Throughout all my years of teaching and flying, I have found that for most conditions, the asymmetric inflation technique is the safest and most successful intentional technique we, as paraglider pilots, have available to us.
Here at the Point of the Mountain in Draper, Utah, we started using this technique around 1989. I started experimenting with better ways for dealing with the high wind conditions and “iron weeds”, the most dreadful “grabby, won’t let go” type of weed I believe to be in existence!
When I first started practicing high wind forward inflations (because reverse inflations had not been discovered yet) it turned out to be a real bloody mess. I would spend 4 to 6 hours a day getting, if I was lucky, a little over one minute of kiting practice. The rest of the 4 hours was spent dragging through the gravel or picking the glider out of the iron weeds (hopefully more of the latter and less of the former). At that time, there was no one knowledgeable enough to teach this stuff so it became a lot of trial and error, after error, after error, etc.
For weeks, my wife, Janet, would greet me at the door with rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, bandages and a concerned look on her face. She learned from the first day that she did not want me bleeding all over the carpet and furniture, so I had to ring the doorbell and wait.
For me it had a lot to do with dealing with my own frustration and impatience with getting the lines stuck in the weeds. By choosing to feel frustrated I would occasionally be willing to chance breaking a line by forcefully inflating the wing even though one side of the wing was still stuck in the weeds.
Discovering the Asymmetric inflation technique came to me accidentally. One morning, while dragging, I had gotten turned around, so that I was facing the wing when I stood up. I was pissed off so I just grabbed something and yanked. By some sort of fluke, it happened to be the side of the wing that was less caught in the weeds and my actions made the whole wing come up in a beautiful asymmetric inflation and stopped and hovered right overhead. It was a miracle!
I also noticed that the weeds that were catching the lines would keep me from being dragged as much. When one side of the wing was caught in the weeds it would lag behind and present less fabric that would initially be presented into the wind, thus creating less of a “jerk” to my body and making it easier to keep my balance. It became apparent that bringing one side up first was a good way to deal with the high wind and that doing a reverse inflation was easier in high wind than a forward inflation. With time it became clear that this produced a number of advantages including less bleeding and/or torn clothing. I had never heard of, or seen, a reverse inflation done before this moment.
How this asymmetric inflation technique is done:
- Build a wall in the normal way with brakes in the proper hand for flying, (cross controlled).
- Have the wing slightly cocked to the wind by stepping to the side so that the lower riser side of the wing is faced directly into the wind and the leading edge is 2 to 4 feet higher above the ground than the other side of the wing.
- For this example, let’s say the left side leading edge of the wing is 2 feet higher above ground (in the view of the pilot facing the wing) than the right side, so the risers on the pilot’s right side will be routed below the risers coming from their left side.
- The pilot’s left hand will reach forward and grab both inner “A’s” and the big ears “A” for the side that is coming up first.
- The right hand will be left free for managing the brake for the high side of the wing in order to keep it 2 to 4 feet ahead of the lagging side.
- The lines going to the higher side of the wing will be taut and the other side will be slack.
- We have now created a new “A” center of the wing which is halfway between the wing tip and the true center of the wing and on the pilots left side as they face the wing in the reverse position.
To inflate, the pilot steps back and a bit to the right and using the free brake in the right hand, keeps the high side of the wing 2 to 4 feet ahead of the other side until the high side is within 2 feet of overhead. At this point apply the right-hand brake to straighten the wing directly overhead and then release the As with the left hand and steer as is appropriate.
I Like This Technique Because:
- These wings have a natural tendency to want to come up asymmetrically and when we try to force them to come up symmetrically, they tend to do their own thing anyway. We are therefore taking a disadvantage and turning it into an advantage. It’s like us saying to the wing, AYou want to come up crooked? Ok, but let’s do it to the side that “I” want and at the rate that “I” want. A I therefore have more control of the inflation speed and position.
- It is the only technique I know of that allows us to crisply manage both the rate and direction of the inflation the entire way up. Most other methods sacrifice one or the other.
- When the wing is just about overhead and the pilot applies the high side brake to slow it down and allow the lower side to catch up, it gives a small tug to that side of the harness that reminds us which way to turn…another direct communication and guidance from the wing.
- Most of the advanced and comp pilots I know who deal with high wind and thermic inflations, either solo or tandem use this method.
- There is less of a jerk on the pilot in windy reverse inflations because instead of the pull going from 0 to 28 square meters in a fraction of a second it goes from 0 to 5, then 10, then 20 and then 28 square meters spread out a bit at a time over a couple of seconds. This is just enough of a time spread to make the jerk noticeably more manageable.
- Deflation is easily accomplished by moving toward the wing, pulling on the available brake, releasing the A=s and pulling on both brakes.
- Most importantly, every time we do a reverse, asymmetric inflation, it serves as being the best technique for learning about the asymmetric nature and language of the wing.
I personally have my students practice as many different inflation techniques as possible and I believe the A=s and rears method, that many instructors use, is the second best, and a very good one to know as well.
The Cobra inflation is a severe form of the asymmetric that is harder to learn for new pilots and new pilots should not be launching in the kind of wind where that technique is necessary.
The asymmetric technique takes a little more time to learn but is well worth the effort for the added safety and energy management it affords during the practice of learning a safe launch sequence