Aviation Safety Letter 2/2003

Accident Reports from the TSB, NTSB1, and AAIB2

Watch out for power lines: Avian Balloon Skyhawk. The pilot was proceeding to land in a field when he observed power lines in the landing path. The pilot and a passenger chose to jump to the ground before the balloon collided with power lines. While the passenger sustained minor injuries, the pilot was seriously injured. The balloon was not damaged. Winds were 100° at 5 kts. Power lines are very difficult to see, but if a pilot concentrates on looking for pylons and power line poles, he will improve his chances of avoiding such obstacles. A pilot may also elicit the help of his passengers to signal any safety matter that they may observe during the flight, as this will increase the level of safety and ensure a successful and memorable outing.

Unqualified pilot, medication and unapproved modifications: A student pilot chose to fly his newly purchased, second hand, Rans S4 Coyote — contrary to the direction of his instructor. The pilot was fatally injured when he crashed immediately after takeoff. Aside from contravening the privileges of his Student Pilot Permit, two other factors may have played a role in this fatal accident. It is reported that the pilot suffered from a viral infection and may have been under the influence of cold medication. It is possible that he may also have experienced difficulty with the flight control system at takeoff, a situation that may have been related to contact between the seat and the aileron control torque tube. Mixing an unqualified pilot with medication that may impair one's ability to operate machinery is a recipe for disaster. Relying on an unqualified pilot to ensure that all components of an unfamiliar aircraft are installed and operating properly can lead to problems too. All pilots, including students, must respect the privileges of their licences and permits. If you fly, exercise care when using over-the-counter medication. If any doubt exists, consult your Civil Aviation Medical Examiner.

See and avoid: Piper Pawnee and KA13 Glider. The Piper Pawnee tow aircraft had just released a glider and was slowly making its way to the airport with its towrope hanging from the tail hook. The glider was orbiting close by and each pilot saw the other, from a distance of approximately 200 m, closing in head on. In spite of rapid avoidance manoeuvring, the towrope hit the canopy of the glider, causing damage to it and to the wings. Both aircraft landed without further damage or injury. Tow pilots should be especially vigilant when returning to the field, and take extra care to avoid manoeuvring in the vicinity of gliders approaching for landing. Gliders flying in pattern do not usually have the luxury of speed, altitude and manoeuvrability to enable them to easily avoid other aircraft or obstacles. As a tow pilot, make it a habit to ensure that all incoming traffic is identified and cleared before proceeding to land.

Mid-air collision: Nova Axon. While soaring at 100 ft with several other paragliders and a couple of hang gliders, the pilot heard shouting but was unable to determine where it was coming from. He looked over his shoulder just as a hang glider's wing tip hit the back of his harness. He landed immediately without injury but the hang glider pilot continued his flight for another 15 min. Flying calls for the highest degree of safety and can only be assured through methodical re-evaluation of all of the factors that come into play. Both pilots should have landed immediately and reviewed the event to find out what led to the collision. A review of the incident through group discussion would certainly benefit all who fly that type of aircraft and would help to considerably reduce the risk that such an event would recur.

Wonderful emergency parachutes: Icaro Mr 2000. At the end of a two-hour thermal soaring flight, the pilot initiated a high-speed dive. As the pilot slowed the glider, it pitched up to 90° and then tumbled. Although the glider righted itself, the right wing had broken during the tumble. The pilot deployed his emergency parachute and landed safely on a grassy slope. This might have been a condition where the pilot exceeded the maximum speed and structural load factor allowed by the manufacturer, and possibly weakened the structure to the point of failure. Fortunately, he had sufficient height and control to release the emergency parachute and averted disaster. Pilots of ultralight airplanes should be vigilant and refrain from performing any manoeuvres that might inflict an overload on the structure. Furthermore, a careful inspection of the aircraft should be carried out at regular intervals and any time one feels that the structure might have sustained an overload. This will go a long way towards ensuring the continued airworthiness of the aircraft. Emergency parachutes have been found by many pilots to be well worth the investment, and weight penalty, as they have saved numerous lives and aircraft from destruction.

Carburetor heat and full harness: Jabiru UL. When carburetor heat was applied at 500 ft AGL on the approach to the microlight strip, the engine lost power. A forced landing was carried out on a ploughed field and the microlight overturned. The full harness prevented injury to both occupants. Normally the use of carburetor heat is recommended whenever the risk of carburetor icing is present or suspected, and when at pattern altitude before landing. In this case, the selection of carburetor heat several times during the flight, and at traffic altitude, might have alerted the pilot to the presence of ice in the intake and to the possibility of power loss upon approaching landing. It should be noted that unless a pilot holds an ultralight airplane instructor's licence, he is prohibited from carrying a passenger. The flight has to be for training purposes, unless the passenger also holds an ultralight airplane pilot licence, or a private- or higher-qualification pilot licence approved for the type. Legislation to permit the carriage of a passenger in an ultralight airplane and a training syllabus for pilots is under review at the present time. We will keep you posted.

Loss of control on takeoff: Interplane SkyBoy. A pilot received serious injuries and the ultralight airplane was substantially damaged following the loss of control during takeoff. The pilot reported that he failed to maintain optimal climbing speed before the aircraft rolled to the right and to the left and contacted the ground. According to witnesses, the ultralight airplane became airborne at a nose-high attitude after a ground-run of 100 ft. The wings rocked from side to side at an altitude of 25 ft and the aircraft descended to the runway, inverted. The pilot had purchased the aircraft recently and only had 15.4 hours of experience. This seems to be a case of insufficient training, limited knowledge of the aircraft specifications and flight characteristics, as well as the requirements of the regulations to operate as pilot-in-command of a new aircraft. The loss might have been greater had he lost his life! Proper training from a qualified instructor would have ensured countless hours of safe flying in his newly acquired aircraft.

1 - National Transportation Safety Board
2 - Air Accident Investigation Branch

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