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Incidence Reports

Submit an Incident Report

The basis for free flights ease of access is through responsible self-regulation by organizations like USHPA, local clubs that work to keep LZs and launches open and peer review and discussion of our personal flying style and choices. With that in mind I feel it is important that we discuss our mistakes and incidences maturely with one another so that we can learn and grow as a community as well as share our knowledge with others so they won't have to make the same mistakes. Ideally, I would like this tool to be used as a self-reporting option for all league pilots without having to ask people to submit items. Basically an incident that is worth reporting is anything that went wrong that could be handled better in the future regardless of the final outcome.

On occasion I will ask pilots to submit reports so that I know we are on the same page and that pilots have acknowledged poor decisions. As the league operator, I spend a great deal of time in the air and on the ground worrying about the safety of all pilots involved. I do my best to make conservative decisions for the league but at the end of the day we are out there pushing our boundaries and sometimes flying in difficult air. It is my hope that this tool will raise safety and awareness for all pilots in the league and serve as a learning tool. Finally I'm very thankful that I fly with such responsible and talented pilots that in the few years running the league there have been virtually no incidents worth discussing. Thanks guys, keep it up!

Marshall - Bad Launch Cycle - 5/18/2014 13:30:00

Incident Description:

I was the first to launch Marshall on an especially thermic day. I brought the wing above my head to test conditions, the wind was not overly strong but the flow was really bad and it was difficult to keep the wing pointed in one direction or inflated. I continued to kite my wing for about a minute before aborting and putting it back down.

I waited a few more minutes hoping for a better cycle and brought the wing up above my head again. This time I waited for the middle of a strong cycle hoping it would cause the wind to smooth out and straighten up however conditions were similar again with my wing twisting and taking collapses. Eventually after fighting it a bit it stabilized slightly so I decided to launch.

Immediately I was plucked off the hill which isn't that unusual in it self but the amount of turbulence and power in the cycle was more than I was expecting. At one point I'm pretty sure I was actually going backwards and up as well as being pushed off the side of the hill instead of into the wind.

I continued to handle the glider as best I could to keep it pointed away from the hill and keep it inflated all the while still not seated in my harness. I took a few minor collapses but recovered quickly without losing my heading. I was finally able to clear the thermal and get seated and push out over safer terrain with more clearance.

During the launch as I started to clear the edge of the LZ I was able to look down into the bushes below launch and see them absolutely churning which indicated to me the signs of dust devil. At this point I realized I was in for a rough ride and had to be absolutely on top of my glider control.

Primary Factors:

The primary cause of this incident is impatience on my part. I know how to abort launches but seldom like to do so anymore due to perhaps pride with my launch skills and impatience to get in the air.

Kiting my wing before take-off to gauge conditions is something I was taught by my instructor. Though I did attempt to do this I didn't actually follow through on my on training and opted to launch despite obviously turbulent conditions. By doing so I ended up in something similar to a dust devil.

Preventative Steps For Next Time:

Next time in this same situation I will wait longer to launch until a smoother cycle blows through launch. I did not hear a report of others launches but assume they went much better than mine. Combine that with the fact that most pilots ended up coming into goal so close to one another there was really no rush to get off launch.

Recent reports from early launches at Marshall have mentioned similar conditions. It seems as conditions turn on here the air can be excessively turbulent. Rather than launching right at the start of these conditions, waiting 20-30 minutes would allow for things to organize and smooth out a bit.

Laguna - Bad Launch Technique - 4/21/2013

Incident Description:

I had a very poor torpedo that resulted in a crappy tiptoe launch with too much brake stepping through the brush to get in the air. Once in the air, I settled into the harness and got my hands in position to fly. Shortly after launch (~10 seconds) I hit a thermal that resides in in the area that pulled me up initially at ~300 fpm. The lift increased to maybe 600 fpm (not sure, basing it on vario frequency) at which point I experienced a 75% asymmetric collapse on the left side. Pilot induced oscillations may have been a contributing factor. When I felt the left side go, I attempted to catch it with brake travel, but was unsuccessful. I did not look up at teh wing to see what it was doing - bad response. Feeling the wing go back and not having checked what it was doing, I quickly jabbed the speed bar and got off of it, trying to get the wing back overhead. That induced a forward surge that I tried checking, but still resulted in a frontal and brief freefall spinning 180 degrees and back to the launch. The wing reinflated and I flew it out with only ten or so feet of clearance.

