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N303LV accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 35.768334°N, 115.329723°W
Nearest city Jean, NV
35.778868°N, 115.323883°W
0.8 miles away
Tail number N303LV
Accident date 07 Jun 2005
Aircraft type Elan DG 300
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On June 07, 2005, about 1200 Pacific daylight time, an Elan DG 300, N303LV, collided with terrain shortly after departing the Jean Airport, Jean, Nevada. The owner/pilot was operating the glider under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained minor injuries; the glider sustained substantial damage. The personal local flight was originating from Jean. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

In a written statement, the pilot reported that while assembling his glider on the airport, a tow pilot approached him querying him on his destination intentions and at what speed he wanted the glider towed. The glider pilot instructed him that while in tow, he wanted to circle the airport one time in an effort to gain altitude. After the glider gained sufficient altitude he would contact the tow pilot via the common radio frequency and instruct him as to his desired direction. He specifically articulated to the tow pilot that he wanted to be towed at a speed of 65. The pilot added that knots (kts) or miles per hour (mph) were not specified

The pilot further stated that after the glider was aligned on runway 20L centerline, he performed a positive control check on both ailerons and spoilers, and the elevator with no anomalies noted. With the towrope attached, he relayed to the tow pilot that he was ready for takeoff. The tow started off with a normal acceleration for the Pawnee 235 tow plane. At an airspeed indication of about 40 kts, the glider pilot lifted off the runway surface and maintained a position of approximately 3 feet above ground level (agl). Shortly thereafter, the tow plane lifted off and started the initial climb. The glider pilot input backpressure on the stick to remain appropriately positioned behind the tow plane.

The tow plane then began an aggressive climb, configured in excess of 20 degrees nose high attitude. With the tow plane climbing higher than the glider, the towrope began to develop slack. The slack began to dissipate as the glider's airspeed decreased. With the tow plane more than 100 feet above the glider's flight path, the tow pilot began turn toward a southwesterly direction. Approximately 50 feet agl, the glider pilot opted to release from the tow and reached for the towrope release knob. His hand missed the release knob and after an additional 50-foot gain in altitude, about 100 feet agl, the glider pilot successfully released from the tow plane.

After the release, the glider began a slow roll to the right. The glider stalled and the pilot applied forward pressure on the stick to regain airspeed. Shortly thereafter, the right wing impacted the terrain and was dragged forward. The fuselage impacted runway 20R on the main landing gear. The main landing gear structure failed as a result of the impact and the glider slid across the ground on the fiberglass fuselage. The glider came to rest facing the southwest, between the runway and the west taxiway.

The pilot stated that the glider had no mechanical failures or malfunctions during the flight.

In a written statement, the tow pilot reported that the glider pilot instructed him to perform the tow at 65. He then informed the glider pilot that he does not normally perform tows at a speed that slow, but not being familiar with the performance of that particular glider, he would tow at that predetermined speed and monitor the radio for any change in speed instructions. The tow pilot performed the tow at 72 to 77 mph because he assumed that the gliders airspeed would be in knots. The tow pilot noted that during initial climb, he had to hold forward pressure on the stick because the glider was forcing the nose of his aircraft up. When the glider pilot released from the towrope, the tow pilot noted that his altimeter indicated an altitude of 300 feet agl.

In a written statement, a witness to the accident reported that after both the glider and tow plane had lifted off, the tow plane began a very steep climb. The tow plane was considerably higher than the glider with a significant amount of slack in the towrope. The glider then moved slightly to the left, which corrected for the slack. The glider and tow plane flew at a level altitude briefly, but then the tow plane became considerably higher than the glider. The tow plane continued to climb and the glider remained configured in a straight and level attitude. About 100 feet agl, the glider released from the towrope and appeared to be heading straight ahead to land. As the glider descended towards the runway, the right wing dipped down approximately 30 to 40 degrees. The glider continued to descend until the right wing touched the terrain. The glider then looked as if it had leveled out as it approached the runway; however, the dust obscured her witnessing the final touchdown.

During a telephone conversation with a National Transporation Safety Board investigator, a witness reported that initial tow was normal. The tow plane then climbed at a steeper than normal climb rate and the glider remained level. The towline appeared to be tight throughout the duration of the flight. The glider released from the tow plane about 100 feet agl and drifted towards the right. Seconds later the glider stalled, with the nose and the right wing dropping down. The witness added that following the accident, the glider pilot told him that he could not find the tow release. The witness further stated that he had completed about 8 or 9 tows in the accident Pawnee 235 tow plane following the accident flight. He noted no anomalies with the airplane or its airspeed indicator.

In a telephone conversation, a friend of the tow pilot reported that he first saw the tow plane and glider approximately midfield. Both the tow plane and the glider appeared to be about 200 feet, with a significant amount of slack developing in the towline. The towline was then detached and the glider did not appear to have a stable flight path. He noted that it did not appear as if the glider had stalled.

In a written statement, a pilot who was flying in the Jean area, reported that later in the afternoon after the accident, he overheard an exchange on the common radio frequency. While in a level tow configuration the tow plane pilot indicated a 20-knot difference in the airspeed than the glider he was towing. The pilot added that the tow pilot recently become current and had not towed in many years.

According to the data that the glider pilot retrieved from the recorder equipped in the accident glider, the highest altitude that the glider reached was approximately 130 feet agl; the highest airspeed obtained was approximately 45 knots. Cambridge Aero Instruments, the producer of this recorder, verified that the information received from the recorder had not been altered.

The Elan DG 300 Flight Manual states that the glider will exhibit certain stall characteristics while in specific attitudes. In level and turning flight, at stall speed, the DG 300 will begin to mush; there is no abrupt stall and the ailerons will remain effective. Pulling aft on the control stick will induce the DG 300 to stall forward or over to one side. Input of forward stick, and if necessary, opposite rudder, will recover the glider with minimum loss of height. Utilizing this procedure, can allow a stall recovery in less than about 20 meters (65 feet).

NTSB Probable Cause

the glider pilot's failure to release from the towline in a timely manner, and to maintain adequate airspeed. Contributing to the accident was the glider pilot's failure to recognize and correctly recover from the stall in a timely manner, and the inadequate airspeed flown by the tow plane pilot.

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