California CAP Glider Stalls on Takeoff

N381BA

By NTSB | FAA Aviation Accident Database

Analysis

The CAP glider [LET SUPER BLANIK L-23] [N381BA], stalled and collided with terrain during takeoff. The operator was using a winch to launch the CAP glider and as the winch operator watched it become airborne, he diverted his eyes from the winch gauges. When he looked back at them, he realized that he was accelerating the CAP glider faster than desired and he reduced the winch’s power momentarily.

The CAP glider stalled at 80 feet above ground level and it landed hard, which resulted in substantial damage to the left wing. The Glider Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-13) notes that a pilot should be ready for a takeoff any time that the towline is attached to the glider. It advises the pilot to smoothly raise the nose to the proper pitch attitude after liftoff, and watch for an increase in airspeed.

The handbook says to avoid raising the nose too rapidly or steeply, as it may be difficult or impossible for the pilot to recover from the steep pitch attitude if the towline breaks or the launch mechanism loses power. It also says to avoid raising the nose too slowly, as the glider may gain excessive airspeed or not attain the planned release speed. If this situation occurs, it advises the pilot to pull the release, and land straight ahead.

Factual Information

On July 11, 2006, about 1500 Pacific daylight time, a LET Super Blanik L-23 glider, N381BA,
collided with terrain during takeoff from the U.S. Army Airfield at Los Alamitos, California. The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was operating the airplane as a local instructional flight under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The CAP commercial pilot and the student pilot were not injured; the CAP glider sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The CAP reported that they were using a winch to launch the glider. They were experimenting
with a new plasma launch rope. With the new rope, the winch operator could not see the CAP glider until it became airborne. As the winch operator watched the glider become airborne, he diverted his eyes from the winch gauges.

When he looked back at them, he realized that he was accelerating it faster than he desired. He reduced the winch’s power momentarily. The CAP glider stalled at 80 feet above ground level. It landed hard, which resulted in substantial damage to the left wing.

Probable Cause & Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: failure of the winch operator to maintain an adequate winch tow speed, resulting in a stall and hard landing.

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