Soaring & Surviving Sylmar
2017-09-15 Hang Gliding or Paragliding Near Airliners at Burbank
Questions were raised by a long time hang glider pilot about increased
sightings of jets crossing their popular soaring site, Sylmar. It's about
12 miles northwest of Burbank Airport in CA and has good flying most of
It turns out that at least one airline has a new RNAV (computer
flown) visual approach to runway 15 that puts them really close to a
commonly used "spine" on the mountain. Thermals are wicked up these
spines, making them common hangouts for hang glider (HG) and paraglider
(PG) pilots. Legally, the HG/PG pilots can be there. So I got looking
and overlaid the newly created RNAV visual RW 15 that airlines are using
on a sectional (Terminal Area Chart, actually) to see where their
computers are taking them. It's below.
Technically, hang gliders (or any ultralight) are not allowed to fly
inside the dashed magenta lines that include BATTT & MATRX but the other
locations are fair game. Of course the hang gliders bear the legal
responsibility to keep clear but a planeload of dead people, or their
congresspersons, won't care. So we should collectively work to mitigate
Don't think of solutions, think of mitigations. Here are my
1. Hang glider pilots should avoid flying in this area given what we
know about the route. Yup, it's legal now, but a lot of things
used to be legal.
2. The airlines (at least one) already caution their pilots about
hang gliders there but reality is that this is a very busy approach and
pilots may not spend much time scanning. Yes, of course, they should,
but I'm simply doling out what happens in an airline cockpit on an
approach that tends to leave you high and working to manage energy. The
airlines should suggest using another runway when possible to avoid this
3. ATC should advise pilots if they know hang gliding operations are
taking place. That would require cooperation with the Sylmar Soaring
Association which they've offered to render.
4. Hang glider and paraglider pilots flying in close proximity to
airliners or any aircraft traffic for that matter, should carry a
portable transponder. I don't yet know if that's even legal but am
trying to find out. A new standard, ADS-B goes into effect by 2020.
5. Of last resort is the minimally effective "see and avoid." Keep a
good lookout on both sides of the window pane.
This is an overlay of the Runway 15 RNAV Visual
in use by at least one airline.