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Women With Wings II Skills Clinic - Bright, Australia - March 2011

Women With Wings II Skills Clinic - FlySafe! FlyFar! FlyFun! is a 5-day clinic for female hang glider (HG) and paraglider (PG) pilots to be held March 7th - 11th 2011 in Bright, Victoria. Headquarters will be the Outdoor Inn, with registration on Sunday evening 6th March.

Kathryn O Riordan, Julie Sheard, Birgit Svens, Nicola Bowskill and Helen McKerral. They are running this event in a completely honorary capacity without remuneration.

*Location & Sites*
Bright Victoria will be HQ and flying will take part primarily in the Ovens Valley for PG pilots. However, the Ovens Valley is less suitable for novice HG pilots so they will most likely be flying from sites in the Kiewa Valley, as advised each day by our local mentors.

*Aims & Objectives of the Coaching Clinic:*
To improve pilot skills and technique
To develop pilot knowledge and awareness of safety issues to reduce her risk profile
To increase pilot confidence and enjoyment of the sport in a collaborative rather than competitive environment

The clinic will be similar to the very successful one held in 2006 in Bright. A skills clinic specifically for female pilots creates an environment that promotes free and open discussion of all issues without concern for criticism (real or perceived) from male pilots. Janice Crosswhite, president of the Australian Women in Sports Association, informed us that women’s events such as we are planning are significantly more effective in encouraging and retaining female participation than are mixed events (of which there are already many).

We are employing two fulltime instructors so that even novice pilots who may have never before flown inland will be learning in a safe environment, because we want pilots of EVERY skill level to be able to attend, not just the top guns! But the guns are important too (and they will be there!) so that this spread of experience levels of (Advanced, Intermediate & Novice will create a constructive environment where mentoring and support can flow freely. March has been chosen as a mellow time for new pilots.

PG instructor Brian Webb is based in Bright and has a long and excellent history of instruction. His assistant, Andrew Horchner, is an experienced competition pilot who also has extensive teaching experience.

HG instructor will be Tony Barton of Newcastle Hang gliding. Tony has an exemplary teaching history and is highly respected within the Australian hang gliding community for the quality of his student outcomes.

Tove Heaney is no longer an instructor but has a similarly long history of exceptional teaching with her husband, Grant. She has offered to attend in a mentorship role and has a great deal to offer also. Other exceptional pilots with extensive experience who have offered support in various capacities include Scott Barrett, Craig Collings and Oli Barthemeles. All are world-class pilots and two live in Bright, with a famously renowned local knowledge of the area. This local knowledge will be invaluable for pilots learning to understand weather and wind patterns.

The more experienced pilots attending, some of whom are amongst the highest ranked competition pilots in Australia, and many of whom have more than a decade of flying experience, will also be mentoring novice- and intermediate-rated ones.

*How the Clinic will Run:*

a. Theory Workshops
There will be instructor/mentor-led theory workshops each day (morning &/or evening to fit in with flying conditions) covering topics such as XC skills, instrumentation, decision making, dealing with fear and with peer pressure, which often exacerbate poor decision-making in competition environments. "Human Factors" or Situational Awareness topics will be covered by Teraya Miller of CASA. Teraya may also run a session on the new VHF radios and controlled airspace regulations.

The very first introductory welcome on Monday morning will be delivered by a panel of local instructors and mentors (eg Brian Webb, Oli Barthemeles) and include safety essentials such as local airspace, daily weather patterns and hazards etc. This information is an essential platform from which pilots can proceed safely and with confidence.

From the second day, there will be a debrief each morning comprising instructor and mentor observations and feedback on pilots' flying the previous day. Almost all of these observations will be directly safety or skills related; the aim will be to assist pilots in identifying their own strengths and weaknesses, and addressing them, as well as to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of others.

b. Practical Skills Development
Even within our extreme sports, women tend not be risk takers to the same extent as the men. Participants – particularly novice pilots – will be most open to skill development if they feel safe, confident and are operating just, but not too far, outside their comfort zones.

