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									                                   SAFETY SECTION

                                      Steve Murray

Please note that my original article on accident reporting (S.A. Soaring #23 – October,
1999) is now on the Soaring Society website ( The article
defines accidents and incidents and fully describes the reporting procedures. Also
included are the CAA accident/incident reporting forms that I would ask you to download
and use for all of your reports (thanks to Ian Buchanan for this recommendation).

18/00: Incident; ASK-6 – no damage.
Thanks to the pilot/reporter – too many of us are reluctant to „lose face‟ and admit when
we have „goofed‟, especially when we have „got away with it‟.
Pilot experienced heavy sink on downwind, hesitated on the base-leg turn, resulting in
being further downwind than planned, for final approach. „Just made it‟ – landing on the
runway markers.
Pilot recommendations – take extra care when flying in strong wind conditions; do not
hesitate in your decision-making; maintain „good‟ flying speed on approach – 110kph in
this instance.
Another observation (may have happened in this incident?) – when the base-leg turn
brings you to a „marginal‟ distance from the runway, fly direct to the runway – on the

19/00: ASW20BL – substantial damage. Injuries – minor.
Winch launch with partially-filled water ballast. Right wing dropped (either due to the
water ballast not being fully balanced pre-launch, or to sufficient water flowing to the
right wing-tip – in a hurry – to create imbalance). Wing struck the ground three times
before the glider became airborne, to execute a chandelle to the right before impacting
the ground nose-first.
 DO NOT winch launch with partially-filled water ballast (a notice to this effect went
    out to all club safety quality controllers immediately following this accident).
 The pilot started the launch with full negative flap (common practice with this type of
    glider – his comment) – gradually moving the flap lever backward to (positive)
    thermal flap position. „Common practice‟ or not, I do seriously question it. With a
    really powerful winch, the time between „all out‟ and becoming airborne is so quick
    (and the time period so critical) that it is my personal contention that your hand (and
    mind) should be on one thing – and one thing only – that is the release. The „all out‟
    signal should signal „prepare to release‟ – immediately something goes amiss.
 The right wing struck the ground – three times – and no release! (in fact the winch
    cable back-released during the chandelle). Wing touches the ground – during a
    winch launch – RELEASE! Following this accident, and a somewhat similar fatal
    accident (see 23/00) it is now recommended policy that launch marshals – who must
    monitor the launch closely until the glider is well into the air – must call „STOP,
    STOP, STOP to the winch driver the moment a wing touches the ground

(I would like to remind my readers that these (and all) comments are made with the
benefit of „perfect judgement‟ – namely 20/20 hindsight. We can all be „clever‟ –
afterwards. I am not criticising any individuals concerned when I make negative
comments. Often what we do is: what we have been taught; what we have read; what is
„common practice‟; or habit(s). Every accident report is an opportunity for each one of
us to learn, to re-learn (or be reminded), and to break us out of (bad) habit(s)).

20/00: Incident; Blanik – minor damage.
Introductory flight – canopy check not properly completed – canopy opened during a
spin. Canopy re-secured and flight completed normally. Canopy frame required
subsequent repair and replacement of the perspex.
With all due respect, I must question the practice of demonstrating a spin on an
introductory flight (apart from reminding us all to double-check pre-take-off actions on
such flights). Even if the passenger „is willing‟ – as in this instance – a spin, by its
„violent‟ nature, has the real potential to „scare off‟ an introductory passenger. Surely
this is not the purpose of such a flight! Keep it smooth, keep it safe, be professional –
bring them back for the joy of gliding, not for an adrenaline rush – that can come later.
(Although the incident report states that this was an „introductory flight‟, I have been
corrected subsequently that it was a „passenger flight‟ with a friend who had flown
previously. I stand by my contention that „thrills and spills‟ – including „beat-ups‟
(“practice finishes”) – should not be part of an individual‟s early flying experience).

