Skyline Soaring Club
Report on the 1-26 Association Championships
Lessons Learned in Ionia, Michigan
Diamond Distance in Thermals
Safety Review Committee
Dear Members Just a short note this time, to touch on two important matters which are discussed at greater length later in the newsletter. It Can Happen To Me-I think everyone is aware of Fred Mueller's accident earlier this month. Dave Weaver's article gives more information. The most significant aspect is that Fred was not injured in the accident, and for this we are grateful. The best that can come from this experience is to integrate the critical lessons-learned into our flying and operations, and to continue on with the strong culture of safety that is a cornerstone of our club.
Thanks to Fred for his openness and cooperation in the aftermath, and to the other members for their assistance. Skyline's First Decade-In case you haven't updated your PalmPilot, please reserve the evening of November 10 to celebrate our first ten years as a soaring club. We have so much to celebrate, and the event committee has put in extraordinary effort to make the evening as very special one.
Seeing some of you all dressed up should be entertainment enough.
See you at the field.
The following informational note was composed by the club Safety
committee for release to the membership so that you may benefit from
the recent experience of one of our members. The note is being
released with his concurrence. One significant error in the
preliminary report is the mis-statement of minor injuries to the
pilot. The pilot did not sustain any injuries. I was recently
informed that the chief pilot for American Airlines was quoted as
saying, "A safety record is only history. We must strive to maintain
it every day."
Skyline Soaring Club
10TH ANNIVERSARY EXTRAVAGANZA.
Saturday Evening, November 10th. Our club's first formal event will celebrate our 10th year of growth, enjoyment, and service to the community. Please reserve this important day on your calendar.
Your 10th anniversary party committee-consisting of Spencer Annear, Miriam Ellis, Richard Freytag, George Hazelrigg, and Jim Kellett-has planned a spectacular event for us!
Our celebration will be held at the Dulles Airport Marriott Hotel, from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm, Saturday November 10th, in the beautiful, decorated ballroom with dinner, dancing and a special speaker. Black tie is optional, having fun is mandatory. As you see, we have an exciting program planed. This will be the most special event we have held, and you won't want to miss it. It is our opportunity to honor and celebrate our club, our accomplishments, and ourselves for ten wonderful years.
We have delicious dinner selections, and a special children's menu for ages 5 through 15. We also have a professional DJ for our dancing pleasure.
An invitation will be sent next month, with an RSVP card and the menu choices. Please let us know how many guests you will be bringing, and how many of your guests are children and will want the children's meal.
The cost per adult will be $50, and children will be $20.
This will be a great opportunity for all of us to get together.
Report on the 1-26 Association Championships
The 37th annual 1-26 Championships were held at Ionia, Michigan with 17 gliders, piloted by 10 individuals and 7 teams. The US Air Force Academy fielded three gliders flown by senior year Academy cadets. They thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and their commander has offered to host the event at the Academy next year. This will be especially rewarding to me because as prospective 1-26 Association President in 2002, I will be very much involved in working with the Air Force in setting it up.
Pilots came from as far as San Diego, Florida and New Jersey. It was not a successful meet for me in terms of finishing position. I can usually finish in the top five, but in spite of my disappointing 10th position, it was a fun contest with several gratifying if not winning flights. In retrospect, I can see the errors of my ways, and it is useful to review these flights with a view toward overcoming mistakes that may cost you a day or even a contest.
I won the first day by being aggressive, and I finished with the highest speed of any task in the contest, 38 mph. The trophy for this accomplishment is a beautiful polished walnut base with etched glass emblem of a 1-26 in the clouds. It is particularly rewarding to receive this trophy as it was donated to the Association by my good friend and XC mentor, Dudley Mattson. The rest of my performance was marked first by flying more aggressively than the weather warranted and then by failure to take the required start photo which disqualifies the day. This occurred on the third day as I resolve to fly more conservatively and had caught several of the better pilots after taking a late start. It was downhill from there. With more pressure to fly more aggressively to make up points, in the next two days I dug myself into a hole.
Finally on the last day, I resolved to fly perfectly without reference to others positions. I did a great job, almost. I flew the task of 65 miles without getting low while maintaining an average speed of about 30 mph. With 6200 ft MSL and 13 miles to go, I had 1500 feet surplus for a final glide, or so I thought. I went into max glide and watched the miles click off of my GPS as I passed under clouds for which the thermals were no longer working. With 8 miles and 2500 feet above the ground I realized that I was not making it because of a 10 mph head wind above 3000 MSL. The 1-26 should make 4 miles per 1000 feet in still air. At that point I had to make crucial decision. I could divert to the only cloud in sight about five miles off the course line. If it was dead, it meant a certain landout. If it was good I would make it home after climbing only 500 feet or so. If I stay on course, I might be able to make it against the reduced head wind. I might also pick up lift and zero sink over extended distances as I did on the first day on the same course line. I opted for the latter. It was a nervous final glide. I could see the end of the runway and if I could clear a row of trees between the adjacent farm and the airport, I could land with an average speed of 30 mph which would have given me second place for the day. It was not to be. Now directly over the farm and 200 yards from the end of the runway, I could see the tree line lifting above my glide path, and I was forced to make a half left turn and land between the rows of crops.
It was a frustrating finish for a frustrating contest. I fumed for 20 minutes until Joan showed up with the trailer. In spite of my performance, it had been a fun contest, and I was pleased with my thermalling and had enjoyed some great flying. At our awards brunch the next morning, all of the frustration had passed as we ate and chatted among great friends. In the end, this is what counts with the 1-26 Association. We had great tasks with fun flights which is what it is all about.
This year we experimented using GPS units to verify turn
points instead of turn point photos. We will eliminate the cameras
next year and will completely rewrite our rules to encourage more
participation by new and younger pilots. We may also include a badge
and record camp for those pilots who do not feel they are ready for
competition. With the event to be held at the Air Force Academy in
Colorado Springs, it promises to be both a fun and rewarding
Lessons Learned in Ionia, Michigan
The 1-26 Nationals started out with weak soaring conditions. The two practice days at the beginning of the week were basically unflyable.
The first contest day, Wednesday, June 20th, had weak conditions and I promptly fell out of the sky twice after :23 and :15 minute flights from the 2000 ft. tows. I was discouraged enough to consider quitting for the day, but the "Big Guys" in the contest were taking second and third relights, so I took a third launch. This time I found enough lift to go through the start gate and head out on course. An hour after starting, as the sun was going down (or at least behind clouds) I ran out of the weak lift and landed on the lawn (free of marble) behind a Mennonite church 18 miles from the start gate. The church had been deserted as I flew my approach, but when I stopped, I was surrounded by young people. The congregation had been driving into the parking lot for Wednesday evening Bible School in time to see my glider whiz across the lawn from behind the church building and stop at the edge of their property. My retrieve crew for this day (my wife, Bill and Joan Vickland and Julie, the teenage daughter of our contest host) were treated to homemade cookies and ice water by the Bible School staff before we headed home. The Elders invited me to drop in again, only do it on the first night of the class so they could get a bigger turn out of students.
The second contest day was rained out, so we drove off to see Lake Michigan. The third day, Friday, was so weak that too few pilots completed the task to count as a contest day. I only made it 5 1/2 miles after 2 hours, and landed in a corn field where the plants were only about a foot high (more about this later).
The fourth day's weather looked more promising, so a 90 mile task of 3 legs was called for. I went through the start gate with two of the Air Force Academy cadets in their brightly painted, red white and blue 1-26Es (these kids are good, or at least better than me). We flew as a group towards the North East, either joining their thermal, or having them join one that I found.
After a couple of hours, we spread apart and I found myself looking (a short distance) down at the same Mennonite church yard that I had landed in two days before. Having too much pride to land there again so soon, I clawed my way out and arrived at the first turn point with 5000 ft. of altitude (a high point for my day), to try and take a good turn point photo in a near 90 degree bank. From this turn point to the course headed Westerly along a meandering river. I later learned that half of the contestants landed out on this leg.
About 2/3 of the way along, I was once again low and this time looking down at a large grass field next to a building surrounded by what looked like a hundred cars. In the center of this lawn sat one of the Academy's 1-26s shining in the late afternoon sun. It looked so pretty there that I couldn't bear to plunk down beside it in my paint peeling ratty old glider, so I gritted my teeth and worked every bit of weak lift for close to an hour, until finally I found one that slowly grew in strength with each hundred feet of altitude gained. At cloud base, about 3000', I headed West for a small town with a flat bottomed cloud over it.
Arriving over the town at 1000', there was no lift under this cloud to be found. The fields around the town were small and surrounded by trees, while to the West (toward the turnpoint, that I could see) the fields were more open. I headed West along the road which had fields of young corn on the left side with a power / telephone line running about 100 yards back from the road for several miles. Flying at best L/D up this road was a great sensation, as usually we are close to the ground using 1/2 spoilers, but I was enjoying the full 20 to 1 glide ratio while approaching ever better looking landing areas.
To my surprise, I reached the place where the power line came over to the side of the road, and I still had about 200' of altitude. I didn't want to go over or under the wires, so I turned to the right into a huge field that I first thought was mown hay, but it now looked like wheat. Well, the corn fields had contained plants that were barely a foot high, so how high could the wheat be (I was raised in a town)?
About the time I thought I was 8' to 10' above the surface, the right wingtip wheel contacted the wheat, which wrapped about the wheel and stopped that wing while the rest of the glider was still flying. I did an immediate 90 degree right turn in the air and landed going sideways, left wingtip first. My ground roll (skid) was about 5 feet. After landing I turned off all two electrical switches (to prevent fire?) and was bent over filling out my landing card with time and Latitude / Longitude from my backpacker's GPS when I saw four men looking through the canopy at me. They had been working in the next field and thought I was a crop duster with no sound, other than a distant clash of cymbals and boom of drums as I hit the ground. They helped me find the torn off wingtip wheel , then pushed the glider through the waist high wheat to the road's edge. Having the gliders tail at the roads edge was a major attraction on a Saturday evening, stopping most cars, including the State Police who made a full report.
Landing sideways in tall wheat created enough force to bend the steel tubing in the glider's aft fuselage, which ended the competition for me.
The next day, the AF Cadet I had flown over told of the large
audience I had while circling above the convention where he had
landed. The other Cadet I was flying with had been above me and
watching my landing in the wheat field. When he saw me come to such
an abrupt stop, he radioed to see if I was all right, only to be
greeted by silence as my radio was already turned off.
...the little beauty hardly gathered any dust
Two weeks ago Dan Cole and Adnan Mirza of the Blue Ridge Soaring
Society at New Castle flew up to return the Boomerang to its point of
origin. Dan and Adnan are two of the trio who came up to take it back
last time. While waiting for their ground crews we invited them out
to the Mill for dinner. Like most of the folks that I've met from New
Castle, these two are good people and we enjoyed their company. I
gave them a ride back to the airport and left them to await their
ground crews after dark. As I was waiting to make the left turn onto
the main road past the airport I saw two glider trailers sail by. I
honked my horn at the second one but I wasn't sure he heard me so I
made a right turn and followed them. I caught up to them several
miles down the road and they followed me back to the airport. We put
the gliders (ASW-20 & LS-8) back in trailers around 2130. I found out
Adnan lives in DC and needed to have some work done on his trailer so
I offered him my space in the hanger since 1FW is being worked on in
PA. He accepted and came out to FRR the following weekend, joined the
club as a temporary member and flew his ship locally. Adnan was
scheduled to leave FRR on, 29 July for New Castle in preparation for
his trip to Uvalde, TX to compete in the 15 M Nationals. I know what
you're thinking, if he flies back to New Castle the Boomerang will
stay here since he joined our club. But alas, no, the rules strictly
prohibit an individual's involvement in two consecutive moves of the
Diamond Distance in Thermals
Realizing that I had to fly much faster than I had on any of my previous badge attempts, my first attempt at the Diamond Distance flight was declared over a course which planned to to use the Massanutten Ridge on a day with good NW winds to provide 100 miles of ridge running to increase the average speed. The idea was to begin at Eagles Nest Airport in Waynesboro, fly up the Shenandoah Valley to the Massanutten Ski area, run the ridge at high speed to Strasburg and back, climb off the ridge and finish the flight in thermals. Funny how things work out. Eventually, this same course was used for the flight which was successful, but it was done entirely in thermals.
