Saturday, August 19, 2006

Glider Winches - can they be called safe? -- Howard Callaghan

I am by no means an expert on this subject, but they say that "only a fool will not learn from experience" and I now consider myself to be experienced in the dangers inherent in the use of glider winches.

The use of a bicycle speeds up line retrieval at Jomac and, whilst engaging in this simple exercise one Sunday, I found myself up-ended on the bike with the winch line happily eating away at my right leg. Field administering of the wound effectively prevented further complications, although the doctor consulted certainly informed me that accidents such as this can have disastrous consequences.

So what have I learnt?

The winch must be made safe when persons are handling the line!

Many winches do have very effective means of dis-enabling the motor. This includes key-locks and isolating switches attached to the winch frame.

Where no such mechanical means of dis-enabling the winch is available, consider the following when the winch is to be disabled..
A length of tube is attached to the winch and into this is inserted a red flag (similar to that seen at active shooting ranges)
Also, a simple cap (I used an aerosol spray can cap) is placed over the activator button, rendering this harmless.

Whatever the means of de-activating the winch, my advice is do this whenever anybody is handling the line -- I have proved heavy duty nylon takes no prisoners when it is abused.

Howard Callaghan.

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