A quick-thinking paragliding instructor acted swiftly and altered a student’s flight path to avoid what could have been a “catastrophic” accident close to Bassenthwaite Lake, an air accident report has revealed.
The instructor’s actions diverted the novice paraglider downwind and further away from the turbulence created by the helicopter’s rotor wake which a report to the UK Airprox Board said “would have almost certainly resulted in a loss of control and catastrophic collapse of the paraglider.”
As it was, the report concluded that the risk of an accident because of the down draft of a passing helicopter on the afternoon of September 29 last year was low as normal safety standards and parameters had pertained.
The paragliding instructor reported that the student was in the early stages of training and was conducting simple ‘top-to-bottom’ gliding flights while focusing on a large marked out high-viz landing area.
According to the instructor, the student had conducted a good launch and was flying away from the take-off zone towards the landing area when the sound of an approaching AS355 helicopter could be heard.
The instructors became “rapidly concerned” about the approaching engine noise and its proximity and took immediate diversionary action.
“The helicopter’s app-roach angle suggested the pilot would have had good visual with the paraglider launching – it then flew on a converging course towards it, directly upwind of the student paraglider, with 200ft vertical and 100m horizontal separation,” reported the instructor.
“No attempt was made by the helicopter pilot to alter course. The student was unaware of the helicopter.
The helicopter created a large area or turbulence directly upwind of the area where the student had been briefed to fly in and lose height before landing.”
The helicopter pilot reported that they had been transiting southbound and moving through the area of the paraglider at the time the “near miss” was reported.
The report said their track passed 1,600m to the west of the paraglider’s location. They did not see the paraglider and were not made aware of its presence by the Flight Information Service Officer (FISO).
The report said that although the FISO did not provide activity information to the pilot of the helicopter that may have provided the pilot with a better situational awareness of the potential aerial hazards within the vicinity of their routing, this would not have mitigated against the incident.