On June 13, 1999, at 1320 hours Pacific daylight time, an AB Sportine Aviacija Genesis 2 glider, N240BG, collided with terrain following an uncontrolled descent immediately after takeoff at Minden, Nevada. The commercial glider pilot, the sole occupant and owner/operator of the aircraft, sustained fatal injuries. The glider was destroyed in the impact sequence. The purpose of the flight was to practice for an upcoming glider competition. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 when the accident occurred. A flight plan was not filed for the local flight and visual meteorological conditions prevailed. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to witnesses, as the glider began the takeoff roll, the horizontal stabilizer fell off the aircraft as soon as it began to roll. One eyewitness said he immediately called the pilot of the towing aircraft and told him to release the towrope. Approximately 100 feet agl, the glider pilot released the towrope and the glider dove toward the ground and came to rest inverted.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector from the Reno, Nevada, Flight Standards District Office, responded to the site and examined the glider. The Douglas County Sheriff's Department told the inspector that the stabilator was found on the runway near where the glider began the takeoff roll. The stabilator was picked up off the runway by a member of the sheriff's department and placed in a patrol car as evidence.
The inspector interviewed the wife of the pilot at the scene. She told him this was the second season that her husband had flown this particular glider. She also stated that there is a special tool used to install the stabilator (elevator). The tool is threaded into a locking mechanism, then the locking pin is pulled out and the stabilator is installed in the proper position on the stabilator bellcrank. The locking pin is spring loaded into the engaged position when the locking pin is released, thus securing the stabilator to the bellcrank.
The wife stated that she heard people on the radio call out to the pilot "40 release, 40 release." Her husband's glider was "Race 40." Investigators interviewed the tow plane pilot and he stated that the glider was airborne before the tow plane. He said that he began the tow at the intersection of 16/34 and 12/30 and announced on the radio that he was departing on Runway 34. He estimated that he was climbing about 600 feet-per-minute and that his airspeed was approximately 80 knots. He said that when he looked back, the Genesis was "in tow." He said he was approximately 100 feet agl when he heard "Genesis release, release, release." He said that when he looked back, approximately 100 feet above the runway, the Genesis glider was missing from view.
The sheriff's department responded to the scene and noted that the aircraft crashed onto the northern most section of runway 34, coming to rest immediately north of the runway 16. Upon impact, the aircraft fuselage crushed until both wings struck the runway. According to the sheriff's officer's report, a fuselage impact mark, as well as both wing impact marks, extended to the tips of the wings, were clearly left on the runway in the form of white paint and fiberglass transfer. The vertical tail section of the aircraft was pointing in a northerly direction with the nose area facing southerly. There was extensive damage to the nose of the aircraft, which had been torn apart by the impact. The wings had asphalt transfer marks on them and were split open along the leading edges.
According to sheriff's officers, the weather was clear with winds out of the west and the temperature was about 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
The sheriff's department report noted that the horizontal stabilator, which attaches to the vertical tail section of the aircraft, had fallen off the aircraft as it was in tow for takeoff. The FAA inspector inspected the tow plane and towrope on scene, and found them in working order. The inspector and sheriff's officers compared the horizontal stabilator to its mounting point in the vertical tail section. The officer's written report noted that they did not find any signs of damage or breakage of the part, but that it was not properly mounted when the aircraft was assembled. The sheriff's report noted that the mounting bolt on the stabilator did not have tape over it, but noted that other items on the glider were taped, and that taping of bolts and other rough areas on gliders is common practice to reduce drag.
Members of the sheriff's office interviewed the pilot's wife. She reported that her husband had been flying aircraft for about 24 years, that he had been flying gliders for the past 15 years, and had been competing for approximately 12 years. She stated that her husband had purchased the glider in July 1998. The aircraft was built in Lithuania and shipped to her husband.
