All clubs and GFA members are urged to report all occurrences and incidents promptly, as and when they occur, using the GFA’s occurrence reporting portal at glidingaustralia.org/Log-In/log-in-soar.html. This is always best done while all details are fresh in everyone's mind.
You can read the full SOAR report at tinyurl.com/ltmko56
Reports noted 'Under investigation' are based on preliminary information received and may contain errors. Any errors in this summary will be corrected when the final report has been completed.
DG-500 Elan Orion
During an aerotow launch the tow pilot noticed that the combination was not climbing normally. After checking the tow plane, and at approximately 2,000 ft AGL, the tow pilot gave a ‘rudder waggle’ signal to alert the glider pilot to the poor climb rate. When the glider pilot did not respond to the signal, the tow pilot check is rear-view mirror and observed sunlight reflecting off the open [aluminium] dive brake panels. The tow pilot then called the glider pilot on the CTAF frequency and informed the pilot the glider’s airbrakes were open, and after several seconds of inaction the tow pilot made another call. The glider pilot then closed and locked the airbrakes and replied to the tow pilot over the radio. The launch and release proceeded normally thereafter.
The glider pilot had conducted nine flights since the beginning of 2022, four of which were in his own glider (Hornet), and three of were private passenger flights in the club's Puchaczs. The pilot had not flown the DG505 since September 2021. The CFI spoke to the pilot about the occurrence and it was determined that the pilot did not correctly lock the dive brake prior to the launch. It was not determined why the glider pilot did not notice the wing waggle or hear the intial radio calls. The pilot stated they had cycled through opening and closing the airbrakes during the pr-take-off checks, and when challenged by the launch crew the pilot stated they “touched the dive brake handle to ensure it was fully forward and checked the handle was flush with the cockpit wall and said ‘dive brakes locked and away’. The pilot noted that unfamiliarity on type may have contributed: “the airbrake handle on the DG 505 is apparently in the ‘locked position’ the handle is flush with the wall of the cockpit when the brakes are not locked”, whereas on “other gliders I fly the airbrake handle is not flush with the cockpit wall until it is locked away.” The glider pilot agreed to attend additional training with one of the club's Level 3 instructors before flying the DG505 again. The CFI wrote an article for the club's monthly newsletter, reminding pilots to physically check that the dive brakes are properly locked when performing the pre-take-off checks.
Unfamiliarity with type is most likely to cause problems during high workload situations. It is therefore importance that pilots understand that ‘new’ gliders take time to get to know. Sometimes differences can be minor, and familiarity comes easily. However, even simple processes, like locking the airbrakes, can be different between types. It is therefore important that pilots take the time to know and fully understand the function and location of all the controls and systems.
DG-500 Elan Orion
The pilot was conducting a local private passenger flight, and had returned to the circuit after a flight of about 2 hours duration. During the final approach the pilot flared early, and the glider stalled onto the runway from about 1 metre. The tailwheel struck the runway first and just ahead of the mainwheel. The landing was observed by the Duty Instructor and several other pilots, who described the landing as being "heavy". The duty instructor, who is also Airworthiness inspector, noted that the glider ran out of energy while the main wheel was approximately one metre above the ground but it did not sustain any damage. The pilot believed they had too much airbrake applied after the flare, but the duty instructor was of the view that the round-out was started too high. The CFI has briefed one of the club's Level 3 instructors, who has agreed to spend some time with the pilot to assist with improving their landing technique and other aspects of their flying. It was noted by the CFI that while the pilot was current, they had only a few flights on type and had not flown this aircraft for several months.
DG-500 Elan Orion
During the initial ground roll of an aerotow launch being flown by the student pilot, the starboard wing dropped to the ground. The flight crew heard a noticeable ‘bang’ as the wingtip struck the edge of a taxiway. The student then experienced problems controlling the aircraft, so the instructor assumed control. The flight continued with no further issues, but after landing the instructor noticed damage to, and excessive movement in, the winglet. The glider was grounded pending a detailed structural inspection.
