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Many people practice paragliding, an aerial sport that allows free flight with the help of a parachute. Several incidents such as autorotation can occur during the flight. Adrenaline Paragliding explains in this article what an autorotation is and how to get out of it.

What is an autorotation and how does it occur in paragliding?

Autorotation is a particular movement that an aircraft (plane, helicopter, gyroplane, etc.) in working order can undergo. It turns on itself, in one direction or the other, while continuing to operate. It often occurs when the aircraft experiences an engine failure. The pilot then takes control and performs the necessary manoeuvres to land safely. In paragliding, autorotation occurs when you perform an asymmetric collapse of the canopy. The wing starts to rotate.

The open wingtip will accelerate while the closed one will lose speed. The speed of rotation of the wing tip will increase, and the canopy will continue to rotate on the yaw axis. This movement will be repeated until the maximum speed is reached. The axis of rotation will then be between the pilot and the canopy, and the canopy will no longer accelerate. You can also enter an autorotation if you are not aware of the canopy’s asymmetric surge. Sudden braking in poor thermal conditions, a poorly timed turn with your weight shifting to the inner wing side can also cause this rotation.

How to get out of an autorotation in a paraglider?

To exit the autorotation, the pilot must counteract the harness and go into the opposite trajectory. This can be done by using the brake handles or by using weight shift. The pilot must then keep the nose of the glider in the air to maintain lift and avoid a stall. The pilot must take into account the altitude of the glider before making any control inputs. Autorotation and stall are exercises that you will need to master if you want to become a paraglider pilot.

Whether you are a beginner or a professional, you can easily find yourself in this situation if you are in extreme climatic conditions. After this 360° rotation, the canopy ropes may become entangled. In this case, the glider must be untwisted or the rescue opened. To do this, you must stand up in the harness and spread your legs as wide as possible. Then kick your feet in a scissor motion to create the rotation. If you are at a very high altitude, and this action is risky, then you should pull the rescue.

Although autorotation recovery is possible in paragliding, it can cause accidents if not properly controlled. For example, the pilot may spiral out of the glider or lose his bearings.

How can a pilot prevent an autorotation from occurring?

To avoid this rotation movement, you must make sure that you close the glider during your flight. This requires good control of the glider and the reflexes of a good pilot. The angle of surge and the acceleration of the rotation speed vary for example according to each glider. There are also commands and sequences that you need to know to be a good pilot. To master these techniques, there are SIV courses (flight incident training). They are different from the paragliding initiation course. During the SIV, the pilot learns to :

  • fly in turbulent conditions (large clouds, obstacles, etc.),
  • tame a glider and make a rapid descent and successful landing,
  • avoid over-piloting in case of an asymmetric collapse,
  • refine your piloting technique and adapt to thermal conditions, etc.

This knowledge is necessary for a practicing pilot. Before reaching such a level, first do a paragliding baptism! With Adrenaline Parapente, your first flight will be perfect. It takes place over Lake Annecy and you are accompanied by an instructor from take-off to landing.

Photo credit : @the_fox_alpinist

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