During all this (as it surged and frontalled) I thought about throwing the reserve, but realized that I had insufficient ground clearance and had no option but to get my act together and fly it out.

Primary Factors:

Crappy launch - should have lowered the wing and tried again instead of plowing forward using bad form.

PIO – No stirrups so used risers to settle into harness.

Incorrect response to collapse – The speedbar was the absolute wrong action.

Not good conditions for a P3 – Other senior pilots had apparently elected not to fly that day (I was unaware).

Recent wing upgrade – Had ~8hrs flying a new EN C wing at Marshall before flying Laguna.

Preventative Steps For Next Time:

Had I been aware that more senior pilots elected not to fly the conditions, I would probably focused on developing my retrieve skills.

Getting a harness stirrup to mitigate potential PIO.

Heading back to the training hill with the new wing and my instructor for some wing-specific pilotage training and to assess whether this is the right wing for my skills and the sites I fly.

Stay off the speedbar during collapses (that incorrect input is what caused all the excitement).

Horse - Collapse After Takeoff - 5/12/2012

Incident Description:

Flying Horse Canyon in strong West wind. I took off and took my left hand off of the brake toggle to fix my flight deck when I had not gotten established in the air. The left wing tip took a large collapse before I could get my hands on the toggle again. The wing recovered quickly with very little turn and I was able to fly safely away from the hill

Primary Factors:

- Taking brakes off the controls
- Not getting established in the air before mucking around with flight deck
- Not respecting EN-D wing enough
- Not respecting known turbulence at a new launch site.

Preventative Steps For Next Time:

- Make sure to get established several hundred feet over the ground before taking hands off the brakes.
- Preferably put brakes in one hand rather than just letting go
- Respect the damn wing!

Marshall deploy - 8/23/2014

Incident Description:

Climbed to approx 800 over and behind Marshall and pointed myself towards Arrowhead when in straight and level flight my wing disappeared to the right. I tried to see where it went and what condition it was in when it reappeared on the left and flew it front of me and then turned left and we started into a left spiral dive. I contemplated trying to get out of it, but between me and the wing there were 2 or 3 twists in the risers and the ground was coming up fast. I reached for the reserve and hucked it. Bam... it was out and got the attention of everyone on Marshall. Landed couple hundred feet south of the cell station and waved a-o-k and heard cheers from Marshall.

Primary Factors:

Probably I relaxed too much after exiting the thermal. The area behind Marshall has had many pg deployments.

Preventative Steps For Next Time:

Avoid being low and deep behind Marshall, especially in August. This is my second August deployment. The first was in a hang glider in the Owens Valley.

Laguna - Launch with Cravat - 5/17/2015 11:30:00

Incident Description:

was at Upper Laguna launch, with a good upslope breeze, and my Delta 2 glider. Upon inflation of my glider I looked up and noticed there was a tip tangle/cravat on the left side. A couple of pilots on launch called out to me. I assessed the situation and decided to launch. Just off of launch I caught lift into a thermal and circled up then tried to clear the tip by pumping left brake and tugging the lines. At that point the glider was flying straight and was 85% to 95% inflated. I could fly and control my wing, so I flew away from launch towards the house thermal area to try again to clearing the cravat. After gaining about 500 feet above the house thermal “nipple”, I flew out in front for more altitude over the terrain and pulled big ears on the left side while flying the glider straight, and then reinflated the glider to clear the tip.

After several attempts using my cut off finger gloves with big ears and increasing brake pressure as the recovery method, my left hand became raw from the riser lines. I continued flying along the spine towards Granite mountain and the “Wash” bale out LZ. I changed my gloves to full finger snowboarding type gloves. With the full gloves and the LZ in sight I was able to finesse the tip lines and eventually clear the cravat with a last big ears and reinflation using continuous brake pressure. The cravat was cleared just in front of Granite mountain so I continued my XC flight from there.

