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).
I make sure that all the following is calmly checked and prepared the night before.
- Hiking backpack
- Concertina / folding bag
- Stuff sack / bunch bag (optional)
- Helmet and helmet bag
- Vario (charged)
- Garmin Inreach mini (charged)
- Power bank (charged)
- Bluetooth speaker (charged)
- Micro USB cable
- Phone (charged)
- iPhone charging cable
- Radio (charged)
- Radio aerial (small ducktail or XC big boi)
- Radio USB charging cable
- Action camera and all mount(s)
- USB C cable (action camera)
- USB C to USB cable
- Phone leash
- Sun hat
- Sunglasses or ski goggles
- 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 bottles filled
- Energy bars, Super C, fruit, nuts, dates, etc.
- 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)
- Clean set of clothes (optional)
- Inflight peeing solution (TBD)
Mental and physical checklist
- Am I hydrated? (but not over-hydrated to force an early landing, expecially 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 addrenaline 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, where I first think about my mind and my body, then expand the bubble to thinking about the gear, then further to the immediate launch site, and then to the larger area around me and finally the big airspace I plan to fly in.
Highly recommended: download and listen to this short episode of the Cloudbase Mayhem podcast, titled Visualise the Day, before you fly.
SAHPA teaches a five-point pre-flight checklist. If you get interrupted at any step, start over again.
- Layout. Lay the wing out in the desired shape and check it.
- Lines. Lines are untangled; front-risers (A's) up top, rear risers at the back; brake lanes untangled and in the right hands.
- Connects. Start from the bottom to the top.
- Shoes fastened
- All harness connectors closed, including legs, waist, chest and pod/others
- Speed bar attached, unobstructed, and accessible
- Reserve parachute present and pins properly connected
- Helmet on and chin strap closed
- Wind. Coming from the right direction, at the right speed, with limited gusts.
- 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 on something.
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.
Again, all other forms of aviation has a debriefing requirement, ours doesn't, but probably should. Here is what I do:
- Weather conditions. Simply write down what the weather forecast was (or take a screen grab of the forecast) and how that weather affected your flight or how it differed from reality. Which forecast was better and more accurate?
- The Lesson List. If there is anything you need to tend to or have questions about, write it 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?"
- 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).
- 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).
- More things. You can upload your flight log to XContest and Leonardo. They have atrocious UX, but are the only two decent 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. Ayvri doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but is a great way to review your flight in 3D and share it with others, where it shows your flight on a 3D map. I also create short videos of most of my flights. The edited versions are used to brag on social media, but there are many ones that I upload to YouTube to save on storage space (unlisted, meaning others can't search for and find it) where I can review, frame-by-frame, things like hard landings, imperfect takeoffs, maneuvres in need of refinement, collapse recoveries, and so on.