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
Under investigation. During a dual tow endorsement exercise and at about 250ft AGL, the rope weak link connecting the two tow ropes to the tug failed. Both gliders under tow landed safely. During the prelaunch check the link was inspected and appeared to be in serviceable condition. However, it was evident after the event that the weak link had degraded over time.
Under investigation. The winch launch crew gave the "Take-up slack" signal to launch a glider on a training flight when another glider was on short final. Fortunately, the winch driver was aware of the landing glider and reported this to the launch point. Launch commands were being given on the UHF, contrary to GFA recommendations.
DG-500 Elan Orion
The touring motor glider pilot had flown to a remote aerodrome in company with another motor glider. The forecast winds were light from the Southwest, so the pilot planned to land on RWY 24. Upon arrival at the aerodrome the pilot joined circuit for RWY 24 midfield at about 1,000ft AGL to assess wind direction from the primary and secondary windsocks. Both windsocks were hanging limp, indicating little to no wind on the ground.
The pilot reported “A lefthand circuit was initiated and during the circuit whilst flying over the dried dark brown clay lakebed to the South of the airfield, some turbulence was felt. Turbulence was also felt on the base leg, but this reduced once over the green fields whilst turning onto finals.” The approach was conducted with the engine idling and the propellor in fine pitch. The pilot stated the aircraft touched down mid runway and he noted the ground speed was very high. Due to the high speed, the pilot had difficulty maintaining directional control. The pilot reported “…Full main wheel brake was applied with full backstick to try and maintain control with the tail wheel. The aircraft veered to the right off the runway and the right undercarriage fibreglass wheel fairing contacted a white cone shaped fibreglass light marker.” As the glider slowed, the pilot was able to steer the glider back onto the runway. While taxying to the parking area at the end of RWY 24, the pilot observed the primary windsock was now indicating a strong East-North-Easterly wind, confirming the aircraft had landed downwind with a slight crosswind component. The secondary windsock was noted to be still hanging limp and may not have been serviceable. Discussion with other pilots revealed the lakes and surrounding terrain often generate a microclimate different to that in the surrounding areas. The aircraft was inspected by authorised inspector, who conformed the damage was isolated to the fibreglass wheel fairing.
As the glider was being stowed following outlanding and derigging, the fuselage was pushed too far forward into the trailer which resulted in damage to the canopy. The pilot was conducting outlanding training into a local paddock. The pilot had flown with the CFI on an earlier flight where a successful outlanding was conducted. The pilot then embarked on a second outlanding in a single seat glider but misidentified the surface vegetation and landed in a crop. A trailer retrieve was conducted and, although a team of competent pilots went out, none were familiar with the trailer. The CFI advised that he had run a course on glider trailers the week prior using two different types but not this particular trailer. As a consequence of this incident, the CFI ran another course covering all trailers that are in common use at the club.
Grob G103A Twin II Acro
A post-solo pilot had arranged with their instructor to fly from the rear seat of the club’s Twin Astir and practice take-off and landing. As there was insufficient crew, the glider was launched by winch with the wing on the ground. At around 200ft AGL the pilot lowered the nose of the glider and released the cable. The pilot flying then conducted a low-level turn onto downwind, following which the turn steepened and continued until the runway heading had been achieved. The final turn was flown at very low height and less than 50 metres from trees on the side of the runway.
The CFI reported that they had arrived at the flight line to observe the instructor sitting in the front seat of the glider in the process of conducting a wing-down winch launch on RWY 12 into a south-westerly crosswind. After the aircraft landed, the CFI approached the instructor for an explanation of what had happened. The CFI was informed that the pilot flying had lowered the nose due to the airspeed being low and made the decision that there is a winch failure and released immediately. It was the instructor who directed the pilot to turn onto downwind, and then when the instructor realised the turn was low and flat, they took over. The instructor lowered the nose of the glider and performed a steep turn completing a 360 degree turn and then landed the aircraft safely. The CFI expressed concern that a launch would be conducted without a wingman, and that a landing straight ahead was not considered even though there was ample runway ahead. The CFI suspended the instructor’s flying privileges for four weeks.
Wing down take-off
There is no provision in GFA winch operations for gliders to be launched wing-down. While wing down take-offs can be conducted using aerotow launch, albeit with some risk, acceleration under a winch launch happens much more quickly and exacerbates the risk. With the wing on the ground the resultant drag is likely to cause the glider to commence a ground loop that will become a cartwheel. Once this process has commenced it can be so rapid that safe recovery is impossible even if the release is activated immediately. The result of the cartwheel on winch launch will almost inevitably be the glider rolling toward inverted and impacting the ground. Always use a wing runner to hold the wings level, and if the wing drops to the ground release immediately.
