How safe/unsafe is glider flying?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by ebykowsky, Aug 11, 2013.

  1. ebykowsky

    ebykowsky Cleared for Takeoff

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    No go around, no throttle, and only mother nature for lift... your hobby is what I would consider an emergency... so how safe is it really? How often can you not make it to the runway, and of those times how often does the plane end up damaged or the pilot end up hurt/dead?
     
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  2. Seanaldinho

    Seanaldinho Pattern Altitude

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    Well if you dont plan on having an engine there is no chance of it quitting.

    Ive always made the runway and thats because you need to be conservative in your flying. People do land out all the time though and most of them end with noone hurt and nothing broken.

    I'd say its as safe or safer than single engine ops.
     
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  3. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Them there gravity driven contraptions are dangerous I say, dangerous! Why ya read 'bout them allatime in the papers...oh....you really don't...

    Gliders are as safe as just about anything in the air - take a flight and find out for yourself why but consider the excellent glide ratio and low stall speed...
     
  4. X3 Skier

    X3 Skier En-Route

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    No problem except when you fly near nuclear plants like the poor gent who was arrested by Barnie Fife few months ago.:hairraise:

    Cheers
     
  5. Skip Miller

    Skip Miller En-Route

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    They are so safe even a 14 year old can fly one.....
     
  6. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Energy levels at touchdown are pretty low. Gliders routinely land off airport, so no big deal there. If you had a CFI like mine, who would constantly ask, "If your engine quit right now, where would you land?", then you would already be in the habit of having "outs".

    It take a little getting used to, but you'll eventually realize that with a little attention to energy management you don't have to worry near as much as you think.

    Soaring Safety Foundation publishes an annual report, it's the glider version of the Nall report. You can look it up and see what the accident/injury/fatal numbers look like.
     
  7. Goofy

    Goofy Line Up and Wait

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    Don't hear of a lot of glider accidents......:dunno:
     
  8. jetedrick

    jetedrick Pre-Flight

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    Watched a few today while I was looking at a plane, they looked safe to me...but I was also on the ground looking up...
     
  9. poadeleted21

    poadeleted21 Touchdown! Greaser!

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  10. bbchien

    bbchien Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Landing at 28 mph with 1/4 of the energy of a part 23 piston single....pretty safe....
     
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  11. VA Aviator

    VA Aviator Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'm assuming glider landing gear is pretty tough... landing a tricycle gear aircraft in a random field is a gopher hole away from an accident. Guessing gliders handle rough fields a bit better?
     
  12. bbchien

    bbchien Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The CG is RIGHT on the ground.....
     
  13. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The deaths tend to be either midairs or mountain-flying accidents when people try to catch a wave and end up hitting a ridgeline.

    In glider flying, you have a lot of control over the risks that you expose yourself to.

    Now, paragliders, they just have a death-wish. Every one of my acquaintances who got into that activity ended up with a multi-week hospital stay and lots of hardware in either their pelvis, lower back, lower extremities or all of the above.
     
  14. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser!

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    http://www.btlinkpublishing.com/PDF/Off-Airport Landings. By Kai Gertsen.pdf

     
  15. Brad Z

    Brad Z En-Route

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    LOL

    You know those cowboys in NASA were flying seven passenger gliders for 30 years and never managed to "land out" (two inflight accidents excluded).

    Gliders have an excellent safety record. Take a ride and see for yourself.
     
  16. NoHeat

    NoHeat En-Route

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    Talking about energy is a common error made when talking about crashes.

    What matters in a crash is the acceleration of your body. Not energy.

    If you cut the before-crash velocity in half, the acceleration in the crash is cut in half, not 1/4. That's for a crash where the final velocity is zero, which is probably what you're thinking of.
     
  17. bbchien

    bbchien Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The other common error is to assume that the energy dispersion distance and therefore de-acceleration will be the same as in a piston single as in a 600 lb glider.

    When you have 4x the total energy, your potential to end up with deceleration not longitudinally aligned is greater.

    So six of one half a dozen of the other.
    Ground effect of that long wing gets you even slower, if done right.

    Lastly, it's not overall deceleration that kills- unless you are thinking of hitting a tree or a building (which one might!). It's the ability of the structure around you to adsorb energy BEFORE your body has to take the energy.

    Who knows WHAT orientation you will be in when you hit the inside of the aircraft....
     
  18. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    I only have 7 hrs and never did get my rating, but I'd sayit was the lowest risk type of flying I've ever done. For me it was the most enjoyable as well. I like efficient vehicles and I like flying simple, hands on flying.

    I remember my last flight. Cut away at 1,500 ft, climbed up to 2,500 ft below some CU, did some maneuvers, and then came back to land 45 mins later. You just always need to be within gliding distance to the airport. If not, then an off airport landing around 25 kts. Lots of adverse yaw with the long wings but that's what the yarn is for.

    Definitely low risk and some of the most fun you'll have in the air. Oh, yeah aerobatic as well.
     
  19. rottydaddy

    rottydaddy En-Route

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    I dont know how the stats compare between gliders and power, but I'd guess that most glider accidents are directly related to pilot error, or even ground crew mistakes. Launch and approach are the most risky times, but midairs between gaggling gliders are not very unusual (sadly).
    Aerotow complicates matters- if either ship has a problem, release has to be quick, and maneuvering clear of each other has to be done right. Also, on takeoff especially, both pilots have to remember how much they can affect each other .
    Landing out presents similar risks as the typical engine-out emergency landing, but again, the risk of landing out is pretty manageable by the pilot.

    But assuming an off-airport arrival where the glider gets damaged, the occupants have a better chance of walking away. No fire hazard, low approach speeds and descent rates, and in the case of steel tube types like the very stout Schweizers I fly, a structure that will absorb a lot of energy while staying firm in the cockpit area. Those big wings can also be used to bear the initial shock without transferring much energy to the cockpit area.
    I'd rather go into trees, rocks, or a house in a 2-33 than anything else I've flown.
     
  20. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yup, you have to know what you are doing during an aerotow. We had a really tragic accident 1/2 a block from our office 2 years ago. They hit a tree about 80ft up and one of the occupants died from the fall out off the tree:


    NTSB Identification: ERA11FA401
    14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
    Accident occurred Friday, July 15, 2011 in Hollywood, MD
    Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/28/2012
    Aircraft: SLINGSBY CAPSTAN TYPE 49B, registration: N7475
    Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.
    NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.According to the glider pilot/owner, he purchased the glider 1 week before the accident and flew it with the previous owner for about 1 hour at the time of purchase. He assembled the glider with the assistance of the tow plane pilot and completed all post-assembly checks before they were joined by his copilot. The pilot and copilot then performed the before-takeoff checks outside the aircraft, confirmed operation of the tow release mechanism, and verified that the spoilers were closed. During the initial climb, the glider pilot noticed that the glider was not climbing, and he and his copilot, a more experienced glider pilot, discussed relative position to the tow plane in order to avoid wake turbulence and improve climb performance. About 200 feet above ground level and over the trees beyond the departure end of the runway, the glider pilot observed the tow plane's rudder "waggle" back and forth, and his copilot shouted, "Release! Release! Release!" The glider pilot released the glider from the tow plane and entered a left turn to the north for a forced landing on the divided highway east of the airport. The copilot joined him on the flight controls before the glider overshot the highway and collided with trees on the east side of the roadway.

    The tow plane pilot provided a similar recounting of the events. He explained that, before the flight, the proper signals for “too fast” or “too slow” were discussed but no others. He added that he had discussed signaling with the glider’s copilot many times previously but that they had not recently discussed the rudder-wag signal, which means “check spoilers.” After takeoff, he noted that the tow plane’s performance was as expected, but the climb rate was not. He checked the glider in his rearview mirror and noted that the spoilers were deployed. The tow plane pilot provided the internationally recognized (in the glider community) rudder-wag signal, and, instead of stowing the spoilers, the glider released from the tow.

    Postaccident examination of the glider revealed no mechanical deficiencies. The pilot/owner stated that he knew the meaning of the rudder-wag signal, but responded to the callout from his copilot. He further stated that he believed the spoilers were stowed during preflight and before-takeoff checks, but he did not confirm that the control was locked in its detent prior to takeoff.
    The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
    The glider pilot’s improper response to the “check spoilers” signal from the tow pilot. Contributing to the accident was the glider pilot’s failure to confirm that the spoilers were closed and locked before takeoff, and the glider copilot’s improper crew coordination response to the “check spoilers” signal from the tow pilot.
     
