NTSB Identification: NYC04FA137.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, June 02, 2004 in Kutztown, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2005
Aircraft: Cessna 182C, registration: N8681T
Injuries: 1 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 student glider pilot was being towed by the accident tow plane for a local flight. Shortly after takeoff, the student glider pilot noticed that the tow rope had "some slack" in it, and that the tow plane did not appear to be climbing "at the rate he should have been." The student glider pilot made slight control adjustments to tighten the tow rope; however, the tow rope "went slack" again at 200-300 feet above the ground, and the airplane began to descend below the glider. The glider pilot then decided to release from the tow plane, and he turned back to the airport. During the turn, he observed the airplane drop its left wing slightly, and then begin a turn to the right. The airplane then impacted a quarry, and a post-crash fire ensued. Examination of the airplane and engine revealed no pre-flight mechanical deficiencies. During a previous training flight with the student glider pilot and accident tow pilot, the airplane began to descend during a climb, when the tow pilot failed to realize that the throttle had vibrated back to a lower power setting when he took his hand off it. According to the operator of the airplane, the tow pilot had performed approximately 70 tows during the past year; however, he had been "signed off" to fly without an instructor less than a month prior to the accident. The student glider pilot had accumulated approximately 50 hours of total flight experience. The FAA Glider Flying Handbook, states in part that "One of the most dangerous occurrences during the aerotow is allowing the glider to rise high above and losing sight of the towplane. The tension on the towrope by the glider pulls the towplane tail up, lowering its nose. If the glider continues to rise pulling the towplane tail higher, the towpilot may not be able to raise the nose. Ultimately, the towpilot may run out of up elevator authority. This situation can be critical if it occurs at altitudes below 500 feet AGL. Upon losing sight of the towplane, the glider pilot must release immediately."
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The towplane pilot's failure to maintain a climb while towing a glider for undetermined reasons, which resulted in the early release of the glider and the tow plane's subsequent impact with trees. Full narrative available
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