NTSB Identification: LAX07CA086.
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Accident occurred Friday, February 09, 2007 in Jean, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/29/2007
Aircraft: Schweizer SGS 2-3C, registration: N2438W
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The glider hit the ground hard at a steep vertical angle when the tow hook jammed sideways, and failed to release. The pilot set up a winch and cable ground launch system. He spent about 1.5 hours inspecting, removing, and repairing the winch cable. He launched to the east, released at 1,400 feet agl, made a 5-minute flight, and landed. He moved the cable and winch to set up for a launch to the west. He requested a 65 mph cable speed; he cleared the pattern and midfield from both ends via radio. The takeoff was normal to 700 feet agl. The glider entered a thermal, and experienced a strong surge in rate of climb. The airspeed decreased to 50 mph, and then to 44 mph. He requested that the ground personnel adjust the winch for more speed, but he did not see an airspeed increase. He dove the glider to 60 mph, and requested more speed again. He noticed the airspeed getting slower despite a nose down attitude, which he assumed was from the cable weight with no cable forward pull. As he made a third request for an increase in winch speed, he simultaneously pushed the nose down, and pulled the cable release. He did not hear a click, so he assumed that the cable had already back released. Looking forward, he noticed that he was getting very close to the winch and parked vehicles. His altitude was now below 400 feet agl; he elected to turn away for a downwind landing. He turned away, and was perpendicular to the winch. He saw his shadow on the ground, and was surprised and alarmed to see that the winch cable was still attached to the underside of glider. He pulled the release again, but the cable became taught. He felt no release, and the cable was pulling the glider quickly toward the ground. The control responses decreased. He unsuccessfully attempted to dive and build enough airspeed to break the cable's weak link. The nose responded momentarily when he pulled back on the control stick. He thought that he detected a very brief forward motion rather than down motion; however, the glider hit the ground hard.

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

the tow hook jamming and failing to release from the glider.

Full narrative available

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