Sunday, September 19, 2010

Risky business…

The last two days have been hard days – strong winds and rain storms. The flying has been extreme and it is no wonder that only the most experienced pilots can do this work. Although Neil is not very experienced when it comes to micro-light flying he is very experienced as a pilot. Not only is he a commercial helicopter pilot but he has been flying paragliders and hang gliders for a number of years. It is on these grounds that I chose him for the project in the first place. Of course the fact that he flies hang gliders was really what swayed him in favour of the project. You see, I know what it takes to fly a hang glider, not just because of the knowledge you need of micrometeorology but also being able to judge glide angles and being on the lookout for landing areas and the mind-set that goes around flying these types of aircraft. I do not believe any pilot can get a better foundation for any flying career than starting with hang gliding.

Needless, Neil is still enjoying a very steep learning curve.

The day before yesterday he pushed it a bit – according to me. Of course he is the pilot out there and making the decisions, however inexperience sometimes can make you shave off safety issues in favour of the whale shark project. I know. I was there once too. Of course the truth is nothing is worth compromising your safety.

This brings me to another topic – that of the nature of the flying with the whale shark program. Let’s get one thing straight. This is not a passenger commercial flight service. There is absolutely nothing in our flying that is geared towards flying passengers. If anybody comes flying with us, it is as our guests, non-paying guests at that. They get to see what the marine survey pilots do, how we do observational sampling and gather all kinds of information pertinent to a project of this nature. They certainly do not get a “how cool is it to fly!” kind of stuff. Instead they get a briefing about the dangers of the type of flying we do – that it is for research purposes and not with the safety of the public in mind. We take risks, (As Neil told a lucky guy who was flying with him, “We break almost every rule in the book…” which made the poor guys eyes bulge! Neil quickly set him straight though. We do not break every rule in the book. Just one – we often fly out of glide of safe landing areas.) What I am getting at here is that after having made a statement of ‘nothing is worth compromising your safety’, we find ourselves involved in a project of this nature. This seems quite contradicting, and it is. But let’s make sure who ever comes flying with us, is aware of that. They are putting themselves at great risk.

It can also be a pretty damn cool experience too…

Wish you were here!

PS: The pic shows the flying - stormy rain clouds and out of glide of beaches...

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