part 3- Developing a Decision Making Model

By using a military/business planning methodology you can template and streamline your flying/XC/competition appreciation/decision making processes and be assured that you are at least touching on the right ‘subject headings’ to ensure what you are setting out to do is going to meet your expectations and desires in competition flying. Whatever your method, it needs to readily understandable and relevant to you– the right amount of information to get the job done, not so much it becomes arduous and difficult and it isn’t get assessed by anyone else for neatness or punctuation.

There is no one ‘best way’, there are plenty of ways to ‘skin a cat’. However, over time, I have noted that when you are observing ‘masters at work’ in any occupation the ‘professional cat skinners’ have got it down to about 3 different ways. What you need to do is find, and adapt if required, a process that gives you the peace of mind to perform at your best in the knowledge you have considered all of the ‘Must Knows’, a majority of the ‘Should Knows’ and some of the ‘Could Knows’ and recognizing the importance and placement of each in your flying method.

Competition flying is just XC flying on good coffee- some of the decisions are being made for you- a takeoff time, order of launching, a route, start and landing timings are prescribed… how, when and where you fly it is up to you. Choosing to keep flying if conditions get stronger or less suitable might be made for you- but you can almost always choose when and where you are going to land.

Having a Task Committee of 3 or more experienced pilots and approved by a Competition Director frees you up to just concentrate on how to fly the task… the task is going to be set to meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Taskable- the day is a fair task be held in the conditions (is it thermic enough, can people wait for the start, will it be a lottery, is it now or will it be dangerous later)… this is different to ‘is it flyable?’.
  2. Achievable, skewed towards the top 20% of the field but even less experienced/less competitive pilots will make at least one turnpoint.
  3. Terrain allows safe landings along route,
  4. Weather has been taken into account for prevailing winds at different levels and times,
  5. Road system available for retrieve,
  6. Airspace,
  7. A start where pilots can hold for the required time, giving a fair time for pilots to reach the start at base? Do we need multiple starts if that isn’t possible, if so at what interval (given conditions and start position), what task parameters should apply given the task (leadout, arrival, ess arrangements, HBESS)

and possibly with:

  1. PB’s can be achieved, (100kms+, FAI triangles, etc)
  2. Spectacular route,
  3. An approach to direct pilots to adapt individual tactics, fly less obvious lines and routes, split the groups to reward pilots who take and use different strategy.

With all that free time what else should you concentrate on?


The easy thing about utilizing a military based decision making process is, and you can be assured, that it has been designed for a complete cross-section of military society and literacy, regardless of rank and level of education They are typically simple, clear, concise and able to be done under pressure and danger to ascertain and convey clear intent rapidly.

In the Australian Army in the 90’s a typical orders proforma that was used from Section to Battalion level was “SMEAC” which was broken into:

  • Situation
  • Mission
  • Execution
  • Admin and Logistics
  • Command and Signals

By having a model to input all the ‘Must Know’ information into you can streamline your information management. A proforma I have used and fits easily in my cockpit is:


In a paragliding context it could be viewed in the following way…


Terrain: hills, valleys, rivers etc

What are the dominating features in the area? Where is the ‘tiger country’, large bodies of water, airfields?

Where are the collectors, wicks and triggers? What areas are going to work at 1200hrs, which at 1500hrs?

Weather– wind strength and direction, overdevelopment, changes expected, temperature, heat stress risk, trigger temp

Airspaces– Military and Civilian, VHF requirements

No Fly/No Land areas- angry farmers, horse studs, high voltage lines, forest


The ‘who, what, when where and how’… for example:

“Today is Task3 of Bright Open2014, the course is a 64.95km race to goal from Mystic to Porepunkah Airstrip via 4 turnpoints.


Launch- Mystic (MYS-080), Open Launch at 1130hrs for 15min, ordered launch from 1145hrs, launch closes at 1300hrs.

Launch will have 5 places numbered 1 at NE end ,back to 5 at SW end, ‘launch box’ is located at center rear of launch in shade.

Start– MYS-080 400m EXIT Cylinder @ 1245hrs

Speed Entry– MER-060, 30000m

Turnpoint 1-MER-060, 15000m

Turnpoint 2– 7J-035, 7000m

End of Speed 5J-040, 1000m

Goal– 6L-028, Porepunkah Airstrip, 1000m, Goal Closes @ 1845hrs

Turn Direction after take off- Left,

Relaunch available from LZ landings only

Leadout points are ON

HESS points ON


Each pilot is responsible for checking out from launch and checking in via SMS or uploading tracklog. Relaunch is available at end of ordered launch.

Tracklogs are required to be uploaded no later than 1900hrs.

A legstrap check is required to pass through the box, it will be conducted by a safety officer unless otherwise directed.

A first-aid kit is located at the Comp Directors vehicle parked at rocks.

I’ve got carrots, a banana and a bag of nuts, plenty of water for 10 hours and a keen sense of humour.


Comp Director- Andrew Horchner

Launch Director is- Col Hjortshoj

Radio Channels- Task CH22, SAFETY CH23 (Reserved by Comp Director).

Capturing this information and being able to access it easily reassures and and frees you up to concentrate on the task at hand without stressing if you are pointed in the right direction.

Whatever method you use, wherever you put it and how you then refer to it could make the difference between getting to a turn point or not.