?
Chris: Do some math. You will be flying with some people that have been doing nothing but fly for years. How does the amount of time that you had devoted compare? You would have to quit your job and abandon your family in order to catch up to some of these people. Chances are that you should be seeking totally different air from them.
PN: What can someone do for “extra credit” if they really want to ensure they are dialed in for the new season?
Chris: Doing a bunch of kiting – including some forward inflations – reviewing your emergency procedures – getting a reserve repack – doing some maneuvers courses – getting an instructor to check out your style – these are all standard and cliché things to do but they are totally key. The best part about doing all of these things is that you will feel like you are actually ready when it’s time to really grab some airtime.
It’s an awesome undertaking to commit to having a good and trouble free season. Set your intention right now. You do not need to get banged up to learn any lessons. You are clever enough to pick up on subtleties and adjust your flying behavior.
We are only as good as our worst moment so EVERY – SINGLE moment is as important as the next. There are no casual moments. Get your buddies on your side, ask them to be on your team and let you know if you look dodgy.
Stay tuned because in the coming months I have something up my sleeve that promises to enhance safety on a global level. The flying world is evolving. Enjoy.
PN: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Chris. I know these little tips will make a difference for some people out there gearing up for the new flying season. I am stoked to hear more about what is up your sleeve. Keep us posted!
Top 5 Things For a Successful Flying Season with Chris Santacroce
1. Self-Evaluation – How am I doing? Am I focused? What’s changed since last season?
2. Environment – How is the weather different? Am I flying locations?
3. Kit Check – Reserve repacked? Wing inspected? Time for repairs or upgrades?
4. History Lesson – Are you a cautious pilot? Decide now what conditions you will fly in.
5. Flight Hours – Did you fly through winter? Do you fly regularly? Are you on new gear?
6. Ground Hours – Kite a lot! Review safety procedures. SIV clinic? Upgrade your rating?
Paragliding is all Chris has ever done, and he likes it that way. He was a full-time paragliding professional at age 17, ranking as one of North America’s top ten cross-country paragliders for a full decade before winning the continent’s championship and proving equal skill in jaw-dropping aerobatics. Chris is also a teacher’s teacher. He’s one of the world’s foremost paragliding and powered paragliding instructors, and he serves an Instructor Administrator for the national organization for both sports. Chris lives and teaches in the world-class paragliding destination of Salt Lake City with his wife, son and daughter.
Learn more about Chris and Superfly at www.superflyinc.com