Learning «to Fly» or Rather to Operate an Aircraft

As mentioned earlier man cannot learn to fly. That is reserved for the 3 B´s, i.e. Birds, Bats and Bugs. Not all of the B´s can fly either. Man can only learn to operate an aircraft. It is detrimental that safety is first priority from the very beginning, or else one might not even survive long enough to become a pilot. There are many things to be learned with regard to knowledge and skills, which will take time. Based on these basics, good judgment and attitude have to be built, simultaneously. This might be a problem depending on what type of aviation activity we are learning. Hang Gliding (HG) and even more Paragliding (PG) are skill wise relatively easy to learn with regard to the basics, i.e. getting airborne and to land. Hence a common mistake is that the students are left to themselves to early and they are not being prepared for the equipment, site or flight conditions they meet. The dangers of the beginner syndrome are hence more critical than in any other activities.

In the early eighties, I wrote the training program SAFE PRO for HG, which was a stepwise approach to mitigate the consequences. It became the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) standard and implemented in many member states Worldwide. The accident rate was reduced drastically, which lead to some awards, first from FAI and many years later also from the Norwegian CAA and the National Aero Club. However, nothing was more awarding than the words of the speaker when receiving the last awards which was “Your program has saved many lives”.

It´s simply to highlight how important it is to have a systematic approach when learning to operate an aircraft needs a systematic progress which does not leave any holes in the process. I still remember that I showed a SAFE PRO draft to an English instructor who at this early stage was more or less self-trained. He was also more or less shocked over the detailed contents and stated that it was way to comprehensive. I handed him a copy and asked him to mark every bit of required knowledge and skill, which was unnecessary, and to present it the next day. It was no surprise when he came back and stated: “nothing”!

Later FAI adopted SAFE PRO into Paragliding and called the system PARA PRO and honored me as the creator. It was a bit surreal when I dropped by a Paraglider school in Pokhara Nepal to check out if I could get a tandem flight, I inquired of course about safety and their training and their pilots, and they replied they used the international FAI standard PARA PRO. They were equally surprised when I said I was the person written on the first page of the manual. I was indeed impressed and happy with their standards and dedication to safety. The site is fantastic and if you want to fly with Eagles along the Himalayas. Pokhara is a fantastic alternative. My friends at Phoenix Paragliding, will take good care of you.

Leave a Reply