  21. tinerj

    tinerj Cleared for Takeoff

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    very safe, but boring, boring, boring
     
  22. ebykowsky

    ebykowsky Cleared for Takeoff

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    Well thanks for the input guys... the point of the thread was to show to my mom to let me take a joy ride in one with a CFI, but she still won't give in. I don't currently have intentions to pursue a license, but maybe one day after my IR and when I'm off of the parents' checkbook :)
     
  23. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Ever done it to the point of going cross-country ?
     
  24. Goofy

    Goofy Line Up and Wait

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    Funny, my Dad have me an intro ride at the place on the north shore of Oahu for a birthday present....
     
  25. 1200AGL

    1200AGL Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I take it you have never been in good mountain wave conditions in a suitable glider.

    To each his own, but my experience was not what I would call boring. It was the closest I've ever come to being out of control in an aircraft. The rotor turbulence on tow alternately dealt +4g and -3.5g bumps and rolled us, despite my applying full opposite aileron, well over 60 degrees from one side to the other. And once we penetrated the laminar wave, dead calm, with > 500 fpm lift up to FL230 (could have easily gotten FL250, but Washington Center said it would disrupt too many IFR flights).
     
  26. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    His mistake was landing. I would have ignored the 'request' and continued on to my planned point of landing.

    That said, I have 0.4 hours dual in a glider in the UK (2 years ago). I can see how folks get hooked on this. That was great fun.
     
  27. gismo

    gismo Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There were two serious accidents I remember at the glider club I used to belong to. One was the result of improper assembly of a homebuilt sailplane (HP-18) and I think the pilot was killed. The other involved a towplane running into a glider on final. The towplane pilot died but the glider pilot and passenger/instructor survived with relatively minor injuries (i.e. a broken leg and bruises). I don't recall ever hearing about injuries let alone a fatality landing out. What really amazed me was the lack of mid-air collisions between sailplanes circling in the same thermal. Sometimes there would be 5-10 ships in the same one and you occasionally had adjust your turn radius to maintain separation.

    Part of the safety comes from the relatively low speeds. The stall speed on the gliders I was flying ranged from about 30-40 Kt. Energy in a crash increases with the square of the speed so there's four times as much to dissipate at 60 Kt than at 30.
     
  28. ClimbnSink

    ClimbnSink Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Glider flying is 4 times more dangerous then powered flying. But 100 times more fun.
     
  29. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

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    Gliding is not one thing just like airplane flying is many different things. Risks and safety vary accordingly. Flying gliders locally is easy, the risks minimal and typically the only kind of flying possible if you are renting. It's also fun but it can become boring just like banging around the pattern or doing the $100 burger.

    Soaring in thermals, ridge or wave can vary from peak life experiences to sleep inducing.

    Flying cross country is never boring but most pilots never do it. Many peak experiences there.

    Acrobatics will more than keep you engaged if you enjoy it. Gliders are amazingly capable.

    High performance sailplanes are some of the finest flying machines around. Not boring if you have access.

    So, flying in the home thermal for an hour in an old trainer can get slow the nth time you do it. Redlining at tree top height along 100s of miles of the Appalachains in a fully ballasted racing sailplane is about as exciting as civilian aviation gets. Risks vary accordingly.
     
  30. LDJones

    LDJones Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Stuff happens.... no big deal:
    [​IMG]

    The rest of the story here:
    http://www.lorendjones.com/aviation/glider-landout/
     
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  31. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

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    Jonesy, you made my day! Congrats and welcome to the Fraternal Order of Clodbusters, you have more than a few 'bros.

    Picked up some handy farming tips too!
     
  32. jasonlee

    jasonlee Filing Flight Plan

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    I believe its the most safe flying, if you don't want to get into the hassle of managing engines, then its perfect. You fly like a bird without any worry.
     
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  33. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Glider flying isn't always rainbows and unicorns for the towpilot, though.

    I know someone injured badly during takeoff. She was solo in a glider that she wasn't familiar with, and not very experienced at the time. During takeoff the glider kited and she lost sight of the towplane. That's a bad thing - the glider now has the potential to pull the tail of the towplane up and kill the towplane pilot. She released the rope, then got caught worrying about trying to land straight ahead without knowing where the airplane was. In all the confusion the glider stalled.