At this regional aerodrome it is usual for gliders to launch from the right-hand side of runway 31 on the 4m wide bitumen edge of the main unsealed runway. During launch the glider’s right wing overhangs the edge of the runway, and the take-off path crosses a taxiway to the north of RWY 05/23. The CFI reported that the soil around the bitumen moves due to changing moisture content, and at the time of this incident the soil was about a 20 to 30mm below the level of the bitumen. When the wing dropped to the ground, the wingtip wheel holder struck the edge of the bitumen and compressed against the wheel, and the shock caused the wingtip to flex that damaged the wingtip retaining pin. The bent retaining pin prevented the wing tip extension from easily being removed, but upon inspection it was revealed that the alignment pins and stub spar were undamaged. The level change along the edge of the runway and taxiways is a known issue, and the airfield maintenance team are constantly filling the areas and rolling the surface to keep the level change as small as possible. The CFI stated: “The key learning from this issue is the damage to the wingtip extension, was not obvious at first glance. The fact the force of the impact was sufficient to bend the wingtip wheel mounting frame indicated that further investigation was needed before returning the aircraft to the flight line.”
A damaged wingtip security mechanism can lead to the winglet dislodging in flight, as SOAR report S-1600 attests. On 15 November 2019 at about 2000ft AGL, the wingtip securing mechanism of a Lak 17 sailplane failed, allowing the winglet to move forward and dislodge from the alignment pins. The winglet twisted in the airflow causing the aircraft to enter a spin that was not recoverable. The pilot only just managed to escape by parachute. Any significant wingtip strike during launch in an aircraft with detachable winglets should be treated seriously and whenever possible the flight should be abandoned. The aircraft should be thoroughly inspected by an approved inspector before being returned to service.
FK Lightplanes FK9 Mk IV ELA
A powered aircraft entered the runway and took off while the runway was occupied by a glider and tug preparing to launch.
Operations at this regional aerodrome have been limited to a single runway (runway 05/23) for several months while runway 18/36 is reconstructed. The reconstruction has also closed the cross runway 09/27. Runway 05/23 is an asphalt surface 30 metres wide and 2040 metres long. When conditions are suitable, glider operations from taxiway B on runway 05/23 are common practice given that taxiway B is midway along the runway. Operating in this manner minimises the duration of runway occupation with the glider next to launch able to prepare outside of the runway strip, and the tow plane is able to land short and, where no aircraft are wishing to use the runway, roll through to conduct the next launch with minimal delay and impact on other users. Taxiway B has clear visibility to both the 05 and 23 thresholds and vice versa. On the day of the incident, and prior to the powered aircraft entering the runway, the glider ground crew made an entering runway call on the CTAF for an imminent glider launch. The glider was then pushed from the holding point at the runway strip edge onto runway 23 at taxiway B (mid runway taxiway). As the glider was turned and aligned on the runway centreline a powered aircraft called on the CTAF that it was also entering runway 23. The glider ground crew called the powered aircraft and confirmed that the glider was on the runway and would be launching in approximately 2 minutes. The powered aircraft was visible at the runway threshold from the glider launch point. The powered aircraft acknowledged and responded that it would be “out of the way”. As the ground crew removed the glider tail dolly and prepared the aerotow rope, the powered aircraft took off and overflew the glider/tug combination by an estimated 100-150 feet. During the subsequent investigation, the pilot of the powered aircraft stated that he knew the gliders were operating from about the mid length of runway 23. He advised that after broadcasting he was entering the operational runway from the threshold, about 1,000 metres behind the glider operation), he received a radio call from the gliding operation advising they would be taking off in about three minutes. The pilot of the powered aircraft could see the tug and glider, but due to the distance he believed they were positioned outside the runway and that he could take-off and be out of the way without interfering with the glider launch. As his aircraft is a taildragger the pilot did not see the gliding combination over the nose until he was airborne, at which point he judged the safest course was to continue the take-off. The pilot of the powered aircraft was surprised to see the glider was on the runway and not the grass. The gliding CFI advised that the position of the gliding operation was agreed by the aerodrome operations panel and local operators are aware. However, consideration will be given to including an entry in ERSA or issuing a NOTAM for the period the runway works are in progress.
