Messages posted to the Hang Gliding List



Date: Sun, 25 Aug 2002
Subject: Wind Indicators for out-landings.

Well here's something useful I have found which I would like to pass on to those not already in the know.

The BEST way I have yet found to find out wind direction prior to landing is to use one of those paper and cardboard streamers that (I think) crop dusters use. I first encountered these at the King meet a couple of years ago, so thoughtfully provided by Lisa Tate and co. (Some pilots in the comp, whose names will not be revealed (provided they keep sending money) thought these items, were, ahem, "mountain money". We will forbear to ask what they did with the cardboard bit!).

Now, notwithstanding all the other knowledge you have, and signs and indicators, and gut feelings, and assurances from other pilots who are not necessarily near you, and blissfully-ignorant-of-the-consequences-of-getting-it-wrong digital readouts from your various electronic aids, sometimes you just want a little more info.

I've seen 'em all, from death-from-the-sky arrows with streamers attached, to smoke bombs which are either duds or set fire to the forest (saves 'em from the loggers!), to weighted percussion caps with a powder discharge ($45, lost after first deployment), to long weighted streamers in film canisters which seem to either plummet to the ground and land in a heap, or you arrive on terra very firma before they do!

But these crop duster streamers seem to work a treat. They are approximately a 20 ft x 4" white or colored paper streamer, folded and attached to a thickish trapezoid piece of card, (incidentally does anyone know why they are this shape?).  I fold mine in half and put a 'laccy band round it to stop it from spilling.

Simply toss one of these little babies at 300' over the intended LZ, and watch 'er float down, faster than you, and lay out on the ground pretty as you like, while you do a big circle around and land right over the top of it.

I have used one of these 4X now and it works like a charm so far. And I have retrieved it for re-use every time, thus saving trees!

Others in our merry band have reported similar successes with this product!

Works for me - I hope you enjoy it too.


Date: Thu, 02 Dec 2004
Subject: Smoke canisters

Any chemists on the group?

Does anyone know what goes into making chemical smoke canisters? Any not too dangerous options? Would rather stay away from gunpowder and the likes.

I know they're available commercialy but not around here. Shipping across borders is a can of worms. And they're expensive too.


Date: Thu, 02 Dec 2004
Subject: Re: Smoke canisters


Smoke canisters are an expensive, unreliable and potentially dangerous method of assessing wind direction prior to landing (I take it that is what you want them for.) They are not made for this purpose, and I predict that if you use them for such you will regret it sooner or later.

They are highly unreliable - about 40% failure rate in my experience - not what you want when you have seconds to make a decision on which way to land.

They have the potential to start a forest or brush fire, which my be life threatening to you and to others. God help you (and the HG community) if you start a serious forest fire when using one of these!

Finally if you store them with your gear or in your vehicle and one gets ignited (and this has happened) then not only won't you be flying, you may also be walking home!

The best device to assess wind direction prior to landing are the simple paper and card streamers that crop dusters use to assess drift. They are utterly simple to use, virtually foolproof, work like a charm - you just drop it from about 150 ft and watch - this gives ample time to make a decision about which way to land. I simply fold mine in two and secure it with a rubber band. I usually carry two when going XC, stashed under the shoulder strap of my harness or anywhere convenient.

These are environmentally friendly, biodegradable, won't set anything on fire, and can be used as, ahem, "mountain money" if you get desperate! Moreover they cost about 50c and can be re-used many times. Enquire from crop duster operations or check here -

Happy landings,

Date: Fri, 03 Dec 2004
Subject: Re: Smoke canisters

> They are utterly simple to use, virtually foolproof,
> Leo

I must be the fool. I was flying by myself, about 40 miles from launch. I was in a nice thermal, 4,000' agl, when I noticed a streamer floating near by. I started looking above me to see who could possibly be in the air. No one in sight. Then it clicked. I looked for my streamer which I had tucked into my harness and saw it was missing.