21/00: Incident; Libelle – no damage. Vulture – fatal?
Thanks also for this report. Please, everyone, submit bird-strike reports. There exists a
bird-strike committee that collects all reports in order to seek trends and to make
recommendations. Place, time of day, altitude, type of bird and any other observations
are what is required. (The report has gone on to the committee).

22/00: Incident; Nimbus 3DM – no damage.
Tricky procedure – for the very experienced only. However, if you are „tempted‟ – be
Aerotow-assisted motor-glider launch (motor running). The motor glider started to
overtake the tug, and the slack rope caught in the glider wheel. Eventually the rope
broke and the launch was stopped.
Recommendation (from the motor-glider pilot) – do not take power until the tug has
sufficient speed. Take only sufficient power that ensures that the rope is taut at all

23/00: Twin Astir – substantial damage. Pilot – critically injured (now on the mend); pupil
– fatal.
Unhappily, this was our third fatal winch-launch accident in the year 2000! Once again
this report is not based on the official CAA investigation, as their report will be available
only at a later date.
As indicated in my comments on accident 19/00, this accident has led us to recommend,
strongly, that winch-launch marshals call „STOP, STOP, STOP‟ as soon as a glider wing
touches the ground during a winch launch. Similarly, it is equally strongly recommended
that pilots IMMEDIATELY RELEASE when a wing touches the ground during a winch
In this accident the launch was initiated into a strong headwind (20-25kph), 20° off-track
from the right. The tendency, as you know, in these conditions will be for the glider to
track into wind. The possibility exists that the pupil started the launch with left rudder „in‟
which also may have given a „bias‟ to left wing down (left rudder/left wing). Initially (for
65m) the glider remained balanced and did indeed track slightly (1.0 – 1.5m) to the right
of track. The left wing then dragged along the ground for 55m (no release!). The glider
appears to have become airborne with this wing still on the ground. The right (into wind)
wing would by now have been travelling very much faster than the left (out-of-wind) wing
and the glider rolled inverted (the winch cable probably back-released during this stage)
and the glider landed inverted, nose-down, with minimum survivability possibility for the
front-seated pupil. The winch marshal did in fact call for the winch to stop whilst the left
wing was dragging along the ground, but normal reaction times mean that there is an
unavoidable delay between the time the human mind says „stop this‟ and the human at
the „other end‟ can react. Then, of course, there is the mechanical delay where the
winch drum cannot be stopped instantly.
Two important points:
  Prepare yourself to release the glider from the winch cable in the event that „things‟
     start to go awry. Don‟t delay.
  We tend to teach (and be taught) „standard‟ procedures – stick fully forward/neutral/
     partially back? – at the commencement of a launch. These may be very well, but do
     not forget to FLY the glider at all times – even on the ground during a winch launch.
     Standard procedures cannot be applicable in all circumstances, so, especially in
     „unusual/abnormal‟ conditions (a 20 – 25kph wind, slightly across) be prepared for
     the possibility that those „standard‟ procedures may not be adequate.

24/00: ?? – substantial damage. Pilot – no injuries.
At the time of writing, I still await a full report on this accident. This is unfortunate as I
think we may have much to learn from it – with the help of the CAA, the Weather
Bureau, and whatever experts we can find (local and international).
Experienced pilot on an outlanding during a competition. The pilot thoroughly verified
the wind direction (via his g.p.s.) and set up to land in a carefully-selected ploughed field.
On final approach the wind had changed to a strong tail wind and he executed an s-turn
(was a sideslip another option?). This was completed successfully but his ground speed
was still too high. The glider ground-looped (deliberately?), breaking off the tail,
damaging the left wing, and the undercarriage. The circumstance would indicate a
„down-burst‟ – a condition normally associated with storm-fronts, which apparently was
not the situation on the day. There were no storms in the immediate vicinity.
Since they were first positively identified, down-bursts have been implicated in a number
of fatal airline accidents, and, especially power pilots, have been alerted to look for the
circumstances (mainly abnormal speed variations, near storm fronts) which down-bursts
produce, and to „go around‟ when in any doubt. (Down-bursts do not „hover‟ for long
over one spot, so that a second landing attempt will usually find it having moved away).
Unfortunately glider pilots do not have this „go around‟ luxury. I know that I will come in
for „flak‟ for being negative, but all I can say is that s..t really can happen. When it does,
you can do only what the circumstances will permit. Rather than go through the far
fence when your landing speed is too high to stop in your selected field, the preferable
option is to deliberately „dig in‟ a wing and to ground loop. You will damage the glider
but your chances of avoiding injury will be improved. Keep your head, react positively,
and timeously, and you will live to tell the tale.
NOTE: In this accident, there were no external cues as to the wind speed/direction. The
pilot reported that he used his g.p.s. to determine the wind direction (2X360° turns).
Subsequently, doubt has been cast as to the accuracy of using a g.p.s. for the purpose
of determining wind direction on the ground? I would welcome comments, advice,
assistance, or information on this point. Please!

01/01: Incident. Runway incursion by a pedestrian – no damage.
Pedestrian started to cross the runway with a glider (Single Astir) on very short finals.
Glider not seen – too low against the horizon? – but heard (pilot closed the airbrakes)
and the pedestrian reversed direction smartly. Recommendation to create a specific
„pedestrian crossing‟ area behind or at the runway threshold and to enforce the „no short
landings‟ club rule.
Another aspect of this incident was the pilot‟s reaction. So determined was he to ensure
that the miscreant pedestrian must know that he had been an „idiot‟, that he „stared
down‟ the pedestrian as he flew past (air rage?). At that moment the glider „struck‟ the
ground, fortunately in a fully balanced, albeit slightly nose-low position, and going
somewhat faster than a „normal‟ landing. If you ever feel the need to castigate anyone
whilst you are in command of an aircraft, please wait until you are safely on the ground
before doing so. There is no doubt that the pilot was justified in being upset, but his
reaction was life-threatening, mainly to himself!


       Pilot‟s responsibility – yes, but why not let the wingman also take a good look?
       In a tail-dragger tug the pilot is partially unsighted straight ahead – until the tail-
       wheel comes up. Could be too late.
       Over to the clubs, as they see fit. (Thanks to Barrie Lewis for the excellent idea).
ii)    The single most important on-going requirement for aviation safety in general
       aviation (which would include soaring) is currency. Most, if not all, clubs have
       rules in place for dual checks in the event that you have not flown recently
       (recently? – I suspect that there is some variation in the interpretation of this). As
       far as operating club aircraft is concerned, presumably clubs can monitor
       „currency‟, but less-easily for private aircraft. It is in your own interest (and, in
       many cases the interests of families) that when you are not current that you
       voluntarily undertake a dual check. Not just a take-off and landing, but at least a
       20-30 minute flight where you can practise steep turns (g-tolerance), etc.
       What is currency? I suspect that it is different for different experience levels.
       Two missed weekends for pilots with less than 100 hours could make them non-
       current. Even for 1000-hour-plus pilots six weeks could be too long to lay off and
       still be considered „current‟. I would recommend 6 missed weekends as the
       maximum, after which a dual check should be required. In the end, however, it is
       up to each one of us to „admit‟ that we are not current and to take the appropriate
       action. Time? Cost? Has to be worth both – you wouldn‟t like to know the costs –
       in time and money – of an accident.
       What is the biggest danger of not being current? LOOK OUT. Currency gives
       you the confidence to keep your eyes out of the cockpit and I suspect that it is
       LOOK OUT that goes first when you lack currency.
iii)   Impact-absorbent cushions in gliders.
       Especially clubs should not have any other type of cushion in their aircraft. You
       owe it to every person that flies in your club aircraft to provide the maximum
       safety. Impact-absorbent cushions have been proven to reduce injury levels to
       the extent that it is „almost criminal‟ not to spend the extra for the additional
       safety. Private aircraft – over to you!
       Enquiries re IAC‟s to: Sondor Industries Ltd. – with branches in Cape Town,
       Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Port Elizabeth. (There are no doubt other
       suppliers, but I thought that some people might need a „lead‟).
Safe flying!

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