Friday, November 11, 2005

Accident of the Week

Sorry I skipped last week. I've suitably chastised myself and promised that it won't happen again.

This week's accident report involves a glider that suffered an in-flight breakup in the Flight Levels. Thankfully, the pilot was wearing a parachute and survived, albeit with serious injuries. He was wave soaring. The report notes that lenticular clouds were present. Could it be that there was so much turbulence that the glider broke up? They hadn't yet found the wings...

NTSB Identification: LAX06LA024
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, November 02, 2005 in Sparks, NV
Aircraft: Schleicher ASH 26 E, registration: N26XL
Injuries: 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On November 2, 2005, about 0940 Pacific standard time, a Schleicher Alexander GMBH & Company, ASH 26E (powered glider), N26XL, experienced an in-flight breakup over Sparks, Nevada, during an unknown phase of flight. The glider was destroyed, and the airline transport pilot was seriously injured. The pilot owned and operated the glider. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the ground level impact site, and undetermined conditions existed aloft. The personal flight was performed under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was in effect. The flight originated from Inyokern, California, about 0645.

Preliminary information received from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) quality assurance personnel indicates that the pilot did not report experiencing any difficulties during the flight. The pilot had been cleared to fly in an airspace block between FL 180 and FL 280. Controllers opined that the pilot's communications sounded "normal" during conversations within minutes of their losing radio and radar contact.

FAA air route traffic control center recorded radar data for the last 8 minutes 13 seconds of recorded flight indicates that at 0932:17 the glider was at a mode C transponder altitude of 20,000 feet. At 0935:42, the glider's altitude had decreased to 18,800 feet, and at 0939:06, it had increased to 20,800 feet.

The last (mode C) radar hit occurred at 0939:30. At this time the glider was located about 0.8 nautical miles (nm) north-northeast (030 degrees, magnetic) of Sparks. One minute later the glider was about 2.2 nm and 032 degrees from Sparks.

The main wreckage was found about 2.6 nm north-northeast of Sparks. The wings and the horizontal stabilizers were not with the main wreckage. They have not, as yet, been located. According to Sparks Police Department personnel, various other components from the glider have been located in the city over an approximate 5-mile-long path.

Several FAA air traffic controllers, based in the Reno/Tahoe International Airport control tower, reported observing a target rapidly descend on their D-BRITE radar. Using binoculars while looking in the same general area, they observed a parachute. The controllers telephoned 911 and advised local authorities of the situation.

The pilot, with his deployed parachute, was located about 1.6 nm and 007 degrees from the main wreckage.

The Reno Airport, elevation 4,415 feet mean sea level, is located about 4.8 nm south of the accident site. At 0956, Reno reported the following weather conditions at the airport: wind from 190 degrees at 29 knots with gusts to 38 knots; 10 miles visibility; few clouds at 10,000 feet and broken clouds at 15,000 and 25,000 feet.

An acquaintance of the pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that, at the time of the accident, he was soaring several miles from the accident site. The acquaintance stated that his friend was engaged in a cross-country wave soaring activity. Lenticular clouds were present in the area.
Here's a picture of the wreckage:

Here's another view:

From the Sparks Tribune

The article in the Sparks Tribune reports that the pilot indicated he encountered "heavy winds" that ultimately led to failure of the tail system, which in turn led to failure of the wings. He bailed out between 12,000 and 15,000 MSL. His injuries appear to have resulted from a hard landing, and then being dragged by the parachute canopy.

No comments: