NTSB Identification: DEN01FA105.
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Accident occurred Thursday, May 24, 2001 in Alamogordo, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/15/2003
Aircraft: Schempp-Hirth Nimbus-3DM, registration: N11ZQ
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The two pilots had arrived from Europe 3 days before the accident to take part in a 2 week long world record soaring attempt. They departed on runway 21 (elevation 4,200 feet) in a self-launch motorized glider and turned east towards the mesa (elevation 9,100 feet). A fellow pilot said that the motor is usually stowed at 1,000 meters, and the stowing process takes between 2 to 3 minutes. The aircraft is flown strictly as a glider after that. The glider disappeared from radar approximately 10 minutes later. Two other gliders departed within 30 minutes, and they reported good uplift and strong downdrafts. The mesa top was heavily forested and the temperature was approximately 25 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the departure airport. The downed glider was found 3 days later, and the impact signatures suggest a flight track of 235 degrees. The accident aircraft was found approximately 300 to 400 yards from the western edge of the mesa. The toxicological report on the second pilot (the pilot flying) indicated that he had Phenobarbital in his liver and kidney. The FAA does not approve of this prescribed medication in pilots, while they are on flight status.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The flight crew's inadequate in-flight planning to fly over the mesa with insufficient altitude. A contributing factor was the downdraft weather condition


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