Tandem Article (in English)

There are now more and more pilots who like to fly tandem, most of them with their families or friend. That’s how I start to do tandem and it’s really fantastic to cheer what you love with your friends and family.
What I would like pilots to realize, is that, whatever the training they had (tandem pilots training, etc) they still have a lot to learn.
In the same way that when you learn paragliding, you got your pilot -or what ever license, but your are NOT a pilot yet. You are simply in the position to keep learning by yourself to become a proper pilot. 
Same things with tandem except that you have SOMEBODY with you who trust you with his life!
Remember, that when the wind is right, the passenger ok, and the site good, to fly tandem can be AS EASY as to fly solo, BUT if something goes wrong; you can end up in big trouble.
I’ve been flying tandem for 15 years with over 4000 flights in 5 countries on hundreds of flying sites. I have made quiet few mistakes. On most of them I’ve been lucky, on others not! 
The purpose of this article is to share my experiences, and if few people thinks  “Hey that’s a good point!” I will be happy.
This is just advice to tandem pilots, not in any case a “how to fly tandem manual”. You should first refer to the low, insurance, association (Bhpa in the Uk) of the country where you want to fly tandem.
-There is, as you understand two kinds of responsibilities, the legal one, regarding the low. The morale one, witch is you, facing yourself. 
Never think that because you have a tandem license and insurance and bright new gear that everything’s OK! There is no amount of money witch can cover the cost of a wheel-chair! Think about it.

-The passenger  responsibility is none! :
 Whatever mistake or stupid things your passenger might do (and believe me they will surprise you), IT’S YOUR FAULT, you shouldn’t have flown with him or not on this site or you should have anticipated the mistake by more training, more information or a bigger safety margin.
You don’t fly in the same conditions with a mate, 25 years old very fit to an unfit man of 60!
-Don't think that because you know him that it’s going to be fine. You must always have a bigger safety margin for your passenger.
-Don’t forget that you know what’s happening and you can anticipate it, the passenger cannot!
Remember that the most difficult decision in Paragliding is to say “NO” when it’s nearlyflyable. It’s of course even more important when you are flying with a passenger.

Information to give to the passenger
-The less information you give him, at any one time, the more he will remember them. Don’t forget that he is in a stressed situation and his capacity is lower. So don’t confuse him with too much info.
-You must be the only one to talk to him about the flight.
-It’s always a good idea especially with no wind to simulate a run with the passenger.
-When I finish my pre-flight check, here is what I explain to my passenger:
So sir, during the take off, it will be 2 separate phases, first we will pull the glider over our head, I will check that every thing is all right (line, position of the glider, of the passenger) and then I will decide if we go on or not. During this first phase we can abort the launch at any time.
-All you should concentrate on, is to look at the ground in front of you (leaning forward a bit) and be ready to follow my move, if it’s windy, we’re going to be pulled back up, so be ready for it! 
 We are attached together, so after I say “GO”, if you feel pulled to the right, left or back, you must follow on, just looking at the ground (It’s a good idea at this point to move your passenger around using the spreader bar).
We will then walk forward or do a light run, you will have to push your chest forward.
-You will feel yourself be lifted, however, you must keep looking at the ground and keep walking even in the air because we’re maybe going to touch the ground again.
I will tell you in the air about landing (which is simply asking him to stand up 100 metres before landing). 
-No point in explaining about landing on take off, you have plenty of time for this during flight.
-I never talk about sitting before take off, if you do, the passenger tends to sit as soon as he felt lifted, which is the last thing you want!

Get ready 
When you arrive at the take off, check it well, remember that condition witch would be perfect with your solo glider, might not be good enough with a tandem. First a tandem is more difficult to launch, second you need a bigger safety margin then if you fly solo...
The big difference with tandems gliders is that the flying characteristics of the glider may change for each flight.
-With a different weight, a tandem is a different glider each time.
 All speeds change: take off speed, stall speed…etc.
-The difference in speed varies with each tandem, but it’s around 2 km/h more per 10 more kg .
- You should have 2 position anchor points for the passenger and for the pilot. Adjust them so the passenger will be, with the feet, at the same level as yours during the launch or higher (depending on weight and height).
-You should be the one who finishes the run take off.
-You should adjust your trim position for each take off depending on: wind / passenger weight / launch type.
-Your position and the passenger position in the air will change, depending on the size of passenger. Be ready for it, be very careful with cameras and similar stuff, never have it only round the neck for both of you and don’t have it in the front of the passenger for landing or take off.

