10. FAA Regulations
There's no doubt that the WTC bombing is the most powerful event in our lifetimes, let along all of United States history. The implications of this event and the ensuing restrictions on our lives may be unrecoverable. That we foot-launched VFR sport pilots were temporarily restricted in our activities really brings home the fragility of our flying freedom. Most have thought they would always have the right to fly, most have never considered restrictions, most of us have never thought our very lives might be in jeopardy. My deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured Sept 11, 2001.
Considering the amount of passion that flight evokes, this restriction and the potential for FAA increased regulations may be keeping some folks up at night. Imagine all these passionate pilots grounded, energetic pilots unable to get their flight fix. Might there be a rise of insanity? Non-pilots already think we're insane for wanting to fling ourselves off of the planet - they don't know what insane might be!!
We must tread lightly as VFR pilots, let alone the pilots of the "silliest" aircraft in the sky. Let's face it, a paraglider can climb faster than most motorized aircraft, but then can't even get out of it's own way as the sailcloth tries to strum the suspension lines. The FAA was already in a stew over our flying future before the Sept 11th event, they now have even more reason to restrict our activities. It's simple, don't give the FAA or ANY government entities a reason to frown upon our activities. Know the rules the FAA mandates and abide by them. Review FAA rules with your instructors and at club meetings, and make sure there's plenty of "mail" on how everyone is interested in abiding by the rules. Publish the rules in newsletters. Give the USHGA plenty of solid evidence that the membership is determined to abide by the rules. Back up the USHGA's efforts to represent us by being responsible pilots. If you know someone who doesn't understand the potential consequences of his/her actions, then get an intervention going. It's no damn fun being grounded!!
Some of the key rules, in a nutshell:
1. Don't fly between Sunset and Sunrise without a strobelight that's visible for 3 miles. Yes, it's sunset - why aren't you on the ground? This doesn't mean you quickly launch before sunset and then claim you couldn't get down.
2. Don't get near a cloud, know all the different cloud rules. (Yea, you say you were 500 feet below? - well we couldn't SEE you - you must have a really bizarre way of estimating, so you need to be 1500 feet below from now on!)
3. Don't fly within MANY miles of an airport. Own the local sectional, you can buy one at the local airport.
4. Don't fly over anyone/thing that might not like it and complain. Just because they aren't home doesn't matter. If you take a reserve ride down through their roof you screwed up!!
5. Don't fly over 17,999 feet. Go stand in the mirror and note how goofy you look when you say you only flew up to 17,999 feet, but didn't go any higher - NO ONE BELIEVES YOU!! Don't print things like this either, we can still imagine your goofy face.
6. Don't drop anything from the air but sand or water used as ballast. Pee counts as ballast doesn't it?
7. Give COMPLETE right of way to ALL other air traffic. This means you should check for NOTAMs. If the NOTAM says training flights at 1300 at 10,000 ft msl then DON'T be there. If the President is going to Anytown, USA then you can't fly your motor or tow until he leaves.
8. You may NOT fly commercially, except in two place training, we don't give "rides". Remember that you must have the proper licensing to fly tandem and then do ALL the proper paperwork each and every time.
We actually wear a wing and move through the air as never before in human history, enjoying simple smooth descents, ridge lift or the absolute supreme intensity of using thermals just as birds have done for all of human existence. What's been admired and envied in birds, what's been completely foreign to humans, has just been possible for less than one generation. To think we might have lost this brand new shiny wonderment was a shock to all of us who have seen the "light" of this activity. Terrorism temporarily did its determination to disrupt and destroy in so many ways, I'm so glad that our government found a way, in it's potentially restrictive authority, to not casually disallow free flight in the USA. Among all the horrors that have transpired, the loss of free flight was blasting the heart of many pilots.
For the professionals in aviation, I'm sure that many, as I was, were ready to sell all but the spouse, kids and dog - I thought I was doomed (paragliding instruction doesn't bank much bucks). SPECIAL thanks to all the staff at the USHGA, Regional Directors and anyone involved in lobbying the Feds to relieve the restrictions - you are heroes. I was impressed with our national association's hard work in staying on top of every angle of this horror's worth of insanity. We members should sit down and send thank-you cards to the USHGA!!!
There's little in life as enthralling, dreamlike, imaginative, Zenfull and beloved - the leading edge of human potential. Paragliding.