On August 2, 1998, approximately 1030 Pacific daylight time, a Schweizer SGS 2-33 glider, N5720S, registered to and being operated by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), and being flown by a student pilot, incurred substantial damage during a loss of control and subsequent in-flight collision with terrain while landing at the Ephrata Municipal airport, Ephrata, Washington. The student pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was being operated in a training capacity by the Civil Air Patrol, was to have been conducted as a public use mission. The flight originated from Ephrata approximately 1027, and was local in nature.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) liaison officer to the CAP who was present at the accident, auto-tow glider operations were being conducted from the 4,000 foot long, 70 foot wide, asphalt parallel taxiway to runway 11/29 at the Ephrata Municipal airport. He reported that the winds were "light and variable" at the time of the accident.

He also reported that the "student pilot had flown two auto-tow flight instruction flights that morning and was on her initial solo flight. She was launched by auto-tow to the west, released from tow about 800 feet AGL (above ground level), made a normal left hand turn to enter a left downwind, turned base and final, planning a landing to the west. She landed with excessive airspeed, and bounced back in the air after touchdown. The student pilot panicked and let go of the controls. Witness's [sic] could hear her screaming. The left wing of the glider dropped and the nose turned to the left and dropped. The left wing hit the ground, followed by the nose, causing the glider to continue to turn to the left, coming to rest about 50 feet south of the "runway" facing east."

The 14-year-old student pilot was reported to have a total of 2 hours of flight experience, all in the SGS 2-33 glider. The FAA inspector reported that "the student pilot had been receiving training for the previous 10 days" and that "the training consisted of ground school, about 22 auto-tow flights to about 800 feet AGL, and two aero-tow flights to approximately 3,000 feet AGL of about 15 to 20 minutes each."

The FAA liaison officer reported on NTSB Form 6120.1/2 `RECOMMENDATION (How Could This Accident Have Been Prevented)' that "the 14 year old student pilot may not have been mature enough for this intensive training program. In the future we will attempt to improve the screening process to accept only students that have the maturity for this program."

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