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Fri, Apr 22, 2005

Fatal Glider Crash Investigation Providing Few Clues

An April 6th commercial glider flight that resulted in an accident, claiming the life of the newly certified commercial pilot, and injuring his two passengers, is yielding scant evidence as to the cause.

The preliminary report (included below) offers little specific evidence as to what caused the Schweizer 2-23 (file photo, below) to impact less than a half mile South of Hawaii's Dillingham field, but did reveal the fact that all flight controls seem to have been intact and operable up to the moment of the accident. The prelim also notes that the commercially rated pilot had less than 50 hours of flight time prior to the day of the accident and a little more than 30 hours as PIC.

NTSB Identification: LAX05LA131
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, April 06, 2005 in Mokuleia, HI
Aircraft: Schweizer SGS 2-32, registration: N693U
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On April 6, 2005, at 1300 Hawaiian standard time, a Schweizer SGS 2-32 glider, N693U, impacted mountainous terrain 0.4 miles south of the Dillingham Airfield, Mokuleia, Hawaii. The commercial glider pilot was fatally injured and the two passengers sustained minor injuries. The glider sustained substantial damaged. Sailplane Ride Adventures, Inc., owned and operated the glider under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 as a scenic sailplane ride. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed for the local flight. The 20-minute scenic flight was in the air approximately 17 minutes.

According to an interview summary provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the passengers reported that they were circling around a hill and thought that they were returning to the airport. The glider crossed over a ridge to a valley to look at a waterfall. The glider turned left then right in a gentle but accelerating manner. The glider also pitched up and down, and the passengers felt like they were falling. The pilot announced that they were "going in." The glider impacted trees and terrain, and came to rest upside down.

Another witness, who was a glider pilot flying at the time of the accident, observed the accident glider behind her, heading east approximately 400-500 feet above the ridge. She checked back on the glider's position relative to hers and noticed the glider "turn right (toward the ridge) and its nose come up slightly." The glider turned "approximately 45 degrees to the right, then turned back to the left and immediately entered a spin to the left." The witness reported that the glider rotated twice before it entered a spin to the right. The witness then lost sight of the glider behind trees before it completed a rotation to the right.

The accident site was at 21 degrees 34 minutes 21 seconds north latitude and 158 degrees 12 minutes and 54 seconds west longitude at an elevation of approximately 1,000 feet msl. The glider came to rest on the east side of a gulch that cut through the east-west running ridgeline situated to the south of Dillingham Airfield. Review of photographs of the accident site revealed that the glider fuselage came to rest inverted with the left and right inboard wings intact. The left and right outboard wing sections were detached; however, the left outboard wing section remained attached to the main wreckage via flight control cables. The right outboard wing section came to rest approximately 40 feet from the main wreckage at the base of freshly broken trees. The wing leading edges displayed circular indentations similar in size to the diameter of the surrounding trees. The tail section folded over the belly of the airplane.

The glider was recovered to Dillingham Airfield on April 8, 2005. According to the FAA inspectors that responded to the accident site, flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the flight control surfaces.

The pilot received his student pilot certificate on March 16, 2005. On March 24, 2005, he received his private pilot certificate with a glider rating. On March 26, 2005, he obtained his commercial pilot certificate with a glider rating. According to the pilot's logbook, as of April 5, 2005 (the day before the accident), he accumulated a total of 48.4 hours of flight time, of which 31.2 hours were as pilot-in-command.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov, www.soarhawaii.com

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