Slalom and the Future of PPG Competition
Since 2005, we at Ozone have strived to support our team pilots and customers with cutting edge PPG competition wings for all events. PPG Slalom events have evolved rapidly and we believe their direction needs some serious thought and urgent change. While Slalom racing is an exciting event, the recent tragic accidents have proven that events which focus on high-speed flying near terrain or water have much potential for accidents and injuries. The current Slalom comp format forces pilots to fly their wings at the absolute limits of their capabilities, very close to the ground. The inevitable result is that pilots have no altitude safety margin for mistakes or equipment issues.
We have seen other aspects of paragliding competition severely damaged by heavy-handed regulation and rules, and we are not in favor of a long list of highly specific interdictions against aspects of Slalom flying. But we do believe that the sports bodies and organisers have to put pilot well-being well above a drive for public entertainment.
We believe that blending Slalom flying with a modern classic competition format, in which pilots must use the same wings for Slalom as they do for economy, navigation, and precision flying tasks, may result in a natural increase in safety margin as winning competitors will choose lighter wing loadings and smaller engines.
In addition to naturally reducing the aggressiveness of a pure slalom event, we think it is critical to set some basic recommendations for slalom tasks:
- Engine size limitations
- Wingloading limitation
- Speed system type and range limitation
- Over water requirements
- Wake turbulence awareness on course selection
- Classes (Pro, Amateur, Novice)
- Verify pilot skill pre-competition
- Penalties for collapses or touching pylons
Pilots are ultimately responsible for the type of flying they choose, but manufacturers and the organisers of competitions need to take care not to encourage pilots into situations they would not normally attempt. It is our hope that we as a community can prevent unnecessary accidents in competition and in training by focusing on these basic recommendations.