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Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

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Old June 5th 20, 07:52 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
Tango Eight
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

Just last year, while acting as ground crew for a winch launch, I watched the PIC announce on the radio "canopy locked, spoilers locked", while the spoilers were quite clearly not locked and not fully closed. We didn't launch him until the defect was corrected, but the point is: the radio call can be fake news. All you know for sure is that it clutters the frequency.

Your procedures must be based on **actions**. It isn't wring to recite the checklist, but you need to be performing the action of checking that e.g. the spoilers are locked and the canopy is locked.

Old June 5th 20, 10:57 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

On Friday, June 5, 2020 at 11:56:39 AM UTC-7, psb wrote:
First of all, I wasn't actually serious about banning side opening canopies. I now sincerely regret that I wrote it down and am down and will never, ever discuss it again. It's just a possibility that came up so I mentioned it. I tend to think out loud. Please forgive me.

I will stand by my belief that having multiple people involved in the critical glider checklist items, particularly if it is of little or no inconvenience to the pilots involved. People forget stuff, get rusty, distracted, whatever, and make mistakes. It happens and it kills people.

The problem is that the life of the tow pilot depends upon another person (the glider pilot) performing pre-flight procedures properly and executing the takeoff properly. And to make the situation worse, the tow pilot may have never met the glider pilot who has his/her life in their hands.

From a safety engineering standpoint, there is basically no backup to the glider pilot improperly following procedures or incompetently flying the glider. This is a classic single point of failure situation. This is why I am advocating KGARS, which DOES provide a parallel backup to an incompetent glider pilot.

Old June 5th 20, 11:44 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
George Haeh
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

The canopy hinge(s) can be on the front, rear and side. The consequences of an mis- or un- latched canopy are different in each case:

Front: a bit more noise. You may not notice until landing. Don't ask how I know.

Rear: Instantly gone. Pilot unhooks and lands.

Side: Instant distraction for pilot, especially if pilot grabs canopy "in time". Some very rare pilots know which rudder pedal to push to keep canopy down if it comes loose. An L-33 canopy can be mis-latched if it's some 2mm high.

Glider curriculums are silent on handling canopies coming loose.

It feels good to chant "Do the checklist", but people make mistakes and need to be trained in handling screw ups.
Old June 6th 20, 01:09 AM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
Martin Gregorie[_6_]
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

On Fri, 05 Jun 2020 15:44:27 -0700, George Haeh wrote:

It feels good to chant "Do the checklist", but people make mistakes and
need to be trained in handling screw ups.

.... which is why it would be a good idea for all instructors to insist on
the student or trial flighter closing the canopy, locking it and checking
it is locked on ALL flights including their first ever glider flight.

Exactly like I was taught.

Martin | martin at
Gregorie | gregorie dot org

Old June 6th 20, 01:13 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
[email protected]
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

I have launched many hundreds if not thousands of gliders ranging from students with instructors to the best soaring pilots in the country. I have seen strict adherence to the check list, giving lip service to the check list and complete disregard for the check list. I have been 'pushed back'' by someone from a major gliding club who insisted on launching their club glider only to have to stop him from lifting the wing and giving the take off signal to the tow plane because the tail dolly was still installed. Some guys who come down from the north in the beginning of the season need to spend some time remembering the important points of launch. This happened with this club more than once.

I was a volunteer, I thought I knew what I was doing as does everyone who launches a glider I'm sure. I've seen people try to hook up a glider with the wrong ring and not appear to have a clue as to what was wrong. Some have not been familiar with some of the less common belly hooks only to have it come loose the instant the tow plane moves. I've seen pilots who insist that ONLY their wife (the glider widow) perform the hook up. Good idea in many of these cases. (she could have given lessons to many) I've seen people launch gliders while there were gliders close on downwind, on base and even a few on final. Yes, it is sometimes hard to see a white glider against the background of white cumulus but taking a few extra seconds to really look might help avoid a catastrophe. There should be at least three sets of eyes checking on take off. The tow pilot and the glider pilot might not have the best vantage point. The point is that there are many instances in which disaster is lurking right around the corner.

It all boils down to training and adherence to procedures and check lists and even with that, mistakes will be made. It requires commercial and club managers, club Presidents and commercial operation Vice Presidents to take ownership of their responsibility and insure that things be done properly and as safely as the human element will allow. This means hands on training, just because the guy or gal on the line has some glider flying experience is not good enough.

Nothing can totally eliminate the dangerous aspects of flying tow. I always thought that I would have to keep an eye on the old duffers and students but apparently as is witnessed by the USAFA accident, the Front Royal accident and the most recent fatality, instructors too enter into the equation. In reality, every launch brings the tow pilot that much closer to the moment of truth.

It will happen again in the next year or two, it's only a matter of time quite unfortunately.

Walt Connelly
Former Tow Pilot
Now Happy Helicopter Pilot
Old June 6th 20, 03:33 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
Larry Ruggiero
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

“Do you take off and then immediately push down through the prop wash to the low tow position ? 300 AGL is a most critical time due to low level turbulence and height , is this the time to be pushing through propwash to low tow ?“

No, the glider, having lifted off first, stays level until the tow plane climbs out above the glider. Easy.

Larry Ruggiero
Old June 12th 20, 04:06 PM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
Nick Kennedy[_3_]
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

Last Tuesday evening Cindy Brickner hosted a SSA Webinar " Aero towing",
it was very well put together and presented with a powerpoint presentation and a review of the accident that started this thread.
Cindy is a good public speaker and its easy to listen to.

I think it should be required watching for for all glider pilots IMHO every spring.

It clearly shows how in a very short 2-3 seconds the situation can get out of control and the tow pilot gets killed.

It should be up on the SSA webpage in a few days under Webinars.
Thank you Cindy for your time and effort into producing this Webinar.
Fly safe in 2020

Old June 20th 20, 11:01 AM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

Thank you Nick, for mentioning. Webinar is up. Also the compiled Q&A with more illustrations as a supplement, also downloadable. Couple pics of Pawnees with hopper release handles. Will do another for tug pilots, maybe in late july.

SSA Webinar Committee
Old July 16th 20, 01:39 AM posted to rec.aviation.soaring
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Default Fatal Towplane Accident 5-9-20

On Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 6:01:58 AM UTC-4, CindyB wrote:
Thank you Nick, for mentioning. Webinar is up. Also the compiled Q&A with more illustrations as a supplement, also downloadable. Couple pics of Pawnees with hopper release handles. Will do another for tug pilots, maybe in late july.

SSA Webinar Committee

Found this write-up issued by the British Gliding Association (BGA). Very well put together and informative. Apparently, they have the same issue than we have on this side of the pond.


Old July 16th 20, 02:24 AM
Delta8 Delta8 is offline
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Why not enlist the person hooking up the tow rope to do a check as well ?

Distraction from a checklist isn't hard to understand so adding a second person in the mix might avert disaster. While hooking up we usually do a test release a quick look at the canopy or giving it a tug would not add much time before walking to pickup the wing after the pilot gives the thumbs up .

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