    Landing accidents might be more common than takeoff accidents, but takeoff accidents are probably worse.
     
  34. rottydaddy

    rottydaddy En-Route

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    Yeah, the towpilot is much more likely to suffer as a result of poor glider technique (or a glider malfunction of some kind) on takeoff (and throughout the tow, really) than vice versa. The fact that the tow pilot can't watch what's going on back there every second is a huge factor.

    It's another area glider pilots should learn about other than just flying the glider... don't need a power rating or even some power dual; just take a ride in a towplane during a tow, if possible, to see things from that perspective. It illustrates the potential problems better than just talking or reading about it.
     
  35. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

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    Yes, I lost a friend that way. No rainbow.
     
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  36. rottydaddy

    rottydaddy En-Route

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    Yes and no... it depends.
    I know jack squat about gliders with retractable gear, or tailwheel-configured motorgliders, but I have made over 100 landings in Schweizers with a monowheel main, a skid forward of that, a tailwheel in back, and "pogo" outrigger wheels near the wingtips.
    The monowheel will tolerate a lot of side-loading (on grass or dirt, anyway), but there's a limit. And because our ships' main wheels have no shock-absorbing gear (they are bolted to the frame with the axle itself), rolling into a gopher hole or whatever can be unpleasant, if not really harmful to the structure. The most likely damage would be a blown tire, bent hub, or trashed bearing, because the steel tube frame is very strong in that area.

    The pogos are not really tough, but they are not intended to absorb landing and rollout energy, so much as to make it easier to move it on the ground. Sure, there may be a little forward motion as either wingtip comes down after landing, but they are plenty strong enough for that.
    But I can't recall a landing of mine where I put much mileage on the 2-33's pogos during a landing roll- even if I don't keep the wings perfectly level, the roll is pretty much over before a pogo comes down. In the end, the pogo's most important job is to protect the wingtip in the event of a ground-loop type situation.
    The tailwheels do most of their work on the takeoff roll, as far as I can tell, and obviously they are important when tugging the gliders on the ground. The 2-33 has a good castering tailwheel (non-steerable), and the 1-26 has a non-castering tailwheel, which requires a little extra care when landing or rolling on a paved surface.
    The skid is sort of an emergency brake... if one lands long and hot for whatever reason, or if a landout has to be made in a very tight space, forward stick will tip the glider onto that skid (which is sort of a leaf spring made of wood, and in the case of the 2-33, laminated with a hunk of aluminum bar stock). On any dry surface, it will stop the glider very quickly, and suffer minimal wear at typical landing speeds.
    So even if, say, the main wheel axle failed, the lower frame bent, etc... chances are good that a 2-33 would just skid to an abrupt stop with the tail slightly high. The occupants might have trouble sitting down for a few days, but maybe not. And you'd have to basically touch down in an open manhole to do that much damage.
    The more typical worry with rutted fields or fields with stumps or big rocks is hooking a wingtip while you're still moving pretty quickly, or damaging the fuselage fabric or the fiberglass nose bowl. Rolling into a hard-packed, deep rut can also wreak havoc with directional control on the rollout, which could cause a groundloop and possible wing damage.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2013
  37. LJS1993

    LJS1993 Line Up and Wait

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    Hey gentlemen what about those "motorized gliders"? I'm sure there is a specific name for the type but how has that technology come along?
     
  38. moonshine

    moonshine Line Up and Wait

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    Motogliders.
    Some are straight self-launch, and some are.. Think LSA before Sport Pilot rules came about.
     
  39. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Most of the gliders I have retrieved from fields were the retractable type (DG300,DG600,ASW19,Cirrus,Discus,DG202, Grob TwinIII). My own outlandings were in the ASW19. If you have a good landing field and technique, they tolerate landing on unimproved surfaces without damage. Sometimes it takes some time to polish grass stains off the belly, the worst I have seen was a torn off gear-door after a landing in a plowed field in the fall.
    Once in a while someone ground-loops during an outlanding. If this happens early on (snagged wing in standing corn), it may twist the T-tail off resulting in an expensive structural repair.
    If you dont have a suitable landing area and you end up in the fir trees, well, you can start shopping for a new glider.
     
  40. DavidWhite

    DavidWhite Final Approach

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    I towed gliders enough to realize I don't like towing gliders.