‘Go Serial Class’ say Paraglider Manufacturers Association

Racy... A comp glider on take off at the Paragliding World Cup Superfinal this week. Photo: Martin Scheel

Racy... A comp glider on take off at the Paragliding World Cup Superfinal this week. Photo: Martin Scheel

Paragliding competitions could be revolutionised following the decision by the Paraglider Manufacturers’ Association to support Serial Class only paragliders for FAI Cat 1 competition, effectively banning Open Class paragliders.

The PMA discussed the issue at the recent Coupe Icare, and voted overwhelmingly to back banning Open Class gliders in World and Continental championships. Sixteen of the 21 members voted for restricting FAI Cat 1 competitions to EN-D gliders, with two against and three abstentions.

They announced the result on their website:

“The PMA believe that from the material point of view a significant way to improve safety in FAI cat.1 competitions is to restrict them to EN–D gliders. Open Class gliders have their place in competitions but FAI cat.1 is not that place.”

The result of such a ban, which has been talked about for years and came to the fore again following the death in 2009 of Stefan Schmoker at the World Championships in Valle de Bravo, would likely be welcomed by many time-served competition pilots.

The FAI and CIVL hierarchies would also probably welcome such a move. Paragliding competition has long been regarded as having a “problem” with safety at high levels in the FAI.

Others however will doubtless say the move is self-serving on the part of the PMA (a commercial, manufacturers’ association) which ran into trouble last year when it attempted to ban stiffening technology in paraglider design.

Either way, the move has again re-opened the debate on whether to ban Open Class gliders in FAI competition. How that plays out remains to be seen, although one route open to the PMA would be to propose such an Open Class ban at the CIVL meeting early next year, where it would be voted on.

Any such ban would not affect pilots flying in the Paragliding World Cup, who could continue to fly Open Class gliders if they wanted to. The Paragliding World Cup is a pilot-led organisation and is not affected by changes made by CIVL or the FAI, which are competition hang gliding and paragliding’s international governing bodies.

A full round up of views, comment and opinion on this issue will feature in the next issue of Cross Country magazine, due out in early November 2010.

This post was edited for accuracy on 4 October 2010

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6 Responses to “‘Go Serial Class’ say Paraglider Manufacturers Association”

  1. James Bradley
    October 1, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    Serial wings may not increase safety at all; it could even go the other way. For sure they will increase flying low on speed, scratching and ridge running. Thanks to Will Gadd for this link: http://wiki.ucalgary.ca/page/T34_Group_1

  2. October 2, 2010 at 7:59 am #

    Wow, huge news!!
    Let’s see if they follow through with it. Would for sure make things safer.
    I may even stick my nose back in!!

    The 2 liners were the death of comps for many pilots, IMHumbleO… :)

  3. October 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    @ James Bradley

    Comp glider pilots already fly low on speed, scratch and ridge run to the max! – what are you talking about?

  4. Robin King
    October 3, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    There’s obviously a lot of factors working for/against safety in paragliding competition flying. Here’s a few (to me, just a newbie in the sport) thought-provoking quotes/links:

    1) Old flying school wisdom: “there are “Old Pilots” and “Bold Pilots” … but … no old bold pilots …” (see e.g. http://www.oldboldpilots.com/)
    2) On day 3 of the British Open 2010 at St. Andre les Alpes almost 10% of the pilots threw their reserve ‘chute in the course of that day (about 7 from over 80 pilots, source: unchecked report from a hors concours pilot)
    3) A good compilation of pilot attitudes by Jérôme Daoust: including the way the risk-taking tendency changes with pilot experience (see: http://www.expandingknowledge.com/Jerome/PG/Skill/All/J_Tips/English.htm#Mental in particular point L4 – 1999/4/6).

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