In retrospect, my first 500 km flight actually went pretty well. On a windy day in the Fall, I did reach the ridge, and had a spectacular flight at 100 knots for a 100 miles up and down the ridge before it all fell apart. At the south end of the ridge, I could not find a thermal to climb off the ridge. After about 30-50 minutes sawing back and forth on the ridge, I eventually went for a cloud in the Valley south of Harrisonburg, found little lift and landed out at Shenandoah Valley Airport in a 20 knot cross wind. So began the quest for Diamond Distance.
In between there have been interesting ridge, wave and thermal flights on a number of different Diamond attempts. I have tried many courses from two or three different airports without success. Actually, I am glad I did not reach 500 km on that first try because every subsequent flight taught me a number of things. I would not have missed a single one of them. However, the basic problem with this flight is illustrated by simple mathematics-to fly 310 miles at a 60 mph takes over 5 hours; at 50 mph it takes over 6 hours and at 40 mph it takes nearly 8 hours. In each of my earlier diamond attempts, one of two problems kept me from the goal. Either I flew too slowly and ran out of day, or I got low at some point in the flight, spent too much time getting back on course and then ran out of day. So, if I could not make the distance by flying at a 60 mph average speed, I needed a long day with good, consistent lift over a wide area. The weather this summer has been unusual in that the jet stream has dipped south a couple of times and allowed cold fronts to reach into North Carolina. On Thursday July 12, it happened again and the leading edge of a very large dome of cold Canadian air passed over Virginia. The high was centered in the northern Midwest and slid in beside a nearly stationary low near upstate New York. The whole system provided a north West flow of cold air over Pennsylvania and Virginia for 5 days. RAOB plots around the region, the ETA 40 model and other indicators suggested Thursday, July 12 thru the weekend of 14 and 15 might offer excellent soaring. The only problem was a low that developed on the weakening front in North Carolina. This low produced high clouds around Charlottesville for most of Thursday, but promised to move away on Friday. Chick Randow kindly agreed to tow on Friday the 13th and Randy Branch was happy to spend the day helping, so off we went early Friday morning. On the way to Eagles Nest, the day looked like it would develop well, but in the end, the southern part of the course toward Glasgow stayed cloudy. While the lift looked terrific to the north, the leg to Glasgow would probably have been struggle. In the end, Randy and I put Alpha Echo back in the trailer and flew the Lark together for a while (it was Friday the 13th after all).
For once, Saturday actually looked better. The low in North Carolina was predicted to move SE and out to sea and the cold air was still coming in from the NW. The 24 hour loop from the ETA 40 model predicted that the thermal index would actually improve during the day on Saturday. Finally, a really good day and-it was on the weekend. Another set of calls to Randy and Chick and we were ready for Saturday morning. As Randy I and started down the West side of the Blue Ridge on I-64 a little after 9 AM, small Cu's were forming on the ridges over the Allegheny Mountains and the sky looked clear and blue in all other quadrants. Randy and I arrived at Eagles Nest and assembled Alpha Echo, Bev Orndorff arrived just a bit later and kindly agreed to be the Official Observer. After all the usual preparations, the Cu's arrived from the West. Oddly, there were few clouds over the Blue Ridge, but the center of the Valley looked good, so we were off at 10:45 AM. A short tow to Fishersville where I release and notch the barograph. The intended course was to Strasburg, at the north end of the Massanutten Ridge (about 70 miles), then to Glasgow (about 110 miles), then to Thornton Gap near Luray (about 95 miles) and back to Eagles Nest (about 53 miles). Even though the wind on the ground was weak, I was still hoping that a NW flow might offer some ridge flying. All looked good to the north so off I went. The first thermal provided 4 kts to about 5000 MSL-a really good omen since it was still before 11 AM.