On launch, site briefings will cover launch hazards and instructors will be on hand to assist and improve pilot launch skills, as well as other technique refreshers. There will be ample opportunity for individuals to get personal feedback each evening. If pilots are landing in a specific landing zone, landing technique can also be fine-tuned. A specific landing clinic for HG pilots is also an option, but this will depend on weather, a suitable training slope or towing facilities; Tove Heaney has particular expertise in this area and has offered to assist in a mentorship capacity with other instructors. There has been an offer to video launches and landings. A ground-handling clinic could be appropriate for PG pilots on non-flyable days. There will also be opportunities for hands-on gear inspection, maintenance, adjustment, tuning and checks – all important elements of good piloting.

Each day on launch a safety committee comprising an instructor, local mentor plus one or two Advanced-rated and intermediate-rated pilots would make recommendations as to launch conditions and suitability. The aim is not just to ensure a safe clinic, but also to introduce intermediate and advanced-rated participants to these decision making skills.

Although this is not a competition, new pilots will be introduced to GPS and UHF radios, and assisted in learning to use them.

*Who will Benefit*

We have already had an overwhelmingly positive response to an electronic pre-survey sent out through word of mouth, with more than 50 respondents – more than one third of all Australian female HG & PG pilots, from every state and territory in Australia except Tasmania! We anticipate attendance of 25-45 female pilots; of course this is price dependent, and the cheaper we can make the event, the more will attend.

Female pilots who attend this clinic will receive obvious benefits in improved skills and confidence and the reduced risk profile that flows from skills development. At the last clinic, numerous pilots made their first XC flights and many had PBs – longest, highest, furthest flights. All were inspired by the clinic and many are still flying today.

Speaking from personal experience, after six years in the sport, the 2006 clinic completely changed my approach to flying when I returned to my local community because I had finally experienced peers of my own, with similar attitudes. Female pilots have a great deal to contribute to the ethos of local clubs in positive ways, and the clinic will empower them to do so.

For male pilots reading this, the best way to describe the value of this clinic is to reverse the gender balance – imagine that each time you fly, you go out to the hill and /you are the only man there/. Every one of your pilot peers are (ageing!) women. Talking, like women talk, on the hill… and in the pub afterwards. Weekend after weekend, year after year. Then imagine that one more bloke joins your club, and what a difference that would make to you. With so few women in the sport (just 6%!), the retention of even one makes a huge difference to the retention of others.

We aim to keep the registration fee as low as possible - it will be between AUSD$100-$150. We have funding from CASA, HGFA & State Bodies, and are applying to the Layne Beachley Foundation for funds to subsidise or cover your accommodation (although I've had very positive feedback from them after my initial enquiry, we won't know whether we have it until February). The registration fee will cover two evening meals (an intro barbeque and a closing presentation dinner) and possibly breakfasts as well. We will have finalised our budget by the end of November but we will besupplying two full-time instructors, a babysitter if required, drivers and mentor honoraria, site & club fees.

Moyes and Airborne have generously offered to supply a few loan gliders for HG pilots who are travelling long distances. We had not anticipated NZ pilots, but I guess you would certainly qualify as "long distance!" If you think that not having to transport your wing would enable you to attend, let me know and I will see what we can do at our end!

The Women With Wings2 GoogleGroup

We have a googlegroup with 56 Oz female pilot members (plus one South African!) - let me know if you would like to join, and I'll sign you up. Please reply to the "introducing yourself" thread, so that we know who you are :-) ! This googlegroup has been established not only for women pilots to share info, but so that they can arrange carpooling or share accommodation closer to the event. That way, you could fly into Sydney, and carpool with someone without having to worry about hiring a vehicle.

It would be FANTASTIC to have our NZ sistas join us here! Our event is immediately after the Corryong Open which finishes on Saturday 5th March and is just an hour or two's drive away, so if you come a week earlier you would have a week of flying there as well!

Email me on for more information or to be added to the googlegroup!