On May 11, 1996, at 1645 eastern daylight time, a Schweizer SGS-2-33A, a glider, N17957, operated by the Central Jersey Soaring Club, was substantially damaged while landing at the Solberg-Hunterdon Airport (N51), Readington, New Jersey. The commercial pilot received serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the positioning flight that departed the Vansant Airport (9N1), Erwinna, Pennsylvania, about 1625. No flight plan had been filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot's written statement, he listened to a prerecorded weather briefing at 0930, which indicated, "...VFR flight was not recommended because of expected frontal passage through the area in the afternoon hours." He also stated that one of the club's gliders had been tied down at 9N1 for several weeks, and it was decided to tow the glider back to N51. The pilot was flown to 9N1 inside of the tow plane, and after the glider was preflighted, the tow plane departed 9N1 and towed the glider towards Readington. When the glider arrived over N51, the pilot released from the tow plane, and entered a downwind for runway 22. When he established the glider on a right base for runway 22, he encountered a down draft and determined that he would not make the selected runway.

The pilot further stated:

"...I decided to take immediate action by turning to the right in a steeply banked turn with 65 mph airspeed maintained, so that I could convert the approach into a landing on runway 31...When the right turn was well established, there was a sudden and marked increase in the glider's rate of sink. The trees of the wooded area were now to my immediate left...It is my opinion that there was a 'curl over' effect of strong wind crossing the tree tops...I used left aileron and rudder to level the wings and finish the turn to land...the glider's overbanking tendency became so marked that I was unable to lift the right wing tip at all, even with full aileron deflection. The right wing tip struck the ground..."

A witness stated:

"...[The] pattern looked normal enough when he started his downwind leg. The base leg was flown on the far side of runway 31. When [the pilot] turned onto final, I thought he looked high enough, but I saw his spoilers close almost as soon as he rolled out of the turn. Very quickly I realized that his sink rate was high, and he was not making good progress over the ground. I would estimate that he flew for 10 to 12 seconds on final, during which time it became obvious that he was not going to clear the trees on the approach to the runway. I watched as he began a well banked right hand turn for runway 31 just above tree level..."

Another witness stated, "...He appeared low due to headwinds and could not clear the trees on the approach end of 22. He made a low turn on the cross runway 31, and appeared to catch a wing tip in the grass."

According to the Federal Aviation Administration Inspector's report, "There were no indications of a malfunction of the aircraft."

The glider pilot estimated the winds were from 230 degrees at 15 knots, gusting to 20. A review of the pilot's log book revealed that he had logged 2 flights between November 20, 1995, and the accident flight. The 2 flights resulted in 1 landing each, and a total of 1 hour and 27 minutes of gliding.

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