Every year, several pilots lose their lives after forgetting to tie themselves properly in their harness. These are usually not beginners...
During a security evening organized by the CDVL74, a rapid public poll revealed that 15% of them have already taken off with a total or partial forget of fasteners.
CAUSES and CONSEQUENCES
The causes of these omissions can be numerous and varied:
- Being disturbed during preparation
- Preparing in a hurry
- Not to be 100% of its shape
- Have personal and/or professional concerns
- Miss a takeoff and detach in part to go back more easily
To see, the film "security" of the FFVL: to attach, it is vital!
The other security films of the FFVL are available under: https://federation.ffvl.fr/pages/parapente-films-securite
As a general rule, in case of forget (for various reasons) and during the takeoff phase, the harness "rises" in the back during the ascent of the sail and the ventral strap is trapped under the arms of the pilot who then finds himself in an unforeseen situation and risk of being carried away at an altitude sufficient to begin to be dangerous (several metres). Once stuck, and if the wing continues a trajectory moving away from the terrain, the reflex will be to want to lock the arms to keep the blockage and try to go to rest. Unfortunately this position cannot be maintained for more than a few minutes because the straps compress the arteries under the arms and therefore prevent the muscles from being fed properly in blood flow to keep the blockage: the arms will therefore to be opened up by themselves despite the best will of the world...
There are different techniques to implement if this happens to you one day:
- Reassemble in the harness by grasking the risers with the feet. -> requires training, good fitness, and very fast implementation to not be tired.
- Make a quick return to the slope or trees to limit the time spent in this position and attempt a landing. -> However, it can be difficult to maneuver the wing if the brakes have been dropped, which will probably be the case if you find yourself in this situation (see photo above)...
To everyone to see...
It may also be that no strap is attached, and where the simple pressure of the shoulder straps can give the impression of having threaded its harness completely! In this case, when the harness goes up, it is enough to let go of everything and lift the arms so that the harness can freely climb up to get out without getting stuck, or else to do the same (high arms to go out not get caught) keeping the brakes so as to unhook the sail.
To see: a pilot comes out of his harness at takeoff after he realized that he was not hooked.
Attention also to the chest strap, which despite its apparent weak construction (small plastic clip) can prove to be strong enough to come to get caught under the head or Chin of a full helmet for example (in the case of an oversight and generate a sufficient blockage to prevent the harness from escaping from the top as shown above.
Even if we find that all the causes identified so far are of human origin, manufacturers have to integrate these aspects in their design in order to propose technical solutions that help to avoid the worst in case the pilot is in one of the situations described above.
The solutions described below are intended generalists to allow you to compare existing solutions in different manufacturers. The remarks provided relate only to the clinging aspect of the loops and not the intrinsic qualities of a particular harness.
TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS: the geometry of the harnesses
Harness with separate thigh straps + ventral
It is probably the geometry that the majority of pilots know, and it is also the one that can generate the most problems!
On this type of geometry, there are 3 separate points to attach to completely close the harness: the ventral, and the 2 thighs. Contrary to what one might think, it is the thighs (and not the ventral) that are the most important at takeoff because they are the ones that prevent the harness from going back in the back and letting the ventral come to get stuck under the arms.
To date, the vast majority of saddles with this geometry are equipped with an "anti-forget" strap (in red on the photo) that is attached to the strap of one of the thighs and has a part of the loopwork that will lock the strap Ventral. Thus, even if the thighs are not closed for takeoff, or if they are reopened later (such as after a failed take-off to facilitate the ascent), this strap will prevent the harness from going up too high in the back. It will then be possible to properly shave in the harness by using the hands, and to close the remaining loops open. Attention however to the length of this anti-forget, because the longer it is the longer the pilot will find himself low and can not potentially use the brakes without risking to get the sail!
Harness with "V" anchor
This technical solution used in many models of current saddles, makes it possible to compensate for the neglect of attachment by its own design. Indeed, once one of the straps is attached, it becomes impossible to fall from the harness.