This incident highlights the hazard of non-standard operations, i.e. gliders operating from mid runway and at some distance from the threshold, and the critical importance of communications, especially what you say and how you say it. For further information on good communication, refer to the fourth booklet in the revised 'Safety behaviours: human factors for pilots’ kit available from the CASA website: https://bit.ly/3gCsl0U
NOTE: When the runway strip is occupied by a glider tug or glider, the runway is deemed to be occupied. Aircraft using the runway may, however, commence their take-off run from a position ahead of a stationary glider or tug aircraft (Chapter 3 of the CASA Visual Flight Rules Guide and AIP ENR 5.5-2, paragraph 1.2.4 refer). Also, Pilots must comply with CASR 91.055 – ‘(Aircraft not to be operated in manner that creates a hazard’.
Following a winch launch to about 1600ft AGL, the pilot retracted the undercarriage and flew towards a nearby ridge. After several minutes ridge soaring, the pilot returned to the circuit. While configuring the aircraft for landing the pilot found the undercarriage handle was jammed and could not be moved despite several attempts. The pilot made a radio call informing the ground crew of the problem and conducted a safe landing with the undercarriage retracted. The aircraft suffered only minor abrasions to the bottom of the fuselage. Inspection identified the rear edge of the mudguard (which is part of the undercarriage system) had latched onto a lapped joint in the wheel bay liner. This is a known issue with this type and is usually the result of the pilot raising the undercarriage with excessive force. The proposed solution is to add about 10mm to the leading edge of the aft section of liner to ensure the overlap is always maintained.
The elderly pilot, who had been driving the winch all day, decided the fly the glider back to the hangar at the end of flying operations. During final approach the pilot increased airspeed to 80 knots and flew along the length of the runway at between 10 to 15 feet. Towards the end of the strip run and while the glider was still flying at 70 knots, the plot opened the airbrakes slightly. While the pilot was prepared for a change in pitch, the glider immediately dropped, and the mainwheel struck the runway at speed. The glider rebounded, touched down again and the pilot held the glider in the flare attitude. The glider then touched down heavily and rolled to a stop within about 70 meters. The glider was withdrawn from service pending a hard landing inspection.
The CFI found that mishandled recovery from the initial bounce led to pilot-induced oscillations, with around 4-5 touchdowns occurring. The Club’s Instructors’ Panel observed that the pilot’s skill set is gradually declining with age, and that the pilot was well behind the action during the bounced landing. The pilot has accepted this observation and will participate in some remedial training and more frequent check flights. It is unlikely the pilot will attempt another ground-effect run.
As we grow older our body has a tendency to "slow down" in reaction time, and our cognitive abilities also decline with aging of brain cells and their billions of complex interconnections. Every day we perform hundreds of cognitive tasks but are mostly unaware of the effort involved. Cognitive deficiencies are insidious, have a substantial negative impact on performance and are hardest to identify when the pilot is performing routine activities. One reason symptoms go unnoticed is that with practice and routine, the brain adjusts to mild to moderate cognitive impairment. In other words, normal activities can mask the severity of the deficiency. However, if the pilot’s routine is interrupted by an urgent or stressful situation, then the extent of cognitive impairment may become more evident. It is well known that flight experience can compensate to some degree for age-related declines in cognitive function and that overlearned complex tasks such as piloting are less susceptible to age-related deterioration than abilities to perform in novel situations. Notwithstanding, recency of experience can have a dramatic effect on overall airmanship, regardless of age. It is known that older pilots who have long breaks between flying take longer to regain their proficiency. Older pilots should fly regularly and participate more frequently in recurrent training (e.g., flight reviews). However, when physical deterioration outstrips piloting skills - it's time to quit!
