New sponsor rules

Wanted to start a discussion about the proposed changes to the sponsor program rules. Here is an excerpt from the meeting notes:

Proposed Rules (changes underlined): …NOTE…only affects new pilots, not existing P2 pilots.
(Local) P2: Minimum of 90 flights with instructor/observer reference
Sponsored until P3
Sponsor or observer must perform walk through and the 1st flight for P2’s.
Minimum of 3 mountain flights minimum over 1000’ AGL
Strongly recommend a tandem for first flight
USHPA recommended operating limitations also apply

Here are my thoughts:

First off, the sponsor program is working great and we can make it even better.

I am FOR P2 pilots always needing a sponsor and not being able to fly solo. Yes, pretty inconvenient for everyone but LO is dangerous regardless of the planned LZ changes. This is a good thing. P2’s would still be welcome. There would be some good motivation to get that P3.

I am AGAINST P2 pilots needing an instructor reference. I’ve never seen such a reference. It is a barrier. Would make it pretty unlikely that visiting pilots would be able to participate.

I am AGAINST P2 pilots needing 90 flights. I think 60 is good enough to start trying LO with a sponsor in ideal conditions. Plus…I have no way of validating if someone has 90 flights but I can validate if they are a P2 or P3.

I am AGAINST the mountain flight over 1000 feet requirement. There is no way to validate it. It doesn’t’ provide any tangible benefits. It is just a road block.

I’m against the tandem strongly recommended wording. This is mostly not observed. That is, most sponsored pilots do not have their first flights as tandem. I think it is extraneous.

OK. Well there it is. Many of you will have different ideas than me. Let’s talk.

I think tightening the rules and adding requirements is the easiest step the club could take in response to our LZ shrinking due to the detention pond coming in. However, I think its the wrong step and alternate (harder) steps should be explored.

Disadvantages to increasing rules and regulations:

  1. discourages pilots to fly here. Less pilots=less community, harder for us to maintain our access and easier for governing bodies/land owners to snuff us out. I would argue less pilots= less safety at Lookout anyway. The more active, involved, and engaged our flying community is, the safer we will be.
  2. encourages visiting pilots, or infrequent local pilots to “poach” and fly anyway. This IS already happening, by the way.
  3. May not actually do ANYTHING to increase safety, as intended.
  4. Extra significant burden on sponsors.

If the problem is a shrinking LZ, then what can we do to address the actual problem? I’ve never seen a sponsor guide someone into the LZ from the LZ. Typically, sponsors are at launch and in touch via radio; not the place to be to guide someone into a tight, sometimes tricky LZ.

Ideas for alternate responses to shrinking LZ issue:

  1. Clear the area above the ditch. I’ve landed here many times, especially when its south, and its a fine LZ and could be a great LZ with some more work.
  2. work with land owners to get permission to possibly remove or reduce some of the trees that block the NW corner of the LZ.
  3. cut back the NW corner of the LZ up towards the trail. This will greatly expand that area although its somewhat blocked by the dead trees mentioned above.
  4. Explore Alternate LZ’s:
    a. The (miners) water tank LZ- not a great LZ, but ok in the right conditions. There’s also another area which is even better to the north across the ravine which might be considered. Not sure about ownership.
    b. The area to the south of the LZ above the other ditch works if its not south. I’ve even seen HG’s land there.
    c. there’s an area near the little park near the pillars which has recently seen lots of excavation. Could this be developed into an LZ? Its right south of the big parking lot where lots of the bikers park. It would be great to get off 93 and all the road hazards of getting in and out of there!

I only learned about some of these areas, some where people have been landing for years, well after being sponsored. perhaps part of the sponsorship program should include landing in some of these other areas. After landing there myself and then learning that people have been doing it for years, I had lots more options and confidence.

One of the biggest safety concerns at Lookout seems to be the LZ and how its in a huge hole. Maybe its time to seriously look at MOVING the main LZ, and making the pit one of the alternate LZ’s?? Further, perhaps the sponsors need to be in the LZ to help guide pilots in if that’s the biggest concern.

If I have to vote as proposed:

(Local) P2: Minimum of 90 flights with instructor/observer reference: AGAINST. 60 seems a fine number and as others have pointed out, a number doesn’t mean much, and is hard to verify. I don’t know what the instructor/observer reference even means- too vague.

