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1-26 Lessons Learned

This page has been put together in the interest of accident prevention in all phases of our sport, and isnot strictly limited to incidents associated with the flight phase. People learn through experience. Since it's impossible to experience everything, the hope is to encourage a dialog amongst pilots, crew and observers to learn from the experience of others. This is a collection of "Lessons Learned", voluntarily contributed by 1-26 pilots and crew. For a complete list of all aviation related accidents, visit the NTSB website.

Being a CFIG and SSAI (Soaring Society of America Instructor), I've also been asked by the 1-26 Association membership to add some commentary of my own at the end of each of these. This is more of a reminder of what every glider pilot should already know than anything else. The Soaring Safety Foundation is dedicated to reducing the number of accidents in our sport. I'll use this forum to help pass on any recommendations and or new procedures made by the SSF.

When we look at most accident reports, we see that it most often an error in judgement that has caused the accident. In fact, the pilot usually flew the plane quite well into a situation with tragic results. The bottom line being that our decision making process and the judement patterns we use are just as important as the mechanical skills we use to fly the aircraft.

If you, or someone you know has had an incident that we can all learn from, please contact the Webmaster. With the permission of those involved, I will gladly post it here to help make the 1-26 community a safer place.

The following incident occurred 01/08/12. The pilot, George Powell is an experienced glider pilot and a retired Naval Aviator with over 2700 hours in gliders and 2000 hours in powered aircraft. George's commentary of the incident follows below.

Powerful winds came roaring through southern California this weekend. Gusts up to 90 miles an hour were reported in the LA area. Early Sunday morning one of these wind gusts ripped through Warner Springs causing serious damage. Roofs blew off. Anything that wasn't tied down blew away. #009 was one of the casualties.

Garry Dickson called me about noon Sunday to inform me that 009 had come loose from her moorings and blown across the field. I thought at first that he was pulling my leg with an early April Fool joke, but I soon found out from Bret Willat that it was true. I called Greg Sperbeck and we headed to the field. When we arrived, we found the bird siiting upright about 100 ft behind its tie down area. The trash barrel was tippid over and debris was scattered all around.

As you can see from the attached pictires, both wingtips were crushed, the tail was smashed in and there was a serious wrinkle in the fuselage. The tie-down bolt in the starboard wing had broken in two and the chains securing the both wings had pulled free. Behind the parking place there were gouges, scrapes, tracks and holes in the ground marking the path where parts of the glider had dug into the ground as it blew south.

After viewing the evidence and talking to Bret, it appeared that the starboad wing broke loose first, then the port wing. The force of the wind was strong enough that the bird literally "danced on its tail" and finally came to rest just in front of the line of trailers behind Skid Row.

Greg and I dragged 009 back to her parking place, found another tie down bolt and tied her down. After securing the glider, we inspected the tie downs on Luc, Paul, Lane's 1-26s. They were fine. However, we added a few ropes and tie downs where we thought they might be needed.

Lesson learned:

  1. Don't trust the tie down bolt that goes through the wing. Inspect it annually for wear and tear and replace if necessary.
  2. Don't use a single chain for a long term tie down. As it loosens and becomes slack the wind will rock the wings and something will eventually break. Use tie down straps or ropes to keep the wings snug. The chain is the backup.
  3. Fly often, or at least visit your bird. I had not flown 009 since October 14th. Had I been flying more frequently I would have checked the tie downs more often.
  4. Put wingstands under each wing and pull the tie-downs tight so that there is downward pressure on both wingstands. This reduces the chances of the wing rocking

George gives plenty of good advice. The saying "Don't mess with Mother Nature" is based on past experience. She can reach out at anytime just to remind us who's incharge. I think a lot of us forget that there are 4 places you can use to tiedown your 1-26:

  1. Tow Release.
  2. Port Wing Tiedown Ring
  3. Tailwheel
  4. Starboard Wing Tiedown Ring

Who knows if attaching a chain to the tow hook would have helped in these extreme conditions? The wings almost cretaily would have experience some damage, but the tail and fuselage may have been spared.