During the final approach the student mishandled the flare and recovery, and the instructor was too late in taking over and could not prevent the left wing from contacting the ground heavily and then impacting a runway light. The glider’s port wingtip was substantially damaged.
The pre-solo student was undertaking the first of four planned pre-solo assessment flights. The student performed well during the launch and brief soaring flight and flew a normal circuit. The student established the glider on a stabilised final approach using a half-airbrake setting. In response to overshooting the aiming point the student opened the air brakes further, which resulted in a high rate of descent. The student over rotated into the flare and the glider ballooned. The student corrected by closing the airbrakes and pitching forward on the stick, and then opened the airbrakes again. The instructor called taking over but this was not heard by the student who remained on the controls. The instructor found the controls were difficult to move and could not prevent the left wing striking the ground heavily and then colliding with a runway light. The student had not flown for two months and the instructor, with hindsight, recognised that they should have given the student more time to refamiliarise themselves before introducing the pressure of an assessment flight.
The most common instructing accident is 'instructor failed to take-over in time'. These accidents usually involve the trainee responding in an unforeseen way or failing to respond at all (e.g. not rounding out). Given that the overall idea is to let the trainee do as much as possible within their level of skill the instructor should never wait until the last moment - which can rapidly become too late before responding to a situation that is going awry. This is particularly true of any manoeuvres close to the ground. Instructors also need to guard themselves against unexpected reactions during the critical stages of flight by adopting a defensive posture, i.e. having their hands and feet ready to take control.
HK 36 R
While a motor glider was on final approach to RWY 36, the Duty Instructor observed two persons walking down the middle of the runway towards the launch point. The Duty Instructor made a radio call to inform the motor glider pilot of the runway incursion and suggested he land on RWY 35. The motor glider pilot diverted onto runway 35 and landed without further incident.
The motor glider pilot was flying a glider approach and not under power. The pedestrians were a visiting level 2 instructor and former club member, and an ab-initio student. The instructor had landed earlier after a very brief solo flight and decided to walk back to the launch point after leaving the aircraft at the hanger complex. The Duty Instructor noted the pedestrians when difficult to see in the late afternoon lighting conditions as their clothing blended into the surrounding grass and trees. The motor glider pilot stated that he did not see the pedestrians during the approach for the same reasons, and that he may not have seen them at all had the Duty instructor not made the radio call. The motor glider pilot stated the pedestrians were directly in his approach path and he very easily could have hit them. The visiting instructor admitted he was not paying attention and did not consider the dangers of walking down the middle of an active runway, nor the issue of visibility late in the afternoon. The ab-initio student stated he was unaware of the approaching motor glider, that he was following the lead of the instructor, and had not thought of the dangers of walking in the middle of an active runway. The pedestrians were counselled and all personnel on the airfield were reminded of the dangers of being on an active runway, and of the expectation that all personnel returning to the launch point must use the adjacent dirt road.
A runway incursion happens when an aircraft comes close to collision with another aircraft, vehicle, or person within the take-off and landing area. In most cases, runway incursions happen due to human errors. In this case, the pedestrians’ lack of situational awareness and failure to recognise the risks of walking down the middle of an operational runway were the key causal factors. Situational awareness is the understanding of your environment, which involves information processing and sound decision-making. No one has perfect situational awareness, but it is vital that one thinks ahead, and monitors, detects and recognises those factors that pose a risk. Above all, avoid complacency.
ASK 21 Mi
At about 500 ft on climb out, the pilot of the glider under tow observed an eagle fly straight towards the tug. The tug pilot saw the bird approaching and made a sharp left turn. The bird passed the tug but was caught in the slipstream. The glider pilot reported “an uncontrolled rotating ball of feathers came straight at the glider hitting the port wing about five feet out from the fuselage. I requested a right turn back towards the airfield and released for a straight in landing on RWY 03”. After landing a maintenance inspector examined the port wing and found the bird had struck the top of the leading edge and slid over the wing leaving scratches and slight residue, but there was no structural damage, and the aircraft was returned to service.