Sponsored until P3: AGAINST. Way too big a burden on current sponsor team. Way too cumbersome to coordinate. Its hard enough to find a flyable day good for sponsoring flights for the current 10 required. This would make it damn near impossible for the sponsored P2 pilot. Being current is important and if a sponsored P2 only manages to “align the stars” for a couple flights per month, its not as valuable as it could be.

Minimum of 3 mountain flights minimum over 1000’ AGL: AGAINST. impossible to verify. Many P2’s don’t have recorded GPS tracks.

Strongly recommend a tandem for first flight: A great idea and one of the BEST ways to see the landing approach first hand. Not sure it should be required or how it should be worded, however, this may be the ONLY suggested change that would actually be very helpful for the root problem: shrinking LZ.

Dean had mentioned the idea of having a VASI (glide slope indicator) put in the LZ, I think that would be a great addition and could really benefit pilots to safely get into the LZ. I like the idea of cleaning up the bailout LZ but if you choose to land there be mindful of wind direction, in my experience that area tends to be quite a bit more turbulent with any south.

When hangs get sponsored there first couple flights there is a pilot on launch and one in the LZ to guide them in. During my sponsored flights this was a huge advantage for myself and the sponsors, its very difficult to see the true altitude of the pilot from launch.

I think the pond is going to be more invasive than initially thought:( What happened to the spot landing cone that was once in the LZ? Now is a good time to really practice landing where you NEED to once the pond goes in.

VASI could be a good aide. Rob McKenzie has one at Andy Jackson. Their LZ has a lot in common with Lookout and Rob might be willing to help design one for us.


Along these very lines, I might humbly suggest that the most important stage is our first-contact and a VERY thorough walk-through. Walk all areas of the hill with an experienced guide who can explain terrain and weather implications for all stages of flight. Then (maybe) provide a written/verbal test afterwards to test for comprehension. There is a lot to be learned by walking the LZ approaches, the bail-outs and alternates (as well as the launches) for awareness and insights on the terrain and potential obstacles that might not be as visible from the air.

To that end, it might be good for the club to decide on some quantifiable knowledge/skills demonstrations prior to final approval. Highlighting our major concerns and best skills focus for the new pilots. What to do in situation x, wind from the south above 5mph, how to approach in winds from the north over 5mph. Then ask the questions to confirm understanding.

Then finally (maybe) a discussion among the site sponsors to discuss observed skills and knowledge to help determine if the candidate is ready for approval.

My point and concern is for the occasional sponsorees who, right after being told “whatever you do, don’t turn right,” immediately turn right. Or right after being asked to maintain line-of-sight with the sponsor, immediately go around the corner, out of sight “because that’s where the lift was” and then can’t/won’t/don’t respond to radio instruction.

My feeling (and I know this isn’t as objective) is that kind of pilot likely needs to demonstrate a little more respect for the sponsors, the site and our place on the hill and could rightly be asked to perform a few more sponsored flights before being released.

My opinion. Just putting it out there. This is an important topic and it affects us all.

I like the walk through mention. In the past when I participated in these for HG, we did what you are suggesting. It really helps if the sponsors get together and do the walk through without prospective sponsored pilots so that the group can come up with some consistent recommendations that they all use when doing a walk through. It also helps to get a group of new pilots together early season and do it since these folks will often be flying at the same time and can develop a support network within that new group.

I want to fly an idea in front of the group:

I would emphasize, within the existing language of site rules, recommended P2 conditions and what skills P2’s should be working on in the early flights through the 60th flight… I guess what I am saying is that it’s not the number of flights but rather what one needs to be focusing on during these flights and what skills one should be building upon. I suppose there is a logical progression in conditions versus skills based upon what one learns during the early through later flights. For some pilots, 60 flights might seem excessive while for others 60 flights might not be enough…

Perhaps the experienced PG pilots might focus on that part of the discussion and formulate logical “move past go” steps in conditions as the skills and understanding needed are acquired? 'just thinking out loud here…

It may be that, during these discussions, the PG sponsors can come to some consensus about skills being acquired/demonstrated versus recommended conditions. After all, we all learn things at different rates.

I agree that it is difficult not to restrict the site access when placing ratings requirements on the site. I also agree that - due to the increase in difficulty that will come with changes to the LZ - that we need to explore how to maintain access to the greatest number of pilots that have the required skill set while maintaining the best possible safety (ours and the general public) record that we can in order to secure long term use of the site.