In areas where high winds are a regular occurence (like the California High Desert), I've seen folks put the tail on a stand to decrease the angle of incidence of the wing and lock the spoilers open to spoil the lift.

My thanks to George for sharing this with the membership.

The following accident occurred at the 2000 1-26 Regional Competition at Caesar Creek, OH over Labor day. The pilot, Bill Bently's commentary of the incident follows below.

This is to explain, in part, why there is only one wing on SN470.

The 1-26 Regional Competition at Caesar Creek, OH over Labor day started on the hottest, most humid day of their summer. While assembling #470 Saturday morning, the perspiration ran off my hat, between my glasses and the orange clip-on sunglasses, making my world look like a scene from "The Abyss". Once out on the lush green runway and away from the blocking trees, a light breeze made it merely hot.

Being the last to get ready, I was at the front of the grid, so as soon as our "sniffer" (Bill Vickland) found enough lift to start the task, was off to try and stay airborne at least until all 9 of the 1-26s got launched. The conditions were pronounced "weak", so our task was to fly 17 miles west to the airport at Middletown,OH (between Cincinnati and Dayton), then back past Caesar Creek to another airport 10 miles East, then home. While waiting for the start gate to open, I got to look at the bottoms of the other brightly painted yellow gliders above me in the weak thermals. They weren't really all yellow, but just looked that way through my orange sunglasses.

Once through the start gate and out on course, the dark bottoms of the clouds marked weak lift for working my way to the west at about 2500 feet AGL with the other 1-26s. Approaching Middletown, my route was across a city where all the streets were tree lined and no open spaces showed, not even a ball diamond or large swimming pool.

Taking a route south of town which had clouds offering lift with open spaces on the ground seemed the long, but healthiest choice. This was beginning to feel like a chess game. The south side of town was bordered by a giant steel mill with an expansive slag heap which looked landable. I could visualize myself landing there and rolling into the mouth of a blast furnace.

Further to the south was a prison with a farm inside the large fence, but THAT trick had already been played by one of our group last year at Elmira.

A little later, while thermalling in rain, I spotted an industrial complex with a long wide entry road that came off a divided highway; perfect for the retrieve! When the lift died, I returned to this road and did a 270 degree left pattern and landed.

After touchdown, I had a long way down a gentile hill to the major road, so decided to hold the nose up and taxi as close to the intersection as possible. After rolling a hundred yards or so, I turned to roll over the rounded curb onto a grass border to park without having to drag the glider.

As I was about to cross the curb at an angle, I heard a sound like a 12 gauge shotgun going off behind my seat. After stopping, I thought "My God, there must be a steel post in the road that I didn't see".

Upon exiting the cockpit, I saw a large yellow fire hydrant behind the right wing. This thing would make a St.Bernard think twice before lifting his leg. The underside of the right wing had a 2 inch wide strip of metal ripped out from leading edge to aileron.

How could I miss something like a large yellow hydrant, I wondered, until I noticed that the tall dried grass by the next field looked yellow through my orange sunglasses. Sitting in the cockpit while coasting down the road put the yellow hydrant in front of the "yellow" grass, rendering it invisible to my weak old eye.

Lesson learned:

  1. When you land in a strange site, no matter how long or smooth, stop as soon as possible and look things over. Our host for the contest, Pat De Naples, told me of landing in a field and seeing a gate ahead. He held the nose up and rolled toward the gate until he saw the ditch. He said the retrieve crew easily found him because they could see the tail of his 1-26 sticking out of the field at a 45 degree angle.
  2. I will never fly over a town that paints their fire hydrants yellow while wearing orange tinted sunglasses.
  3. When going for a telephone, write down every detail (street names, numbers, landmarks) and don't count on the "locals" helping you. The only people home in the development near my landing site just got off the last sampan from Saigon, and I couldn't understand more than 3 words they said.

