Last Sunday (12.3. - the 19th still counts as this Sunday) I was pretty lucky and very close to ending up in the hospital or worse. The dangerous phases of any flying are the beginning and the end, because if there's trouble you've got little to no time to deal with it. Botched launches and landings are what kills you, with the likelihood of terminal problems flying high a lot lower (e.g. thunderstorms, freezing, oxygen-deprivation).

In the event in question, a big gusty whack made me end up with a non-flying wing maybe 60m above the ground. Recovering, the wing dove deeply in front of me and I was looking straight at the ground and the trees in front and below me, thinking briefly "shit, this could be It". Fortunately and luckily, I did manage to swing through before hitting the ground, didn't stall the wing while trying to dampen the surge, then made a somewhat tight turn away from the obstacles in front of me and landed -- tailwind and harder than usual, but I landed. Jessica who was flying a bit above me said it looked pretty bad and scary; she also had her share of collapses coming in maybe 20 seconds later.

As all PG pilots are inflappable optimists (or you wouldn't do it for long), the scare wasn't overly bad and I flew again since then; one of the reasons for the problem was a tactical mistake I made by going to that landing field in the first place(the wind direction wasn't good for that field), and I definitely vowed to be more careful making that decision the next time, but apart from that you just chalk it up in the "inevitable, shit happens" column.

But the really weird part is how my brain operates; I'm not sure if this is the same for everybody but here goes: I never have any memory whatsoever of the bad incidents themselves.

My memory always includes the time leading up to the problem, then there's a gap and recollection continues with me dealing with the problem or the aftermath. Apparently when something goes wrong, the low-level brain takes over like an NMI, frees all the resources of the "unnecessary" stuff like short-term memory and gets the body to react, now. Adrenaline is a magic substance.

This pattern has been visible in every high-stress situation I've encountered so far (climbing mishaps, motorbike crashes, flying problems, you name it). I'm never scared during the incident (but plenty before), rarely have more than one or two thoughts like "this will hurt" or "fuck!" until whatever happened is over, and - fortunately - I don't seem to freeze up: while there are situations where doing nothing is best, especially with flying there are also situations where doing nothing is the worst possible course of action. Apparently I was taught well enough to make most reactions pretty much instinctive...

Annoying, however, is my lack of recollection of what exactly went on because it makes learning from an incident a bit hard. Usually I have no idea of the specific second or so when things started to go wrong and have to ask others later whether they saw what happened.

On a lighter note here's some pics: Ben enjoying a creek after a hot flight and me at Beechmont, mucking around and then flying Rob's Kantega.

 2006_01_15-ben-enjoying-creek.jpg  2006_03_11-me-beechmont-b4launch.jpg  2006_03_11-me-beechmont.jpg  2006_03_11-me-on-kantega.jpg flying rob's glider
[ published on Mon 20.03.2006 17:16 | filed in interests/flying | ]
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