Hang glider wheeled launch technique

Steve Varden’s wheeled launch technique

My hang gliding wheeled launches (hill) are slightly different from the conventional foot launches. Therefore I decided to put some detail in writing so as to provide better communication between myself and the people who help me launch. As ever I am indebted to all those who help me in all aspects of Hang Gliding.

The take off site will be selected by consultation between myself, the keel man and if appropriate another pilot with site knowledge. Once the glider has been carried over to the take off point the ‘nose man’ has the responsibility for keeping the glider on the ground until he hears the ‘Release’ command. If the nose man feels that wing men are needed to keep the glider stable he/she should request assistance. If there are no wing men available or the nose man is unhappy in any way the launch will be aborted or postponed.

When I have clipped in and zipped up the harness it will take a moment or so to compose myself, grip the control bar properly and position my body weight ready for take off. I will then say that I am OK and prepared to go into the launch sequence.

Consultation between myself and the keel man will have decided whether or not wing men are required for take off. This may vary from having no wing men at all to the wing men providing varying degrees of propulsion on the wing wires according to the conditions. Wing men may be required simply to let go of the wires when we start moving forward. If wing men are needed the keel man will brief them accordingly. It is important to try and achieve good co-ordination between wing men and the keel man. Generally the fewer people required to assist, the better. (In recent years I have not used wing men at all)

Launch Sequence

The keel man has primary control over the launch although the pilot always has ultimate responsibility.

The keel man shall say: ‘Are you ready Steve?’

I shall say: ‘Ready’ or ‘No’

This indicates whether or not I am prepared for launch.

The keel man may then seek advice from the nose man about the wind direction, strength and immediate airspace.

The keel man will then achieve the correct angle of attack and nose into wind required for launch. If need be the nose man can help with this as directed by the keel man.

The nose man should then indicate that he has no tension on the nose wires; either verbally or by open fingers.

It is then at the keel man’s discretion when to launch.

The keel man shall say: ‘RELEASE’

The nose man will release the nose.

The keel man will then provide the required amount of propulsion (with the help of wing men if arranged) needed to achieve take off.

Either myself or the keel man is entitled to stop the launch at any time by saying: ‘ABORT’ In which case the nose man should return to the nose wires. (Once we have started moving forward I shall never say ‘Abort.’).

In summary:

For a normal launch the verbal sequence is as follows:-

Keel man:- ‘Are you ready Steve?’

Steve:- ‘Ready’

Keel man:- ‘RELEASE’

As the glider starts to move forward I have more and more control over it. I can weight-shift to correct uneven lift whilst the wheels are still on the ground. Initially I will hold the bar in to help gain airspeed, as we approach the edge of the hill I shall ease the bar out slightly in order to get airborne. In stronger winds I will hold the control bar further in so as not to stall when we reach the edge. Once the wheels leave the ground I have complete control.