Monday, March 29, 2010

Paragliding Sydney's Northern Beaches

Aeronautical information published by Airservices Australia goes through four amendment cycles every year: information contained in the AIP book, DAP and ERSA is updated with each amendment cycle, while charts are only updated every other amendment cycle.

This is why VFR pilots need to buy a new VTC (Visual Terminal Chart) every six months. The other reason is the constant folding, unfolding, marking tracks, erasing tracks and using the Tasman Sea area for writing clearances and the ATIS. There's only so much abuse a chart can take. I just added two bits of tape to my current VTC and it has to last me till June. And I didn't fly that much. Charts seem to be designed for self-destruction when no longer current.


Now, what happens when a chart needs urgent updating that cannot wait for the next amendment cycle? That's when NOTAMS come in, such as this one found in the FIR section of the NOTAMs for Area 21:

AMEND HANG GLIDER SYMBOLS ON AIP SYDNEY VTC AS FLW:
ADD JOINING RED LINE BTN THE SYMBOLS AT NEWPORT (S33 40.0 E151 20.0)
AND NARRABEEN TO INDICATE THAT HANG GLIDER OPS OCCUR AT OTHER POINTS
BETWEEN.
FROM 12 142123 TO PERM

Clearly, if pilots expect hand gliders only at these two points while they can in fact be found anywhere in-between, this is a safety issue. So I took my nicest red pen and joined the two points with a nice, thick and conspicuous red line.


After patting myself on the back for having read the NOTAMs in full and spotted this one, I was left wondering where those hand gliders on the Northern Beaches would launch from. The roof of the Bahá'í Temple? The top of the lighthouse at Barrenjoey Head? Or are we talking about parasailing? It's all relatively flat out there, and I couldn't remember seeing nice cliffs such as those found near Stanwell Park.

Thanks again to the Almighty Internet, I discovered the Northern Beaches Hand Glider Club. They launch both hand gliders and paragliders from a number of locations along the aforementioned red line: Newport, Mona Vale, Cooks Terrace, Warriewood, Turimetta, and all the way south to Long Reef.

Most of the launch sites have an elevation of about 100 feet. My guess is that they use a combination of thermals and ridge soaring to stay up in the air, otherwise that's a very short glide down to the beach. Pretty impressive. A pity they do not offer joyflights or instruction, those sites are much closer to my house than Bankstown airport.

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