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Story

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Story of the Site

As long as I can remember, I had always been looking at birds flying… In 1973-1974, when I first heard about hang gliding, my school fellows were joking because I was talking about that all the time! It was still early (age 12-13).

Later on, after two false starts seing hang gliders directly in 1979 and 1982, I booked a week in 1984 in the school near Grasse. Wow… Just what I had been dreaming of! A few years later, my teacher killed himself when his worn out sail got torn right after launch. I had always been more on the cautious side, but this tough lesson staid engraved.

Starting competing in 1992, I had developed an infallible method to ensure I was hooked in: 1st check before moving the set-up wing, 2nd check before launching. I forgot once anyway in 1993, but someone touched my shoulder during that British championship in Laragne, just before I launched and the game went on. I could not even trust myself!

Training for aerobatics in 2004, a lighter open face helmet replacing the usual full face left a weird feeling while towing. Stopping on the back amidst a poor wing-over, I held onto the bar but a strong yaw stroke sent me in the upright. Next I was hanging under the parachute. Fooled by a new speed feeling, I had become too slow, and understood too late.

In 2005, the FFVL technical director took me on as hang gliding technical adviser and I became national team trainer after he passed away in 2007. Safety was already a deep interest, so I compiled paragliding and hang gliding accidents statistics. Leaving the FFVL in 2012 and proposed by the CIVL Secretary, I was appointed CIVL Safety Officer.

Without academic knowledge, I had to learn fast. The litterature found gave the Safety Pages‘ structure, but coherence was still missing, a logic, a policy. In 2015, I noticed the Dutch Air Sports Federation was using a Safety Management System: that was it! The CIVL adopted it in 2016, the countries had only to implement it…

That did not happen. More generally, the safety topic talks to everyone, but is so painful that one does not stand and keep striving, applying a policy until improvements are achieved. It felt like all those friends and fellows lost to flying accidents died another time when nothing changed in design nor in organization.

Whole branches have achieved concrete results today, why not go their way? Something was still missing. So this site is a summary to get quickly the big picture without having to swallow tons of studies, but it aims also at convincing that accidents happen to all including us, and that a safety management system is THE ultimate path.

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Special Thanks

  • Christian Rudolf (F) – hang gliding instruction – 1984
  • Michel Darras (F) – appointment to the FFVL staff – 2005
  • David O’Hare (NZ) – reading of his safety design paper – 2012
  • Andre Bizot (NL) – mentionning the Dutch SMS – 2015