By George Graham
A Bluenose Soaring Club pilot, in his first attempt at a full-height flight test of his new HP-18, had a flight that, in a span of two minutes, included a spin off a winch launch and an outlanding.
Sept 6, 1999 marked the end a long week-end which included a power pilot Fly-In at Stanley. The pilot, after spending much of his day winching fam flights and helping with other club gliding activities, decided to test-fly his new HP-18.
The winch-driver who launched the HP-18 was told to give a vigorous start, as the pilot worried about the HP-18ís aileron control at slow speeds. The aircraft had been equipped with top-quality aileron seals and the wing also featured end-plates (they look like vertical winglets).
The launch started normally, and the HP-18 handled the launch well, although the rotation into the steep climb at 400 feet resulted in a steeper climb than usual. At that time the pilot signaled for less speed, even though his AIS, approaching 70 knots, was comfortably below the HP-18ís generous 78kt winch VNE. On subsequent investigation the pilot admitted to falling back to old habits relating to Ka-6, 7, and 8 gliders, which have a 55kt VNE on winch.
At about 800 feet the pilot was heard to call "Forty, forty," giving the low speed on the AIS over his radio. However, he did not decrease the steep climb attitude.
At Bluenose Soaring, pilots are told not to use the wing-rolling "too slow" signal of times past. Instead they are to lower the nose briskly about 20 degrees as a speed-up signal, and, if the speed does not improve very soon, to abandon the launch.
The winch driver could not make out the radio transmission, and seeing the steep attitude, decided that the HP-18 was still going too fast, and so slowed down further.
The HP-18ís AIS went below 35 kts and stalled in a steep climb at a height of between 700-900 above ground.
A wing dropped and the glider started to rotate.
At this point the pilot pulled off the cable (the Tost hook may have already back-released) and nosed forward further. Once he saw the AIS sweep up into the safe range, he applied opposite rudder.
The rotation stopped immediately and the pilot held the nose down to ensure he had flying speed. He pulled level within 150 feet of the ground doing 100kts.
By this time the glider was travelling downwind. In his attempt to reduce the speed, he flew well off the airport to the south.
Believing he could not be sure of making it back the field over power traffic (which would be a downwind landing in any case), he landed in one of the recently cut meadows beside the Kennetcook river. Thankfully the farmer had recently removed the big round "French" hay bales, and the pilot landed without incidentóhis first landing with 90 degrees of flaps.
On going over the sequence of events, interesting facts emerged.
1. Getting ready for the flight, the pilot inadvertently opened his own chute. Another pilot offered his chute, which was an older model with a thicker pack.
2. The person winching him had not previously launched that day.
3. When the pilot was asked why he did not reduce the climb-climb angle as the speed decayed, he said he was dumbfounded himself as to why he did not do so. (One factor may be the dramatic difference in seating attitude between the HP-18 and the Ka gliders of the pilotís past experience.) During a separate discussion the pilot remarked that he had lately worked a string of strenuous (ship refitting) 16-hour days.
4. Later talking about why he would further slow down a "hot" glider without any signal, the winch driver agreed that he should not have been winching that flight, as he had not got fully in gear with the demands of the task.
5. Other winch drivers mentioned that the winch radio has a sensitive squelch control, and a small movement could render transmissions inaudible.
6. Everyone agreed that doing such a test flight at the end of a long day at the field was not the right thing to do. Dehydration may have been a significant factor.
7. A round of applause to Dick Schreder for designing such a forgiving aircraft.
8. The pilotís wife, and ardent Christian, had been praying for his safety.
Perhaps this report will be of help to other glider pilots.
Comments of Terry Healy:
As well in any high performance glider with the semi-reclining seat position you must ensure that you are well strapped in or you will find yourself sliding aft in the cockpit as you rotate into the climb position (and pulling the stick aft with you) which further aggravates the situation. With luck you may still have your feet on the rudder pedals.
As always "tighten" those straps well and have a plan of action before the sailplane starts moving ........ especially on the winch.