-Use of trim : 
On take off trim are useful, with a light passenger, open trim (faster), with a heavy passenger put on more trim (slower). With forward launch, you will need the glider to come easier so put less trim/ (fast) with a reverse more trim(slow).
-In the air, slower in thermal and soaring, faster in transition as with a solo glider.
-If you soar near a ridge, it’s a good idea to have a half trim on, or more, like this, you can relax a bit and if you don’t penetrate you’ll have some extra km/h speed immediately available.
These rules must be off course adjusted with glider characteristic.

Wind on Take off.
-Remember that 20 km/h wind which is fine in a solo, requires assistance for a tandem. Don’t hesitate to have two persons in assistance. Give them a good briefing, choice pilots if you can, warn your assistants that he (they) might be surprise by the power of the pull. 
-With 30 km /wind (on some site, with a well loaded and fast tandem that’s the maximum I will take off) you maybe, you, your passenger and your 2 assistant be pulled back for 15 metres or more, be ready for it (check space)
-The job of the assistant is not to old you where you are (it increase the speed of the glider coming up and the lift), but to stabilise and secure your passenger, and to follow you, keeping the passenger in front of the canopy (and on his legs!).
 Agreed clearly on a signal when you want them (or him) to release his old on the passenger (usually the front of the passenger harness)
-Tandem is more stable and easier to control during take off, but BECAREFUL when it’s windy, you can end up being dragged very easily.
-Double-check very safety point very carefully just before you go.

Launch 3 techniques available:  
-Forward launch: Quite physical and may need help sometimes from passenger or /and to release the trim (up). Passenger arms under spreader bar usually, but work as well with arms over.
-Reverse cross break with passenger looking forward (arms over spreader bar), pilot looking back, very good technique which needs to have the break line quiet long because of the distance they have to cover around the spreader bar.
-Another variation is to use only one riser, good for wind coming from one side or with strong wind.
-Changing break from hand to hand during launch or break still on the poppers, already bad in solo, these techniques should never be used in tandem.
-I always take off and land in line with my passenger, I felt more comfortable than side-by-side, but you can try it.
-In solo, most of pilot will take the chance to save a bad take off, and it will work fine most of time. With a tandem, you must really learn to aboard your launch as soon as something is not as it should be. Much easier than to pull your passenger from the bushes with a broken leg.

The easy part! The flight start when you clear the launch. You can then adjust yourself and the passenger and check that everything is as you want.
-The flight is just a different glider than a solo glider, even easier, few things to know:
-The position of the breaks are changing with the trim position (logical but easy to forget).
A tandem has more inertia, and needs more time to respond.
-A passenger needs normally 15/20 minutes to relax (even if he was not scared) because of the new environment. You can help him by telling him to breath deeply, relax and look around.
However, the best way to calm a nervous passenger is to give him the stirring line, explaining before that he must release them immediately if you say so. You can still control them over his hand.

This is definitely the most difficult part especially coming from a solo wing where you can land by doing nearly anything and be all right.
 But it’s much more difficult to land a tandem. Why? 
-With a very wide and heavy glider your turn in approach are much bigger, so you cannot put in one more turn at the last moment, if you are too long (as everyone do with a solo).
Because if you do so, with the longer line and more weight, the pendulum effect will be very important. If you touch down at the wrong moment of the pendulum, you can easily break the leg of your passenger.
- To avoid that you must do a real landing procedure, with a proper approach and a long final, that you will use to stabilize the pendulum effect, and to take speed in order to store energy before slowing down, getting ready to flare.
-The best way to do that is to be at full speed till 5 metres of the ground, (considering that you have already stabilized the pendulum effect) where you start to slow down, not by pulling the break, but by taking 1, 2 or even 3 wraps around with your hands still up, ready to have a full efficient flare, starting it at 1 or 2 metres off the ground (depend of wind) finishing at ½ metre off it. 
 -A good landing depends only of how stable and fast you were in final.
-If there is no wind on landing, I generally use half trim, full trim speed (fast) if it’s a light passenger, and no trim (slow) if he is heavy.
-With this technique I NEVER have to run with a passenger on landing, even with nil wind, quiet useful considering that most of them are not ready to run anyway!!

General advice:
- Be ready for every things: wing changing direction when landing, passenger who want to land immediately after take off, passenger who stop running 3 metres before a 1000 metres cliff. All of them are quiet rare, but I had EACH of them at list once
-Remember the rule of cumulating factor, ex: low wind, new site, heavy passenger, each separate point is ok, the 3 of them together = no flying.
-Never assume: That this passenger will run well, that the wind will be same than an hour before, ect
-To use 2 loops of rope one (one on each side of the passenger harness) for your feet will give a more comfortable position to both of you and will make you more stable in turbulence and turn.

Enjoy your flight
Christophe Dubois