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N26XL accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 39.571389°N, 119.720834°W
Nearest city Sparks, NV
39.534911°N, 119.752689°W
3.0 miles away
Tail number N26XL
Accident date 02 Nov 2005
Aircraft type Schleicher ASH 26 E
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On November 2, 2005, about 0940 Pacific standard time, a Schleicher Alexander GMBH & Company, ASH 26E (powered glider), N26XL, experienced an in-flight breakup near Sparks, Nevada, following the pilot's loss of control. The airline transport pilot bailed out of the glider and was seriously injured. The glider was destroyed. The pilot owned and operated the glider, which had a standard airworthiness certificate in the utility category. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) existed at the pilot's cruise altitude, approximately 20,700 feet mean sea level (msl). The personal flight was performed under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was in effect. The flight originated from Inyokern, California, about 0618.

The pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that the flight was planned as an attempt to set a cross-country glider record using standing lenticular wave conditions along the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The pilot obtained approval to fly in an airspace block between flight level 180 and flight level 280. The pilot monitored the weather in detail for about 2 weeks before the flight. He reported that upon departure he motor-climbed to approximately 9,000 feet msl and encountered the wave condition exactly as forecast. He shut down the engine and proceeded on course in visual meteorological conditions (VMC). During cruise flight he experienced internal canopy icing that interfered with his view through the canopy. When wiping the canopy clear of frost, he observed that the glider was climbing into a "layer of moisture." He determined that his only alternative was to turn on his emergency standby gryo (electric turn and bank), maintain heading and position, and climb through the "ledge" of moisture. However, the gyro did not come "up to speed" while the wings were level and before encountering IMC conditions. The pilot additionally reported that what happened next is subject to conjecture. In any case, the wings separated from the fuselage shortly after he encountered IMC. The pilot exited the cockpit, cleared the fuselage, and opened the emergency parachute.

A few days after the accident the pilot was interviewed by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors. The pilot told them that after the glider entered the clouds, its airspeed increased and he lost orientation.

The FAA's recorded radar data indicated that during the last 8 minutes 13 seconds of the glider's flight, the glider's altitude varied between18,800 feet and 20,700 feet according to its Mode C altitude encoding transponder. The last Mode C radar hit occurred at 0939:30. At this time the glider's altitude was 20,700 feet.

The main wreckage of the glider came to rest at the following GPS coordinates: 39 degrees 34 minutes 09.6 seconds north latitude by 119 degrees 43 minutes 08.6 seconds west longitude. The main wreckage site was about 2.6 nautical miles north-northeast of Sparks, Nevada. The pilot was located about 1.6 nm and 004 degrees from the main wreckage.

An examination of the main wreckage revealed that the two wings and the center section of the fuselage were missing. The alignment pins for the wings appeared bent. The rudder was attached to the vertical stabilizer. The horizontal stabilizer and the elevator were also missing.

The Reno airport, elevation 4,415 feet msl, is located about 4.8 nm south of the accident site. At 0956, Reno reported the following weather conditions at the airport: wind from 190 degrees at 29 knots with gusts to 38 knots; 10 miles visibility; few clouds at 10,000 feet and broken clouds at 15,000 and 25,000 feet.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions which resulted in a subsequent loss of control and an in-flight breakup. A contributing factor was the spool up delay for the emergency turn and bank indicator.

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