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1. Helmet: Is it in place, and is the chin strap secured?
2. Harness: Are all the connections connected? Start with your legstraps and move up through the straps and buckles, testing the carabiners as well for good closure.
3. Risers: The riser lying on top will indicate the way you must turn. Run your eye along its length to its carabiner to establish the turn direction. Gather the risers you normally use for launching and check for twists. The slightly tensioned lines must run clear to the wing. Also check for the deadly twisted brake line, which can lock up your controls. The line must be running freely through its pulley.
4. Wind: This one is often missed, because pilots think they know what it is doing based on what was happening when they arrived. Or maybe it’s because one can’t see the wind, so it just gets a vague glance over the shoulder. If you’re standing with your back to the wind (reverse pullup) the windsock stuck at the back of the launch area is not much use. It tells you what the wind was. Turn all the way around and scrutinise the vegetation down slope of you (or even better, another windsock). Try to establish the wind speed, wind direction, wind gradient, gustiness and thermal cycles. This is your moment to get fully focused on the air ‘out there’ and become aware of where you are going to be. Watch any wings flying for signs of penetration problems or turbulence. Look out for grass whipped up in a dustdevil. Timing your launch is an important skill, but if you don’t look for the signs before you launch, you can’t improve it.
5. Traffic: You might fly uncrowded sites but it’s important to establish the check so it becomes a habit. This makes all the difference when you actually need it (the first time you fly a crowded site, when you’re tired from a long journey to a new competition, and the conditions are booming … or whatever challenge it is). We all have momentary lapses of concentration. Hard-wired habits can help avoid a disaster. So check this every time to help develop your routine of good Preflight Checks.