Primary Factors:

With a C glider and a lightweight Woody Valley Xalps GTO harness, it is easy to get lines tangled, especially when there is gear dangling and a limited launch area. Lines not double checked and cleared on launch caused the problem. Even though I had my glider layed out, and lines cleared and the wing rosetted in advance, before laying out on launch, it would have been prudent to more fully and carefully check and clear the lines and glider again on launch prior to inflation to make sure everything was clear.

Preventative Steps For Next Time:

First, a more careful lay out of the glider, line check and line clearing on launch may have allowed for a full glider inflation and may have helped to avoid the incident.

Second, after inflation and discovery of the cravat I should have deflated the glider, untangled the cravat, then reinflated the glider and tried again.

Note: Having cleared tip tangles before and having just taken the SIV where we practiced clearing cravats I thought it was not a big problem to launch with what appeared to be a minor tip tangle and then clear it in flight. A couple of pilots on launch called out to me so I checked the glider and assessed the situation and decided to commit to launching. Having launched into a thermal I decided to fly the wing, gain altitude, and then try to clear the tip. After several thermals and attempts to clear the cravat by pumping the brakes, I decided to use the big ears/assymetric with increasing brake pressure, while flying the wing straight, to clear it. After several attempts and realizing the lines were hurting my hands, I decided to change gloves, fly safely down range towards the bale out LZ and to make further attempts. Ultimately, with proper hand protection I was able to finesse the lines and use big ears at altitude, followed by moderate to deep brake pressure to clear the cravat. I could have flown a better task and avoided the extra challenge altogether by just dropping my glider and restarting

Lake Elsinore - Altitude affecting previous injury - 6/7/2015 14:00:00

Incident Description:

I was having a great flight on Sunday from Elsinore to Soboba, I was about 5 miles from the Soboba LZ turn point when I started feeling sick and decided to land.

Primary Factors:

I had oral surgery 2 days prior to the XC league June 6th -7th meet, and was worried I shouldn’t fly. The doctor said it was fine, but I might have problem with my sinus, but nothing to worry about, just monitor.

I was feeling good before the flight and previous day flight was also fine so I was ready to fly – just not at 100% and knowing I would have to monitor my condition. It looked like a great day with high altitudes predicted – delivered – at 9k too 13k for a the longest time.

At about 12.5ft, 5k from Soboba I starting to feel a off, headache on right side of face around to the back of the head, and cold, so decided to lose some altitude. At about 10k it was not much improvement, the right side of my face was hurting bad and felt kind of dizzy. I decided to loss some more altitude to get warm and see how I felt. At about 8,000 I was warm, so that was good, but still really annoying pain and weak kind of dizzy. Regardless of that, I thought about tagging the turn point which was less than 3k at this point, and just going on glide toward goal. As I started heading toward the turn point, I started going up again, which I didn’t want, and big dust devils were going off behind me. I didn’t want to go up towards Soboba or wait for the dust devils to get closer. The way I felt wasn’t sure I would have proper reflexes, so decided to turn back to the sink and get down. I landed in a big field next to the road a few miles from Soboba.

Preventative Steps For Next Time:

Lesson, don’t schedule surgery 2 days before a meet.

Paiute - Bad Launch - 9/11/2016 12:30:00

Incident Description:

This event happened during the second day of our fall SoCal league event in the Owens. Due to uncertainty about conditions, we got a late start heading to Paiute (from Lone Pine). We got to launch around 11:30 and quickly set a task with a 12:15 start.

I quickly geared up and unpacked my wing. Unfortunately, due to events the day before (sidehill landing to assist with a rescue that ended with a helicopter evacuation) my lines were very tangled. It took me 10 minutes to sort out my lines at which point most of the group had already launched. I usually like to be the first or second off launch so I don't have to rush, so this was not optimal. By the time I was set up on launch, it was 5 minutes before start, so I was feeling rushed.

There was another group on launch with several queued up on the main launch. The wind was SW so I decided to follow several others who had launched successfully from the secondary SW facing launch (which isn't cleared as well as the primary launch). I pulled the glider up into a strong cycle and got briefly popped off my feet, turned, but couldn't keep the glider flying.