Bill Bently

This is another example of why roads shouldn't be used for a runway if at all possible. A large field is preferable and offers many more options to the pilot. However, in this case, it sounds as though the road was Bill's best option. The problem occured after touch down, when rather than stopping, the decision was made to taxi the aircraft down the road. A few minutes of ground handling could have prevented what will most likely turn out to be an expensive repair. Luckily, no one was injured in this incident and the ship sounds repairable.

My thanks to Bill for sharing this with the membership.

The following accident occurred at 1335, September 10, 2000. The flight originated in Bishop, CA and terminated near to Big Pine CA. The conditions were CAVU South wind 10-15 mph. The pilot, George Powell is an experienced glider pilot and a retired Naval Aviator with over 2700 hours in gliders and 2000 hours in powered aircraft. George's commentary of the incident follows below.

Just as I was about to land on a perfectly straight and landable road leading to the Big Pine, California cemetery, a pickup truck suddenly pulled out onto the road in front of me and stopped. There wasn’t enough road left to land in back of the truck without hitting it, or in front of the truck without hitting the cemetery gate which was closed.

I diverted ninety degrees to starboard, hoping to land on a short road which led to a recycling center. Unfortunately, by the time I completed a wingover and lined up, there wasn’t enough road remaining in front of me to land safely. Had I landed on what was left of the road, I would have shot like a missile through a narrow gate into the recycling center, ripped off both wings, and smashed into a steel dumpster.

A 12 foot high wire mesh fence surrounded the recycling center and was coming up fast... Having run out of ideas, I pulled up sharply, narrowly missed the fence, stalled, hit the ground with the right wing, slammed nose first into the ground, and slid backwards to a sudden stop.

My injuries were a broken right foot (fractured talus), minor cuts and a severely bruised ego. Hawkeye’s nose was crushed all the way to the rudder pedals. The right wing was completely severed at the spoiler box. The two sections of wing were being held together only by the aileron push rod.

God Bless the Schweizer brothers for designing a strong steel cage around the cockpit. I don’t think I would have survived that impact in a glass bird.

Lesson learned:

  1. Roads were built for use by vehicles, not aircraft. If there are landable fields available (which there were earlier in the flight), and you have to choose between a field and a road, land in the open field. This is especially true near civilization where vehicles may unexpectedly appear. Don't worry about the ease or difficulty of the retrieve. You and your crew can work out those details later. (If necessary, after the retrieve buy them steak and Dom Perignon instead of the usual hot dogs and beer :-).

  2. Use lots of cushions and make sure your seat belt and shoulder harnesses are cinched up tight before every landing. Fortunately, I was sitting on two 4” thick foam cushions and had a third cushion stuck between my parachute and the seat back. I believe that the thick cushions and snug harnesses saved me from sustaining serious back injuries.

George gives plenty of good advice. Roads should never be your first option for an off field landing if there are landable fields nearby. There are many hazards associated with landing on roads. Roads are typically lined with many stationary obstacles, ranging from power lines to mailboxes and fences (everybody knows about road signs). However most of us don't think about those moveable obstacles.

When we fly at our home airport, part of every landing checklist (The use of appropriate checklists are required by the FAA in every glider rating Practical Test Standard and encouraged by the SSF. Do you have one? Do you use it?) is to look out for traffic and obstacles. We get used to seeing gliders and tow planes in the pattern as well as on the ground. However, in the heat of the moment, landing in an unfamiliar area, these items take on even greater importance since, when you get low, your options become severely limited. Be extra vigilant in scanning for any obstructions. If you're flying in a contest, it's entirely possible that some other glider pilot maybe in the area looking for a good place to land as well (after all, you got low didn't you?). Use every queue you can and help each other out.

My thanks to George for sharing this with the membership.

The following accident occurred while trailering to the 2000 1-26 Championships. The pilot, Bob Hurni is an experienced glider pilot and has attended many 1-26 Championships. Bob's commentary of the incident follows below.