The effortless reverse launch technique
This spring I went to Australia for the first PWC of 1998, and in Sydney I was met by my old friend Mark Mitsos, who like me is a hang glider turned paraglider pilot. We went flying together at Stanwell Park, and I was very impressed by his effortless reverse launching, and superb control of the paraglider not only in a strong wind, but also in a small space between several hang gliders lying flat on the ground. Mark spent a good half-hour explaining his technique to me, and when trying it out I felt like a student learning to fly again. But, as it was for me, I am sure that for most pilots it will be worth spending the time to get accustomed to this new technique: I call it the Mitsos Reverse Launch.
Mark studied all the existing variations of the reverse launch. There were three which I know of, these are, the British Standard Reverse Launch (which I use), Cross Brake Reverse Launch, and lastly, Front and Rear Risers, with no brakes.
Mark developed the idea in 1992, and has been successfully teaching it in his school, Sydney Paragliding ever since. Also the HGFA (Australian Hang Gliding of Federation) have now decided to standardise this as the best way of reverse launching, and to be the only technique taught in schools in Australia.
The main advantages of the technique are:
- Better overall control of the glider.
- You can steer the glider as it comes up.
- You can stop it overshooting in strong winds.
- No need to release the brakes at all.
To start it is important to get in the correct position:
- Face forward, away from the wing, with the brakes attached to the risers.
- Turn around to the left, and allow the right risers to pass over your head.
- Now you should be facing the glider with the right risers on top of the left risers, with the risers crossed.
- Pass your right hand over the risers and grab hold of the right brake from the outside (attached to the riser which is on top).
- Pass your left hand under the risers and take hold of the left brake handle (again from the outside).
- Then grab the shackles at the top of the C risers. (It is safer to take the C risers first before the A risers, as this gives more control in windy conditions)
- With your right hand, grab hold of the shackles at the top of both A risers.
- Check that you are holding the C risers, which should be between the two D risers.
Note: If a glider has only 3 risers, just use the rear “C” risers.
Now you are ready to go. (If you prefer this can also be done the other way around, by turning to the right.)
- Build a good wall first by pulling on the A risers and the C risers alternately.
- Lean back on the risers so that they are all tight, then pull gently on the A risers to guide the glider up into the air.
- As the glider comes up you should walk sideways towards the centre of the glider if it does not come up exactly straight.
- You can also use the C risers to correct the glider if it starts to go off to the side. Don’t pull down on the C risers, but move them from side to side to steer the glider. Move the C risers from side to side to control the lateral movement of the glider. Move the risers towards the lower wing. For example if the left wing is lower then move the C risers to the left to correct it.
- If it is windy the glider may want to shoot up violently. To stop this just pull on the C risers to control the speed that the glider comes up.
- Now the glider is up, it is easy to control the glider overhead using the C risers or even collapse the glider again to the ground.
- Alternatively you can turn and launch. As you turn make sure that in light winds you turn and step forward at the same time otherwise the glider may tend to overtake you.
Ground handle in a flat field in a smooth wind for an hour before trying it for real. In fact several ground handling sessions will probably be needed to really get used to the new technique. For me it felt very strange at first, moving the C riser hand towards the lower wing felt like the opposite direction to my instincts, so be careful not to do the wrong thing and smash the glider’s nose into the ground.
One common error is to try steering the glider with the A risers. This does not help at all. Always steer the glider by just using the C risers and walking sideways towards the centre of the wing.
The key to the technique is to take the time to build a good wall. A good trick to prepare the glider for launch is to move your C’s hand left and right as far as possible each way. This will pull the tips of the glider under and help to keep them from rising too quickly during the inflation.
It is only possible to use the C’s to correct small turns, therefore if the glider goes a long way out of line the only way to sort it out is to collapse the glider back on the ground.
It helps to be able to identify the risers easily, particularly the A and C risers. Most manufacturers mark the A risers, but to identify the C risers I put some red tape on the shackles of my glider.
I have seen many pilots crash as a result of ground handling and launching in strong winds. Some pilots seem to accept bad and dangerous take-offs and don’t regard it as part of the flight.
Well I have seen as many injuries from launch problems as from accidents during flight, yet the crazy thing is that practicing launch technique is easy as well as enjoyable, so why don’t people do it.
I strongly recommend that all pilots not familiar with this technique make the effort to go to a flat field or training slope with their glider and learn it. One day it could save you from serious injury.
By Bruce Goldsmith (This article reproduced with his permission)