I regrouped for a second try, aware of people queued up behind me, and rushed my second attempt. The glider came up off to the left side, I tried to move to the left to get under it, but due the significant number of rocks around this launch I was slower than I needed to be. The glider powered up off to the side and started to pull me in that direction. I continued to try to run to catch up but eventually tripped and my arm hit the ground first with my mid forearm landing on a sharp-edged rock.

I thought I was OK at first and started to gather up my glider and realized when I tried to take off my harness that all was not OK because I couldn't use my left hand. Others helped me pack up my glider and harness and drove me down to the LZ and on to the ER. Ended up with a fractured left ulna.

Primary Factors:

1) Glider and gear not well sorted when I arrived at launch
2) This forced me into a situation where I was rushing my launch (instead of being early and patient, which is my normal routine)
3) Should have recognized as I pulled up the glider that I needed to abort rather than trying to save it.

Preventative Steps For Next Time:

- Sort out gear and glider the night before - even if camping and it's after dark when you get to camp - to avoid the need to rush on launch.
- Spend more time kiting. In the past few years, I've been flying almost exclusively XC flights and rarely land in the LZ where I usually spend some time kiting when I do. I think being a bit sharper with ground handling would have helped me either salvage the launch or make the quick decision to abort.

La Verne - Low save collapse - 4/9/2017 15:30:00

Incident Description:

I was flying a somewhat familiar XC route with a couple of other pilots. After a tough few km, I ended up having to cross a valley low to get to the sunward and windward ridge on the other side. Feeling somewhat confident that it would work (hot wind blowing up a tall ridge) I got in close and attempted to soar up. It didn't work, but I got zeroes and soared it to a sun-facing bowl.

I had been stuck at this exact spot a few months ago. In that instance I had decided to bail and glided to a very nice LZ. There was also a pretty safe bail LZ at the bottom of the bowl, so I felt pretty safe. The wind was steady and strong enough to soar, so I began to wait for a thermal to come through. The first one came and I was able to get about 30ft above the lip of the bowl, which was just not quite high enough to really catch the core. At that time I realized one of the other pilots had come in over my head and was established on the ridge. We were in radio contact, and that added to my comfort / safety level.

I sank back into bowl-soaring mode to wait for the next thermal opportunity. I was saying to myself, "I've really got to catch this one, just one tiny climb and I'll be up on that ridge". I felt the next thermal coming and prepared to "crank it". When it hit, I started to turn left. The wing felt a little funny, but by the time I realized that it might be in bad shape it was already too late to catch it. I had started the turn facing away from the hill. At about 90 degrees in the wing went, and I continued to rotate another 180. At this point the wing was at least partially open and in a somewhat stable tailslide. I looked at my wing and at the ground (about 20ft below), thought about the reserve, but snap-decided that I was already too close. I held the tailslide into a bush. The whole thing probably lasted 4 seconds. I landed on my harness seat but smacked my shoulder pretty good. I had no serious injuries, and there was not any apparent damage to the wing, lines, or harness.

In retrospect, I believe I either spun the glider outright, or at least was flying slow enough that the thermal turbulence was enough to cause a serious asymmetric.

Primary Factors:

There are high and low level mistakes here. At a high level, this was a route planning mistake. There was obviously a better and more conservative line, as a pilot had come in over my head. With more conservative decision-making I could have avoided the need to scratch in a low bowl to stay up.

There was also a technical mistake. Instead of flying the glider like it needed to, I tried to immediate get in to a tight turn. This was partially due to the stress of situation. Not necessarily because I felt like I was in an unlandable spot, but more that I felt like this thermal was my last chance. I don't recall "whamming" on the brake, but based on what happened to the glider, I think I must have.

Preventative Steps For Next Time:

- More conservative route planning. I knew this was a difficult section and should have worked harder to top out climbs before attempting the crossing. I didn't need to be in this situation in the first place.
- Keep more energy in the wing, especially when in a dangerous situation such as being close to the ground. Avoid sharp inputs.