In fact, the 2 thigh straps can be considered to be solidated with the ventral, and therefore the anti-forget presented previously is integrated.
The position will not be comfortable (for sure!), but avoid any accidental fall.
ATTENTION: depending on the seat of the harness (seatplate, separate thigh legs, hammock), the position of the pilot can generate an asymmetry in the harness, which will certainly result in a rotation of the wing.
Harness to put on (without buckles)
This technical solution is found on a lot of mountain or walking and flying harnesses, where loops have simply been removed to gain weight, but not only.
For the Kolibri, for example, it has been deliberately designed without closing loops to limit to the maximum any risk of forgetting to hang for the original target audience, namely the pilots of walking & flying or flight bivouac competitions. Indeed, the effects of fatigue accumulated during more or less long marches, and in the precipitation that can be generated in the phases of preparation for takeoff (competition, changing conditions, wind reinforcement, etc...) can be the origin of many causes of forgetting to hang. Pilots such as Antoine GIRARD have confirmed this to us in a certain way.
These harnesses may be less easy to put on, but it is also a guarantee of additional safety in view of the uses for which they were designed.
There are therefore different technical solutions provided by the manufacturers on the models of saddles currently available on the market, and it is your responsibility to make sure you are informed during a purchase.
OTHER POSSIBLE CAUSE: forgetting by shadowing
As we have seen above, one of the major causes is outright forget (for different reasons).
Another major risk is probably forgetting by "shadowing". Some accessories that are added to the harness can partially or completely obscure the area where the thigh straps and buckles are located. And when you lose the vision of this area, the risk of forgetting to hang the thigh loops is increased.
This is the case, in particular, of the cocoons equipping the saddles, the ventral rescue parachutes, the cocking...
There are also some solutions proposed by manufacturers to compensate for these possible omissions.
Cocoons cannot directly be considered accessories, as they are often an integral part of the harness. Their use can, however, easily generate catch-up omissions.
In General (!) the pilots take care of their equipment, and make efforts not to drag their harness on the ground, not to dirty it,... So the first thing you might want to do on takeoff is to close the cocoon to prevent it from dragging on the ground, thus masking the visibility on the legs.
Some manufacturers therefore equip the closure of their cocoons with an anti-forgetting system connected to one of the thigh straps. Thus, when the action of closing the Cocoon is carried out, one of the thighs is closed at the same time so as to prevent the harness from reassembling (as in the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-lT6Rw9m8k ) If no other loop is to be closed.
In the same way, the cockpits are usually hung quickly, to avoid dragging them on the ground, risking damaging the instruments placed on it. As with the cocoon, they can then create a screen to the visual check of the closure of the loops.
Some manufacturers have taken into account this potential risk, have equipped their cockpit with an anti-forget system that connects one of the thighs to the connection of the same cockpit. The installation of the cockpit automatically causes the closure of one of the thighs (as for the cocoons, see above).
If your harness is not equipped with one of these anti-forget systems, or if you dread to find yourself one day in one of the cases mentioned above, there is a simple solution to be achieved on any harness:
Simply condemn one of the thigh loops in the closed position.
To do this, you can use adhesive, elastic, Neoprene Sleeve, or any other system that will prevent you from inadvertently opening this loop. For installation in the harness, you will have to pass your leg in the closed thigh, and you will find immediately in a situation that will prevent you from falling from the harness if you forget to close the other loops.
As we mentioned above, the causes of forgetting are of human origin, and may have different origins. Manufacturers are trying to provide technical solutions to assist the pilot and allow him to avoid certain dramatic situations, but these solutions cannot be considered "perfect" because they require systematically take action from the pilot who will have to do things properly to ensure his own safety.
Do not hesitate to disseminate and share this reflection to the greatest number, to raise awareness as many pilots as possible to this risk and avoid accidents already too numerous.
We have the chance to practice one of the most wonderful activities of nature: flying
So take care of yourself, and good flights!