I use Apple’s Notes and Microsoft’s To Do (available on web, Mac, iPhone, and Android), so I can check and improve things at home and on the hill or even in the sky.

Packing list

I make sure that all the following is calmly checked and prepared the night before.

  • Glider
  • Harness
  • Hiking backpack
  • Concertina/folding bag
  • Stuff sack/bunch bag (optional)
  • Helmet, ear pads, and helmet bag
  • Vario (charged plus USB charging cable)
  • Garmin Inreach mini (charged plus USB charging cable)
  • Power bank (charged plus USB charging cable)
  • Bluetooth speaker (charged)
  • Phone (charged)
  • iPhone charging cable
  • Radio (charged plus USB charging cable)
  • Radio aerial (small ducktail or XC big boi)
  • Action camera and all mount(s)
  • USB C cable (action camera)
  • USB C to USB cable
  • Phone leash and velcro mount
  • Sun hat and neck protector (before flying)
  • Buff (during flight)
  • Sunglasses or ski goggles
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun arm sleeves
  • Short sleeve quick-dry shirt
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Down puffer jacket
  • Light windbreaker
  • Sports undies
  • Sports shorts
  • Strong trousers
  • Hiking socks and shoes
  • Running backpack
  • 1x 500ml water bottles filled
  • Energy bars, Super C, fruit, nuts, dates, etc in running vest.
  • 1x litre extra water
  • Lunch and/or more snacks
  • First aid kit (including emergency blanket)
  • Copy of important information (insurance, medical aid, next of kin, ID and license number)
  • A clean set of post-flying clothes (optional)
  • Inflight peeing solution (for XC)

Mental and physical checklist

  • Am I hydrated? (but not over-hydrated to force an early landing, especially on XC flights without a urination system in place)
  • Did I eat?
  • How do I feel physically? (sports injuries, lack of sleep, etc.)
  • How do I feel mentally? (calm or stressed, something else?)

None of these will mean much in isolation, and pre-flight adrenaline can actually be great for you (boosting your heart rate, increasing blood supply to your muscles, altering your metabolism and maximising blood glucose levels for your brain, sharpening your focus) but you need to learn to check for warning flags.

Ways I calm myself down on launch include breathing (slower out than in), and creating a slowly expanding “bubble” around me: I first think about my mind and mental state, and then my body and physical state, then I expand the bubble to thinking about the gear (which I calmly check), then further to the immediate launch site and what is happening around launch, and then to the larger area around takeoff and finally the big airspace and clouds and sky I plan to fly in for the rest of the day.

Highly recommended: download and listen to this short episode of the Cloudbase Mayhem podcast, titled Visualise the Day, the day before you fly. So good.

Pre-flight checklist

SAHPA teaches a five-point pre-flight checklist. If you get interrupted at any step, start over again.

  1. Layout. Lay the wing out in the desired shape and check it.
  2. Lines. Lines are untangled; front-risers (A’s) up top, rear risers at the back; brake lanes untangled and in the right hands.
  3. Connects. Start from the bottom to the top.
    • Shoes fastened
    • All harness connectors closed, including legs, waist, chest and pod/others
    • Carabiners
    • Speed bar attached, unobstructed, and accessible
    • Reserve parachute present and pins properly connected
    • Helmet on and the chin strap closed
  4. Wind. Coming from the right direction, at the right speed, with limited gusts.
  5. Airspace. No pilots about to launch around you; no pilots about to land; no pilots approaching your takeoff airspace.

Legends Love Cool Wings, Always. Write it down, if you must.

Something else: when you’ve checked your layout and lines, turn around and face the launch, not the glider. This will give you an indication if and how the wind is changing in direction, gusts, and strength while you’re doing all the other checks.

Debrief checklist

Again, all other forms of aviation have a debriefing requirement, ours doesn’t (but probably should).

Here is what I write down or discuss with my flying buddies:

  1. Weather conditions. Simply write down what the weather forecast was (or take a screen grab of the forecast model used on my phone) and how that weather affected your flight or how it differed from reality. Which forecast was better and more accurate? Was there a difference between an actual wind meter and the predicted wind?
  2. The Lesson List. Are there things you need to tend to or have questions about? Write them down so you get to it when you’re at home or when you can discuss it with other pilots. Some past examples of mine include: “My speedbar brummel hooks came undone, how can I prevent that in future?”, “My harness chest strap kept pressing on my radio’s buttons“, “Those cirrus clouds replaced the cumulus and I started sinking. Why?” and “I know circles mean thermals on my vario, but why do they sometimes turn into a square box on my Skytraxx?
  3. Log book. I keep a simple log in Google Sheets, with the flight number, duration of flight, launch site, and some notes. Your vario / phone’s vario app will have some more information. Other people simply upload all flights from their phone/vario to an online flight database (see further below).
  4. Flight backup. I keep a backup of both FlySkyHy (iPhone app, somewhat accurate, very easy to create backup to iCloud) and standalone vario (musch more accurate, but need to plug it into a computer to store backups).
  5. Upload. You can upload your flight log to XContest and Paragliding Forum’s Leonardo. They have horrible websites/user experience, but are two popular places to upload your flight and review your (and other pilots’) flight history. It’s also a good place to look for the popularity of certain XC routes.
  6. Ayvri is getting discontinued. Pilots have mostly switched to SportsTrackLive to see a 3D replay of their flight.
  7. Share pics and videos with your flying buddies (and friends who you are trying to turn into flying buddies).

Annual and other checklists

In my flight log spreadsheet, I keep a separate tab for my gear. Just a line entry for what it is (say, your glider, harness, or reserve), when you bought it, and how much it cost. Whenever I have it serviced or repaired, I just make a note about it there.

I mark in my Apple calendar when new services might be needed (annual reserve simulation throw and repack; 24-month inspection of harness; 12-month inspection of wing etc.), or simply go “Hey, Siri, remind me in six months to get my harness serviced”.

Some checks to consider:

  • Visual check
  • Riser & mailons check
  • Porosity check
  • Line check, including line length check
  • Reserve simulation (opening it up all the way, replacement of rubber bands) and repack
  • Harness & speedbar check

Most wing and gear manufacturers will include a recommended service schedule (and maybe a list of recommended places to so). In South Africa, you could consider the following places for a service or repair:

About me

Werner van Rooyen

Formerly Business Development and Marketing at Luno (where we went from eight nerds in a tiny office to hundreds of people spread over three continents) and before that Marketing at PayFast. Currently investing, paragliding, and doing research, mostly in Mexico.