Safe Winch Launching

The resources on this page have been put together as part of the ongoing BGA Safe Winch Launching Initiative. We hope that all glider pilots regardless of experience will make use of this information to increase their knowledge of winch launching – and of what can go wrong. By doing this, everybody can contribute to our efforts to maintain the improvement in safety achieved by this BGA initiative.

GUIDANCE FOR ALL PILOTS

If you are the PILOT;

  • Start the launch with your hand on the release
  • If you cannot keep the wings level, release IMMEDIATELY
  • “Release IMMEDIATELY” means BEFORE the wing touches the ground

Why hand on the release? Because you need to pull the release within half a second of taking the decision to release. Why immediately? Because the cartwheel that may follow a wing drop onto the ground can be so rapid that no recovery by releasing or other means is possible

  • After take-off, maintain a shallow climb until adequate speed is seen with continued acceleration. Then allow the glider to rotate at a controlled pace. If power is lost near the ground, immediately lower the nose to the appropriate recovery attitude.
  • After a power loss in mid-launch, adopt the recovery attitude, wait until the glider regains a safe approach speed, and land ahead if it is safe to do so.

INSTRUCTORS ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE

If you are the INSTRUCTOR;

  • Start the launch with your left hand on the release and your other hand very close to the control column
  • If you or your student cannot keep the wings level, release IMMEDIATELY

Why hand on the release? Because you need to pull the release within half a second of taking the decision to release. Why immediately? Because the cartwheel that may follow a wing drop onto the ground can be so rapid that no recovery by releasing or other means is possible.

  • If your student does not react correctly and promptly during the launch, take-control

WING RUNNER AND LAUNCH SIGNALLER GUIDANCE

If you are the WING RUNNER

  • Ensure that you have been trained before taking on the task
  • Stop the launch if you are resisting an up or down force at the tip
  • Run with the tip while holding the wings level

Why stop the launch? Because most wing drops occur immediately after the wing tip runner lets go.

Note to CFIs: the responsibilities of the wing tip runner make this a safety critical task.

If you are the SIGNALLER;

  • Ensure that you have been trained before taking on the task
  • If the wing drops to the ground at or near the beginning of the ground run IMMEDIATELY stop the launch by sending a STOP signal to the winch by every available means
  • Do not wait for one or two seconds to see if the pilot picks the wing up.

The purpose of sending a STOP signal is to avoid a potentially fatal cartwheel.

Launch signals can be visible or audible.

It is highly desirable for the signalling system to allow the signaller to trigger an unmistakeable audible and visual STOP command to the winch driver.

Note to CFIs: the responsibilities of the signaller make this a safety critical task.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES FOR ALL PILOTS & INSTRUCTORS

Safe Winch Launching Safety Briefing Booklet

Download and read the Safe Winch Launching Booklet. This is also an important study material for trainee pilots and instructors. Copies are available from the BGA office.

Safe Winch Launching Video Briefing

Watch this professionally narrated video that explains how to fly a safe winch launch.

Safe Winch Launching Quiz

Test your knowledge with our online Safe Winch Launching Quiz. Satisfactory completion of this quiz is part of a pilot’s winch launch training.

Simulated Winch Launch Scenarios

Thankfully, most of us never experience a serious winch launch accident. These video simulations show you just what can go wrong – and how quickly it all happens.

Safe Winch Launching Poster

A poster describing the key messages can be downloaded and printed. Copies are available from the BGA office.

Presentations

There are four presentations, each covering different aspects of safe winch launching. If you are involved in winch launching in any capacity (launch point controller, tractor driver, winch driver, wing runner, etc., and, of course, as a pilot) please view the movie on ‘How to Fly a Winch Launch Safely, part 1’ and the ‘Stop the Drop’ and ‘Winch Operations’ presentations.
winch-presn2How to Fly a Winch Launch Safely (part 1)
This presentation with voiceover contains the essential advice to help all pilots fly a winch launch safely. The presentation is available for download in .avi and .wmf formats. Alternatively you can stream the presentation on YouTube.
winch-presn2How to Fly a Winch Launch Safely (part 2)
This presentation provides some of the analysis and detail of how the advice on safe winch launching presented in Part 1 was derived. The presentation can be downloaded for offline viewing or streamed via Youtube. It is also available, along with Part 1, on the Safe Winch Launching DVD (see below). Please ask any BGA instructor to see a copy.
winch-presn3Stop the Drop
Advice on how everybody involved in the winch launch process can contribute to a safe, wings-level takeoff.
winch-presn4Winch Operations
Winch operations best practice.