Podcast: Making good launch decisions

Judith Mole | 21st February 2016

In this podcast Judith Mole examines how we make decisions, what influences our decision making process and looks at ways we can make better decisions. Drawing on research from economics, psychology and neuroscience, she examines how the brain works and applies good general advice to a flying context and gives you some tools to try to help you make good decisions when it comes to being on launch and deciding whether to take off or not. The podcast covers topics like how to find people you can trust, examining your current emotional state, brain responses to experts and sky gods and tips for making good decisions when you are standing on take-off. Essential listening for new (and old!) pilots.

Listen to the podcast here

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Your Comments

Michael Mussato says:

Dear Judith

This is a really thorough explanation about decision making. Thank you very much for that. However, I think you're missing one very important point. Observing other pilots alone won't take you any further. This is only theory. If I show up at a take off spot and see "experienced" pilots sitting around, I really don't care. I don't talk to them about weather conditions. I never have, simply because it is up to me to make the decision. And I have to show up prepared (knowing what the weather is going to do). Once in the air, I'm on my own. I'm not an adrenaline junkie, just to make this clear.

Now, to the point you're missing. You told a lot in your podcast and I disagree with quite a few things, but one and the most important one is the following statement: don't clip yourself in when you're not sure. Sorry, absolutely wrong. Being clipped in does not mean being in the air. Statements like these might be one reason for podcasts like this one. This statement causes a lot of insecurities. Let me explain. Your approach in decision making is a very scientific one. I think that won't help most people. There are always arguments for or against a take off. So, as long as you keep your glider unpacked and you're not clipped in, everything stays "scientific"/theory. You will never learn how to drive a car by observing a car driver or talking to them. Never.

So, how do you learn to drive a car? By reading a book? No. By taking a ride on a highway? Probably not. First, you get familiar with all the tools. Then you learn how and when to use them. And then - that's the one that took me the most amount of time - you will get familiar with the feeling of driving in safe environment, with the forces. I think that applies to paragliding as well. And the analogy is: no matter how many people there are at a take off site - waiting, discussing, making recommendations - unpack your (f***ing) glider, clip yourself in and get familiar with the forces! These (and only these) should be your foundation to decide whether to take off or not. You checked the weather before already, otherwise you wouldn't have shown up at the site. And stop checking your smartphones and wind speed measurement devices. They are not responsible if something goes wrong. Play with your glider in light and strong conditions, make sure you can always bring it back down (prevent your self from taking off if you don't want to). If you get dragged across the field, who cares? And neither should the pilot. Getting dragged over the ground is not that harmful then finding out that you made the wrong decision and you're in the air already - as long as the field is safe. Don't do that sort of stuff on cliffs or other dangerous areas, but - for gods sake - do it. What a pilot is able to manage on the ground, he will be able to manage in the air. And not the other way around.

As a recommendation from my side, go and buy this dvd: http://www.u-turn.de/shop/Accessoires-Flywear/Playground-DVD.html

If pilots had to master ground handling before they even had their first flight, I'm pretty sure that at least 80% of the injuries in our sport could be prevented. SIV courses are nice but they don't help you to take off and land safely. And besides the safety that you gain with ground handling, it gives you confidence, you can reduce fear (your decisions will be based on physical things, not on gut feelings etc). Trust me, this is a real investment in your future as a pilot. But you have to unpack your glider - especially when you are not sure - otherwise, nothing is going to happen what so ever.

(I'm not related to Mike Kueng ;)

Posted 1185 days ago


Judith Mole says:

Hi Michael,

Thanks for you comment. I take your point completely. I discuss the importance of groundhandling and flight simulation in the Shhh... don't mention the S-word podcast with Tim Bishop. Have a listen, we address a lot of your points.

Cheers, Judith

Posted 1185 days ago


jim sutton says:

I only recently found the Paragliding Podcasts and have been listening to them daily commuting to/from work.

I have a question I'd like to post back to one of Judith Mole's interviews with a fellow female pilot where they mentioned red streamers used by beginners/new CPs. It's an intriguing idea not used here in the States, I'd like to know more/find one for my use.

I hope this is OKAY to post the question here.

Posted 1148 days ago


Judith Mole’s reply:

Hi Jim,

In the UK, the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association have a system where they encourage new pilots to attach a red streamer to their hang gliding kingpost or to their paragliding harness so that other pilots know that they may need assistance and so they give that new pilot lots of room as their actions may be less predictable than those of an experienced pilot. The BHPA actually issues a new pilots with a piece of red ribbon when they pass their Club Pilot(Novice) licence. Pilots usually wear the red streamer until they have 10 hours of flying time, when they are considered to have amassed enough experience not to need the same level of advice or room in the sky. It's a system that works well. If you need more info just email me at [email protected]


Posted 1147 days ago


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