Even better, the next thermal provided 6 kts to about 5500, but I kept my cruising speed between 60-70 kts as it was still early in the day. For the next 30 minutes or so, I worked north under clouds in the Valley while slowly edging closer to the Blue Ridge which was starting to produce really good looking clouds. A good climb near the Merck plant south of Elkton and I headed west over the Valley toward the south end of the Massanutten Ridge. None of the clouds were strong, but I eased along at about 4500 MSL and soon found a 6 kt climb to 5500 MSL just south of the ski area. I turned to fly along the ridge and cruised north climbing easily above 5000 MSL a couple of times. As I neared New Market I spoke with Dave Brunner who was flying 081 near Strasburg. I was still hoping that the ridge might be working-I really wanted to dive onto the ridge and increase my average speed for the leg. Dave thought the ridge might be working and promised a report in a few minutes. A few minutes later, I was up near Short Mountain and Dave said he thought he was in ridge lift. Good enough-I left 4500 MSL by increasing speed to 90-95 kts. All seemed well as I ran off the north end of Short Mountain headed for the lower, northern end of the ridge. The Massanutten produces powerful thermals around this gap and as the altimeter eased below 3500 MSL, I bumped into one of those wonderful, strong ridge thermals that pegged the vario at over 10 kts. Wheee- the first good thermal of the day and I could not resist climbing. During the climb, I talked to Dave Brunner again and he was less sure about the ridge lift and going to thermal mode.
No matter, with strong thermals popping off the ridge, I held speed and flew on to Strasburg at 5000 MSL. Somewhere north of the fire tower, I crossed paths with Dave who was working a thermal a bit west of the ridge line. By 12:30 PM was taking my first turnpoint photos at the Southern railroad bridge over the north fork of the Shenandoah river. Three photos (good thing-I was a bit rusty and the first two were not in the observation zone) and I am back over the ridge climbing in a strong thermal to 6500 MSL, the highest point of the flight so far. The first 70 miles are done at an average speed of 41 mph and better yet, the sky is looking very good to the south. I radio Dave, putting a "virtual" claim on the Boomerang Trophy (ahead of the expected fiberglass cloud from New Castle) and head south at 80 kts. The lift is improving on the Blue Ridge and I fly back across the valley to the Blue Ridge itself somewhere around Luray.
Flying down the Blue Ridge is spectacular, but uneventful. I try to keep the speed up to 80 kts and climb a couple of times to about 6500 MSL. As expected, the lift is strong at Elkton and soon the next big issue is getting across the "gap" near Waynesboro. The Blue Ridge gets low where I-64 crosses and then jumps about 10 miles to the West at Wintergreen. For some reason, it can be soft in this area and I take care not to get much below 5000 MSL. It is about 2 PM as I arrive back in the Waynesboro area. I talk with a couple of SVS gliders and tell them all is well for now. Crossing the "gap" goes fine, 140 miles are covered and before long I am climbing in strong lift over the rock faces just east of Stuarts Draft. The lift is always good here and I reach 7000 MSL for the first time in the flight. I run down past Buena Vista toward Glasgow with long 15 minute glides and quick 6-8 kt climbs to 7000 MSL. Between 2 and 3 PM, the sky is still looking very good, pilots all over the area are excitedly telling each other about their exploits (always with a chirping vario in the background) and all seems very well with the world. A great day to be in the air.
