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Forced hillside landing

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:19 am
by TerryH
July 7, 2018, approximately 4 pm.

An H4 pilot with around 220 hours experience, mostly at Kagel, encountered strong winds in a known venturi location and was forced to land on the hillside. The pilot was uninjured, and there was only minor sail damage to the glider. Joe and Andy drove out from the LZ to assist, and were able to retrieve the glider and pilot. No emergency services were engaged.

The incident occurred behind the towers for which West Towers is named. Conditions were fairly windy and from the south-east. The glider was a Falcon 3 195.

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:23 am
by TerryH
For those that don't know, I was the pilot involved. I plan to write a little about the series of bad decisions that led to the event once I've reflected on it a little further.

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:39 pm
by JD
TerryH wrote:For those that don't know, I was the pilot involved. I plan to write a little about the series of bad decisions that led to the event once I've reflected on it a little further.
Glad you survived unscathed Terry. Looking forward to your detailed report. Do you have a GPS tracklog? If so, I can convert it into a 3D track animation as a visual aid for your report.

Cheers, JD

Forced Landing

Posted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:59 am
by Steve90266
Glad you are OK, Terry. Getting caught in the venturi of a canyon as an HG or PG pilot is always challenging and rarely ends well. Glad it ended well for you and we look forward to hearing the details so that we can all learn. All the best.

Posted: Sat Jul 14, 2018 9:20 pm
by TerryH
Here's what happened. It's kind-of embarrassing to lay it out, because it's all really a bit stupid. I wrote down a pretty detailed account of everything I remembered, but I'm going to summarize here.

One contributing factor that occurred before the flight is that I had spent a lot of time flying west of the dam on my own, and never really talked to anyone about the best routes to head in that direction. This led to me developing a route along the back of the range, and habitually tagging the actual towers rather than the West Towers turnpoint. I had done this successfully pretty often both on Falcons and on my Sport 2, and had come to regard it as somewhat easy to achieve. I'd never had significant trouble crossing the three gaps, although I realized intellectually that they were danger points, I didn't have the correct level of gut-based fear and respect for them.

On the day of the flight, it had always been my plan to head over to the west, and I became somewhat fixated on trying to achieve this, even though there were plenty of indications that it was not a good day for that direction. I basically ignored the fact that when I had on a couple of occasions flown over to Trash, I made incredibly slow progress over the ground. I also managed to totally discount the fact that on my one good climb of the day, which was the immediate precursor to the incident, I drifted a very long way west while only climbing a couple of thousand feet. So it should have been very obvious that it was going to be difficult to get back to the LZ, especially as I was flying a Falcon.

So at the top of my climb, I headed off to the west along my normal route. As I progressed I was keeping the same height above terrain (which does however slope down to the west), and I didn't encounter any big sink. So I was relatively happy with my situation. But I was missing several important things. One is, I know I need a thermal to get back from this goal, and I never encountered significant lift. I definitely should have been searching for evidence that there would be sufficient activity to get me back. Second, I falsely believed that I wasn't seeing much evidence of a strong easterly component to the wind, since I didn't seem to be getting to the west very quickly. Reviewing the flight data shows this was a mistaken impression, if that wasn't already evident from the outcome. Third, I never once thought about what my plan B (and C, D, and E) were. For some reason, it never crossed my mind that I might not make it there and back.

I'm pretty sure I was in an unrecoverable position by the time I was about a third of the way to my objective. However, I almost made it there (but I wouldn't have made it back). Approaching the location where the west towers ridge heads south from the main ridge, I hit some sink. There's a saddle at this location. At this point I finally realized I wasn’t high enough to simply fly over to the towers as I normally would. (Given how windy it was, in reality I had been too low even before the sink.) I considered heading back through the sink to attempt to fly east along the back ridge, but quickly realized I couldn’t make headway in any direction. Seeing I was stuck in a venturi and heading backwards, I spent a couple of seconds trying various speeds, since my vario was actually beeping. However, nothing less than a hard dive would even keep me at zero ground speed. So I selected a clear patch with some soft-looking bushes beneath as my target for landing. Plan A was the clearing, and the bushes if I couldn’t make it. I descended vertically into the bushes, wings level and touched down fairly gently. I was able to unhook myself and get clear of the bushes with no difficulty, but it was obvious I would need assistance to free the glider.

Posted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 11:57 am
by JD
Thanks for the report Terry. Could you you please post the exact coordinates of where you landed or at least take a screen shot from Google Earth of the location?

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:33 am
by TerryH
My vario says the landing position was 34.357367, -118.455733. This looks accurate on Google Earth to me.

Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:24 am
by JD
TerryH wrote:My vario says the landing position was 34.357367, -118.455733. This looks accurate on Google Earth to me.
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