In the long term, I am afraid that the club needs to explore alternative Front Range flying sites with the ease of access that we enjoy at Mt Zion. My concern stems from the increased use of the land adjacent to the site and the resulting reduction in our ability to effectively use the site… Note that part of FAR 103 includes restriction on flight over “populated areas”… 'not sure how to go about this exploration but I think that it should be discussed now before we find ourselves without a Front Range site. With the changes that are coming, I speculate that we have 5 years or so before it becomes an emergent situation.


I’m in 100% agreement with Steve here. Walk-through: key. Alternate LZ options: even more so. More/better/accessible site options: we won’t have a choice much longer…


(PS: marginally off-topic, but I’m loving the measured tone of the discussion so far. It wasn’t that long ago that the conversation would have been contentions, adversarial, name-calling, reputation-questioning, finger-pointing and angry dysfunction. This club has been on a constant path of improvement ever since and I continue to be encouraged by this. Thank you dear club members for respecting each other and keeping the discussion productive and positive. We have a good group here.)

Improve approach to LZ by removing dead trees and improve LZ surface where we can.
Tandem flight recommended (wording)

The proposed new changes will create more demand of the sponsors, which also equals more barriers for P-2 pilots. Some P-2 pilots that are good may continue to need more sponsorship above the 10 required flights with the new proposal.

Idea: Change the sponsor sheet and 10 sponsored flights:
Does a poor/scary sponsored flight still count toward the 10 flight count? Maybe 10 approved sponsored flights? Then on the sponsored flight sheet, add a box for rating the sponsored flight and a sponsor signature. I might suggest a pass/fail and maybe even notes. Good pilots will move forward, pilots that need more flights will continue in the sponsor program or sponsors might suggest the new pilot fly a more friendly site.
The goal is to make sure pilots have the skills to fly Lookout. These skills are based on experience and skill. We should base our requirements on the minimum experience level we are comfortable with and then add in that the pilot needs to have the skill to fly Lookout. Maybe the 10th sponsor is also the final evaluator on the sponsor sheet to make sure the new pilot has 10 approved flights.

I would like to encourage more pilots to become sponsors. The proposed rules would increase the collective demand on the sponsor program and it would be nice to see more people volunteer to make themselves available on the sponsor contact list.

I’m not aware of what makes someone qualified to sponsor. In my opinion, a minimum set of qualifications to be a sponsor would look something like the following:

-P3 or higher
-Minimum 50 flights at Lookout
-Recommendation by 2 current sponsors.

I can think of at least a half dozen qualified pilots who are at Lookout on a near-weekly basis who aren’t listed as sponsors. If you feel you are qualified to be a sponsor, please make your name available. We will be putting together a sponsor meeting in the future so that we can make our sponsorship program better and more consistent. Those who are qualified (or close to it) and willing to be sponsors are welcome to attend.

Some thoughts…

We derailed a little bit. Were supposed to be posting on the new sponsor rules and it has turned into a general discussion on the program. That’s cool, lets keep going with it. Let’s not loose sight of the main topic though…do we or do we not implement the new sponsor rules, especially the controversial requirement that new P2 pilots would need 100% sponsorship until they had their P3. I’m for this but got to tell ya I am concerned about the amount of workload it will make.

Agree, the sponsor program could benefit big time if the sponsors would meet and agree on some basics. Think we are planning on doing so before the next meeting.

Agree, we need more sponsors. I think a sponsor is a special kind of person and some people would not be good sponsors. I think for now they should be appointed by the board but I do think the board should ask for people to volunteer.

On a related note. I’ve applied to become a USHPA Observer. This would allow me to sign people off on any rating I have or lower. I could for example sign off a P2 to be a P3 if I saw fit.

I’ve also applied to become a USHPA Mentor. I did not know about this. A mentor is listed in the USHPA site so that USHPA members can seek them out for…well, mentoring. A mentor can not sign off ratings. I think once more people know about the USHPA mentor program, more will want to participate. The mentor program matches very well with our sponsor program.

Are any sponsors going to be flying tomorrow morning? Sam Carter and Jeff gave me a site briefing last weekend, and I’m looking for a sponsor tomorrow. Thanks!