I pass Buena Vista and catch a good thermal before going into Glasgow for the second turn 45 miles south of Waynesboro. Glasgow is one of my favorite turnpoints. The James River cuts thru an large gap in the mountains here and and the Shenandoah Valley narrows to provide a spectacular setting. To the south, the Peaks of Otter dominate the skyline, to the east you can see Lynchburg and to top it all off, two roads, Va 130 and US 501 define the observation zone for the turn, making the photo pretty easy to shoot. Oblivious to the scenery, I am staring at the ground, anxious to get the photo and head north. A touch of un-coordinated flight to get the wing in the correct attitude and I shoot three photos. I pick a cloud in the Valley to get back above 6000 MSL and soon I am on my way to Thornton Gap. It is 3 PM, 181 miles flown and I have averaged about 44 mph for the second leg. Better yet, the sky looks good to the north. I keep the speed to about 80 kts between thermals and rarely fall below 5000 MSL.
In a little over 40 minutes I am back near Waynesboro. Just east of Stuarts Draft, I hit a 10 kt thermal that takes me to 8000 MSL. It is about 3:45 PM, I have been flying for 5 hours and I am a bit tired. However, the strong thermal lifts my spirits right along with Alpha Echo. This is really fun!! I talk to Bruce Burkholder who i s having a great time with the Lark over Wintergreen; we end up telling everyone on the East coast what a nice day it is. Reality again-even though I have been in the air for roughly 5 hours, I still have 100 miles to go!! Fortunately, the Blue Ridge looks really strong and I head across the Waynesboro "gap" with no difficulty. Soon I am running under big fat clouds with strong thermals of 6-8 kts. I keep the speed at 80-85 kts, but the lift is good enough that I can stay between 5000-7000 MSL past Elkton and nearly to Luray. I talk on the radio with Juliet Kilo (out of New Castle) for the second time that day and he confirms that they have decided to head for Front Royal and are going for the Boomerang trophy. Juliet Kilo and another New Castle ship report being in the Shenandoah Valley and moving well. So much for my virtual claim on the trophy.
The Thornton Gap intersection is north of Luray and the strong lift ends well before the turnpoint where US 211 crosses Skyline Drive. It is nearly 5 PM, and I do not want to scratch here for long. I try a couple of clouds without gaining much altitude and keep heading for the turnpoint with the altimeter easing below 5000 MSL. All badge flights require a bit of drama but this one has been remarkably free of any troubles. So, assuming that it will all turn out OK, I stop looking for lift and push in to take the pictures. All the while I am looking for a nearby cloud for a climb right after the photos and I am not really happy-for the first time all day, I do not see a great cloud back along the course line. None the less, I turn my concentration to shooting three good photos and quickly head south. I have logged about 273 miles and it is 5 PM. The average speed from Glasgow to Thornton Gap is 46 mph-overall, life is very good.
As I leave Thornton Gap, the altimeter slides under 5000 MSL for the first time in 3 hours and I slow to 50-55 kts to conserve a bit of altitude. A pond in the valley glows in the afternoon sun and shows a nice NW wind at the foot of the mountains. Maybe the Blue ridge will provide a bit of ridge lift !. Off to my left the Park Service lodge and cabins at Skyland hang out on the sharp cliff formed by the West face of the Blue Ridge-really spectacular and pretty, except that with my wings level my left wing is pointing right at them. I move toward the Mountain in an attempt to use any ridge lift that might be there and tip-toe along at about 4300 MSL for a few minutes to the next cloud. Soon I am climbing at 4 kts to about 7000 MSL and the drama is over. About 5 minutes later, I hit another nice thermal and push on toward Elkton. A little north of Elkton, I can see the usual thermal from the rock faces southeast of town is working well and I increase speed to over 80 kts to reach it. A quick climb to 7000 MSL about 25 miles from home and I am well above final glide. Ed Kilbourne's "One More Climb" begins playing in my mind, but I do not really need to climb again. I hesitate to talk about it out loud, but the flight is in the bag. I increase speed again and head for a cloud about 17 miles from home. The lift is 6-8 kts and I cannot resist spending a couple of minutes for a last climb to about 6500 MSL.
