Aerotowing Procedures
by Les Taff


Pilot Checklist

1. Locate dolly so wingtips clear runway lights, yet allow room for tug to get by. Be sure glider is properly seated in dolly and centered so keel fits in the center of the support. Slide basetube supports to widest possible position, with wheels on outside. Check keel support for proper adjustment (both angle of attack, and 4 inches minimum keel overhang). Straighten wheels.

2. Hook in to glider's main and backup hang loops, lock carabiner.

3. Route V-line so it is not caught behind hang loops, harness lines, or downtubes. Check for knots. If the line is wrapped around something, it alters the on-tow trim of the glider, causing strong bar pressure and sometimes resulting in a turn or lockout.

4. Check both weak links and replace if necessary. Check for adequate slack in link knife routing.

5. Hang check- height above bar, lines straight, main, backup, carabiner locked, leg loops in, side buckle snapped, helmet strapped, parachute pins in place. If you are using a pod with a zipper line, be SURE to take up slack in the unzip line so there is no loop at the harness boot (could catch on dolly). Check the unzip line for loop excess, and secure with velcro hold. If you have a pod, zip up only to your knees so you can get your feet out in the event of an early release or weak link failure.

6. Check dolly strap for tightness when holding. If strap is loose, you could bounce out of dolly early. Strap should be tight enough that it pulls on your fingers when holding. Check harness and glider for anything such as a loose VG line, dangling zipper lines, etc. that may catch the dolly and take it for an unauthorized flight. (If dolly joins you in flight, do not release from tow unless locked out. Rather, try to free dolly.)

7. Hook up V-line to release. Check release for proper closure, pullstring or ball routing, and be sure V-line is not trapped under basetube, wires, dolly, downtubes, your neck, or harness lines and hang loops.

8. Connect tow rope to V-line. Check tow rope clip for proper full closure. Clean dirt from clip with pick.

9. Signal for "take up slack." (Arms up if "crewing alone").

10. As rope becomes taut, be sure and hold tension so rope is entirely off ground and check for knots within 10 feet of your release. Also sight down rope, checking for obstructions over rope such as dollies or unused tow lines. The rope MUST be off the ground completely for this check, so be sure and ask your crew person if you did not have enough time to look thoroughly. IF by chance you are "crewing alone," you can take one foot out of your harness, brace the dolly, and hold the rope taut yourself. Jiggle it to be sure there are no obstructions.

11. Check the windsock to decide if conditions are suitable for you. Also, check for air traffic.

12. Before giving the go, take a deep breath to relax and focus, and remind yourself that you will RELEASE if there is anything wrong. Once the plane is given the go go go, it is not going to stop. To abort the tow for ANY reason, RELEASE.

13. Say "Go go go!" and have a fantastic flight!

REMEMBER, as the pilot of a Hang Glider, YOU are responsible for checking everything! A crew person is only an assistant, and a second pair of eyes. Attention to detail is paramount. Should there be any problem that you did not catch, you must take responsibility for your own safety! Releasing is the only way to abort a tow!


Pilot Checklist -- Short version:

1. Check dolly position for take off obstructions, relocate if necessary. Check glider-dolly mounting and wheels.

2. Hook in to Glider

3. Clear V-line.

4. Check weak links and link knife routing.

5. Hang check-main, backup, carabiner locked, zipper lines stowed, helmet strap, chest clearance, side buckle on Tracer, parachute pins, leg loops, VG line, loose harness lines.

6. Adjust dolly strap for proper tension.

7. Attach release to V-line, check routing.

8. Attach tow rope, check for full closure on clip.

9. Take up slack.

10. Check tow rope for knots or obstructions, check release.

11. Check windsock and air traffic.

12. Take a deep breath to focus and relax. Remind yourself to RELEASE if any problems arise.

13. Say "Go go go!" Have fun and do it safely!!

Aerotowing Procedures- Ground Crew Protocol

If you are going to crew for your fellow pilots, or if you are a non-pilot who desires to help, please take the time to become the best crew person you can be. A sharp crew person can prevent an anxious or hurried pilot from missing something that could result in mishap. REMEMBER, a pilot is ultimately responsible for his own safety, and you should NEVER feel offended if the pilot asks for someone else to crew for him, or if he asks "are you sure my lines are straight?" You are a second pair of eyes for the pilot, and the pilot SHOULD be double-checking for himself. (Note: "him" is a universally accepted word for him OR her, and no offense is meant to be taken by our female pilots and crew).

First, if a pilot does ask you to do something you are not familiar with, take the time to ask what the pilot means. Do not be in a hurry, even if you are next in line to go. If you notice the pilot hurrying, perhaps remind him "safety first." We are all human, and can make mistakes, so if you are not crewing, but standing on the sidelines, and see something that may be wrong, by all means SPEAK UP! Both the pilot and crew person might miss what you see from your vantage point.

So, to become a successful crew person, you should first read the pilot's checklist section of this document. Be familiar with what we need to check, and why. If the pilot has a harness that you are not familiar with, ask him to check his line routing himself, rather than say "looks O.K. to me, I guess."

As a crew person, you can modify the order of the pilot's checklist to suit your observational style, just so you cover everything. Some of our crew like to do a "Top down" inspection, starting with the nose of the glider and working down the lines, eventually ending with the dolly wheels. The pilot will thank you if you spot something he missed.

The signals we use for the glider to tow plane communication are as follows:

1. Take up slack- Hold the tow rope over your head, keeping a little tension on the pilot's V-line. This is a good time to check for proper V-line routing. Stand facing the plane, with both arms up high, slightly to the left of the glider. You are now most visible to the tow pilot. His flat mirror is on the left.

2. Stop- Lower your arms as the rope starts to become tight, signaling the tow pilot to slow to a stop. Hold the rope back to keep the dolly from rolling, and at this time, check for knots in the towline within 10 feet of the V-line, and also for obstructions such as loose towlines over the rope. Keep the rope tight enough so it is completely off the ground, long enough to sight down the rope to check for other tow ropes over the line, knots or tangles. Jiggle the rope to help spot problems.

3. Start the tow- Step to the left of the glider, check for air traffic, clear ground spectators, communicate with the pilot, and wait for the pilot to say, "go go go." When he does, signal this by waving your arm in a circle like a propeller, perpendicular to the rope so the tow pilot can see you in his left mirror. He signals "O.K" by moving the airplane's elevator up and down. If you do not see the "O.K.," reposition yourself so you can see the mirror and try again. You MUST be clear of the glider at this time.

On rough or sloped fields, or in a crosswind, you may feel a need to guide the dolly for the first few feet. If you have never done it before, and the pilot requests that you make sure he rolls straight, get someone experienced to do it until you have been shown how properly. We won't cover that aspect here.

In summary, use the pilot's checklist as your checklist, adding the communication signals to it. Never take crewing casually, as it is an important secondary safety check. If you ever do miss anything, ask yourself why, review this document, and try again. Rather than blame yourself, learn from any negative experience. Remember, the pilot has the ultimate responsibility for himself, and so an inexperienced crew person should never crew for an inexperienced pilot.



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