The pilot community is much like a family. When you need help, you can almost always count on your fellow pilots to be there for you. However, from time to time, we can get on each other's nerves. Here are some tips that will help you get and keep friends in the free-flying community.
- Learn and follow the site procedures. Most flying sites, particularly in urban areas, are hard to open and keep open. Dedicated volunteers work hard so we have permission to fly at regulated sites. There's no better way to become the black sheep of the family than to put a flying site at risk.
- Be a safe pilot, by exercising good judgment, and always follow the ridge rules.
- Be a good role model for the sport. Be respectful of non-flying locals at launch and in the LZ. And be particularly friendly to land owners.
- If you "land out," be careful not to harm vegetation, scare animals, damage fences, leave gates open, etc.
- Help keep the launches and landing areas litter-free.
- Join a local club and volunteer for work parties and other events.
- Support businesses that are HG/PG friendly.
Some sites, such as Marshal Peak in San Bernardino and Tiger Mountain in Seattle, have organized ride-sharing arrangements in which locals offer rides to the top for a fee, usually $5-10. Although many of our Bay Area sites require 4WD vehicles for access to launch, we don't yet have an organized system for getting pilots to the top. Typically, pilots meet in the parking lots of the various sites on flyable days. When a driver with a 4WD vehicle is ready to head up, (s)he will attempt to transport as many pilots as possible. As a result, the pilots who have 4WD vehicles usually end up doing all the driving. These drivers incur additional insurance risks, wear and tear to their vehicles and gasoline expenses, in addition to the additional responsibilities, stress and hassles of retrieving their vehicles.
- Offer to drive. You may miss one flight but you would miss all the flights if not for the generosity of the vehicle owner. If you don't have a 4WD vehicle, and you have not volunteered to drive, you should offer the driver something for the ride. Typically, $5-10 is considered appropriate.
- If you have non-flying friends who are willing to drive a vehicle down, there is no need to offer additional compensation or favors. Just make sure they have signed the proper waivers.
- Many pilots leave their keys in conspicuous places. If you are at launch, and don't intend to fly down, check to see if you can drive a vehicle down.
- If you have a 4WD vehicle and offer rides to the top, it isn't necessary to compensate other drivers for rides to launch.
- Those pilots with 4WD vehicles, who offer rides, should be given priority when loading the vehicle.
- At the end of the day, pilots with 4WD vehicles should inquire as to whether or not the other drivers have a retrieve for their vehicles. Our parks have strict rules regarding leaving vehicles at launch after hours.
Cross Country Retrieves
- Be considerate. Most people would rather fly than retrieve. If at all possible, arrange for a retrieve before you begin your flight. If you didn't plan ahead of time to go XC, but you decide to in the course of your flight, let someone know you're leaving the site so we don't worry when we find that you are missing.
- You can avoid unnecessary delays by making sure your driver has gas, a map, a radio, cell phone and/or GPS (and extra batteries). It's considered good form to show your appreciation by buying your driver dinner/drinks/ice cream or by offering to do a retrieve for him or her in the future.
- If you go XC, you should be prepared to survive on your own, in the event that your driver can't reach you.
Flying trips are a great way to expand your experience, improve your skills, enjoy the quiet and beauty of nature and have a blast partying and hanging out with those who share your passion for flying. Bay Area pilots are terrific about organizing weekend camping/flying trips. Everyone is welcome to attend these trips, as long as you make some kind of positive contribution.
- Always get a site intro and listen to the advice of those who are more experienced than you. Every site has its own protocol and potential hazards. Don't put yourself, or the site, at risk and spoil the fun for others.
- Offer to drive or retrieve vehicles.
- Bring food, drinks and/or firewood to share.
- Bring a musical instrument or toys to play with.
- Help to keep the campsite clean.
- Don't whine if the weather is bad. If you aren't having fun, go home. Nine times out of ten, that will guaranty that the next days flying will be epic!