For safety reasons there is no signal for “too slow”. If the launch speed starts to fall off, reduce the angle of climb. If there is no response and the speed continues to fall toward minimum safe speed of 1.3Vs, treat it as a launch failure and release the cable. Adopt ‘safe speed near the ground’ before manoeuvring and land straight ahead whenever possible.
Launch failure when airborne
The definition of the launch failure is the inability to maintain the minimum winch speed on the launch during the climb, regardless of the reason. After a launch failure in flight you must maintain control of the aircraft and return it to a safe landing by performing the following actions:
Action 1. Regain and maintain the safe speed near the ground (1.5VS).
Action 2. Operate the cable release mechanism twice.
Action 3. Land ahead unless there is insufficient space to land safely.
Under investigation. The pilot reported that after climbing to just over 5,000 ft, he did a normal engine test run of the sustainer engine. After about 40 seconds the pilot conducted a standard shut-down procedure, but the engine did not retract. The pilot stated:
“I tried resetting switches with no success, then I tried reaching under the panel to move wires etc. with no joy. The next decision was whether to go direct to land however, I decided that stopping the prop would be a good idea while I still had height. I tried reducing the airspeed however the prop kept turning. I then brought the speed right back while flying straight and level. The prop was still turning even when a mild stall started. The stall was recovered without major speed build-up. About a minute after this at around 60 Kts, the Glider entered a shallow left spiral with rapidly increasing speed. Attempts with rudder and stick did not help. With some back stick the spiral developed into a spin. Full opposite rudder and stick forward had no effect to slow the spin. Several resets and repeats were tried with no effect to the spin. With the ground coming up fast the decision to bail was made. Pull both canopy handles, canopy flew off whacking my head on the way. As the hands went to the canopy handles the Glider started to invert leaving me hanging by the straps, evacuation was easy as I fell out as soon as the buckle was turned. Free fall was brief with the chute opening quickly after pulling the handle. Parachute ride was gentle, but quite a bit of effort was required to avoid landing in a dam. The Glider landed upside down about 300 metres upwind.”
While towing the fully ballasted glider to the launch point at walking pace, the wing dolly struck an obstacle, causing the tail of the glider to turn towards the vehicle. The horizontal stabiliser struck the vehicle and was substantially damaged.
During the morning briefing the pilot received a phone call from work and had to excuse himself. The phone call lasted for some time, which delayed his preparation for flight. By the time the pilot was ready to tow out, most of the fleet was lined up and he did not want to be last. In his haste to get to the flight line, the pilot did not observe a small, forked branch from a tree was lying in the path of the wing dolly. The wing dolly struck the branch, which lodged in the spokes of the wing dolly wheel causing the wheel to stop turning. The moment arm from the long wing and short tow bar resulted in the glider’s tail swinging towards the vehicle. The tail plane struck the rear of the vehicle and suffered substantial crush damage to the stabiliser and elevator, and the aluminium spar was bent. The main contributing factors in this incident was stress leading to the pilot’s haste and a reduction in situational awareness.
When dealing with stressful situations, one tends to focus on a particular concern to the detriment of situational awareness. Situational awareness means looking at your surroundings and assessing risks. In this case, in the pilot’s haste to avoid being last on the grid led a failure to ensure the glider was being towed clear of obstacles. Doing things at haste also risks forgetting or missing vital actions that could compromise the safety of the aircraft and its occupants.
Speed Astir II B
Shortly after touchdown the glider’s port wingtip contacted high grass and proceeded to ground loop to the left. The pilot stated that he had recently conducted several wing-down crosswind landings in an ultralight aircraft, and this may have led him to subconsciously land with the port wing slightly low. The glider was undamaged. The CFI reported that there is some exuberant Patterson's Curse on the runway which stands above the pasture. In addition, the glider has a very low wing so is more at risk than most gliders. The glider was on an extended rollout to finish near the relevant hangar, and the event occurred at low speed during the rollout. It is common practice at this site for gliders to finish with an extended rollout for convenience, but the CFI noted that this does increase the risk of "taxiing" incidents and the matter will be discussed at the next instructors' panel meeting. The Club’s summer mowing program is proceeding at best pace..
The CFI identified a club member had been flying gliders, including solo, up to two months after their GFA membership expired. GFA Operational Regulation 3.1.1 states: "An aircraft to which these Regulations apply must not be operated except by an individual who is a member of the GFA.” Paragraph 8.1(a) of Civil Aviation Order 95.4 states that a relevant sailplane must not be operated except in accordance with the (Operations) manual of the relevant sport aviation body. With Regulatory breaches, CASA expects GFA to deal with the matter and achieve a suitable outcome in the first instance. Where GFA is unable to achieve a suitable outcome, the matter must be referred to CASA. In this case the person immediately renewed their membership, which was backdated to the expiry date, and was counselled by the CFI. Members are solely responsible for ensuring their membership is current before flight, and the GFA membership system sends at least two email reminders in the month leading up to the expiry date.