Now I am confident and I radio Randy and Bev that I
will be home soon and run for the airport. I slowly increase speed to
about 120 kts and soon cross the 24 end of the Eagles Nest runway at
about 2500 AGL. All around me the clouds still look great and there
is a small temptation to sample one or two. However, better sense
prevails and I plan a pattern for 06 on the grass and touch down at
about 6:05 PM. I can see Gordon Aylor off to the side of the runway
taking pictures. I roll to a stop about 300 feet from where I took
off 7 hrs and 20 minutes ago and Randy meets me with the golf cart.
Final distance, 327 miles with a 50 mph average for the 53 mile last
leg. Surprisingly, I can get out of the plane and can even walk the
wing back to the trailer. We take closing pictures, Bev opens the
barograph-the trace is good and it is all over. We turn off the
barograph and carefully put it in the back seat of the car. By about
7:15 PM the plane is apart and in the trailer and Randy and I head
for Charlottesville. All that is left is the pictures.
Safety Review Committee
For a decade, we've been lucky and proud of our "accident free" record. Has that changed? On July 5, 2001, Club Member Fred Mueller was involved in an off-airport landing in a privately owned glider that resulted in severe damage to the glider (but, fortunately, no injury to the pilot.) This was the first incident in the Club's history involving a member that required formal notification of authorities-the preliminary NTSB report can be found at
http://www.ntsb.gov/NTSB/brief.asp?ev_id=20010713X01419&key=1 (Note: that report is far more detailed than most NTSB reports, but still contains some questionably accurate comments.)
We were in many ways extremely lucky in this incident. It was close to the airport, there were no reporters, the involved pilot was on top of things very quickly, the investigating authorities were knowledgeable and cooperative, and, most of all, there were no injuries. The Club's standing Safety Committee convened on July 8, 2001 to review the accident, and had the benefit of detailed and careful observations and flight records from the pilot and observations from several members who are experienced pilots and who were involved in helping in the recovery of the damaged glider. The Committee made several recommendations for remedial action to the Board, which were approved. As one result, the pilot successfully completed an extensive session of flight and ground instruction reviewing all aspects of the flight that were believed to have been contributors to the accident.
Another result was a renewed emphasis on the Club's Emergency Response Plan. (Do YOU know where a copy is? Have you ever READ it?)
It's worth noting that in this incident, no member at the field could locate a copy of the Plan! Look for more on this in coming months. Nothing sharpens the mind like being shot at and missed. And that was true for both the pilot and the Club in this event. We dodged a bullet in many ways this time-but it brought home very clearly that we need to be better prepared as a Club for things we don't like to think about and train for, and we need to be even more diligent in our flying.
So, back to the original question. Do we no longer have an accident record to be proud of? Over time, we've had two "incidents" with towplanes deviating from the runway at Club airports (non-reportable, but resulting in damage to the towplane); we've had at least three unplanned student off-airport landouts (but no damage to aircraft); we've had many "hard landings" in club aircraft at club airports (but no damage); we've had several members damage their own aircraft in off-airport landings while operating from either a Club airport or at some other airport (but no injuries); one member managed to injure himself at a Club airport while working on his own glider; and we've had members experience serious unplanned PT3 incidents, both at Club airports and at others. There have been other "incidents", but these illustrate the range of things that we've never considered "accidents". But, at the risk of sounding like a recent world leader who wondered out loud that "it depends on what is is", we need to put this incident into perspective, because in the real world things aren't all black and white, but are painted in shades of grey. We SHOULD be proud of our accident record. And we SHOULD put even more effort into our training, planning, and operations to further reduce the risks of accidents and (this may be the more important point) to better prepare to manage those that may happen.