The pilot's wife also stated that she normally assists her husband in assembling the glider before competitions. She said she held the wing while the glider was in tow to prevent the wing from touching the ground. On the date of the accident, while they were assembling the glider, her husband sent her out to get radio batteries. When she returned to the aircraft, her husband had already attached the horizontal stabilator to the vertical tail section. She stated that there is a special tool used to attach the stabilator, and this tool was usually stored in a pouch inside the aircraft cockpit. The tool was never located during the search by sheriff's officers and FAA investigators.
The wife stated that a short while later, her husband indicated that he was ready to fly the aircraft. She said the aircraft was positioned on the runway and connected to the tow plane. She said her husband wiggled his rudder indicating that he was ready. As the tow plane started its tow of the glider, she held the wing. She stated that as she let go of the wing she heard a noise, and observed the horizontal stabilator lying on the runway as it had fallen off the aircraft. She said she ran over to a man nearby and told him to contact her husband and tell him to release his aircraft from the tow plane. The man attempted to contact the glider pilot via his handheld radio stating, "40 release, 40 release" without success. The pilot's wife said she watched the aircraft leave the runway and climb to approximately 100 feet agl. At that point, the aircraft nosed steeply down and crashed into the runway.
Sheriff's officers interviewed the man who attempted to contact the pilot of the glider on June 16, 1999. He stated that he attempted to contact the glider pilot on his handheld radio, and, as he checked the frequency he found it was on 123.4 MHz. He said that his radio was on a separate frequency as he was talking with someone and did not want to tie up the glider frequency. He stated by the time he had changed frequencies, the glider had already crashed.
Sheriff's officers also interviewed the tow plane pilot. He said he had made approximately 25,000 tows and on the date of the accident, he was flying a Piper Pawnee airplane with about 235 horsepower. He stated that both the tow plane and the glider had the ability to release the towrope. He estimated that there was a 12- to 20-second roll time prior to takeoff. The pilot stated that once he got airborne, his airspeed was about 80 miles per hour, and his rate of climb was approximately 600 feet per minute.
The tow pilot stated that he had his radio tuned to the airport frequency of 122.8. As they were in tow he did not hear anything on the air. Then, all at once, there was noise of crackling and popping on the radio, which he indicated was indicative of several people talking over each other. Once he was airborne someone stated over the radio, "Genesis release, release, release." When he heard this, he said he looked back and the glider had already crashed.
Sheriff's officers contacted the airport operations supervisor. They asked to see the glider and were allowed to enter the secured hanger where the glider was being stored. They removed the radio from the control panel and took the radio to an airport radio shop for testing. A radio technician applied power to the radio and the frequency reading on the LCD was 123.3 MHz. The soaring competition operations plan noted that the radio frequency during tow and launching was supposed to be 122.8 MHz; 122.5 was the crew frequency and 122.3 was supposed to be used for everything else.
Sheriff's officers concluded in their written report that the glider pilot's radio was turned on and tuned to frequency 123.3, and according to the operations plan, the radio should have been tuned to 122.8 MHz. The report also stated that the glider pilot probably did not hear any radio traffic telling him to release the glider. The written sheriff's office report also stated that it did not appear that the glider pilot and tow pilot made a radio check prior to takeoff.
The FAA inspector took photos of the stabilator on or about June 14, 1999. The photos marked 13 and 16, appended to this report, depict the stabilator improperly installed with the stabilator not locked onto the bellcrank, but sitting on top of the alignment pins. Photo 14 and 17 depict the stabilator fully and properly installed on the stabilator bellcrank, with the alignment pins fully engaged. The inspector noted that when the stabilator is properly installed, the spring loaded locking mechanism is flush with the top of the stabilator and the leading edge of the stabilator will fair with the top of the empenage.
A post mortem examination on the glider pilot was performed by the Washoe County Medical Examiner's office, with tissue and fluid samples retained for toxicological examination. The samples were submitted to the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Separate toxicological studies were conducted by the Washoe County Medical Examiner's office.
According to the toxicological report completed in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Washoe County Medical Examiner's office, the specimen was negative for ethanol and there were no drugs identified in the blood.
According to the Manager, Toxicology and Accident Research in Oklahoma City, the samples from the glider pilot were positive for the following drugs:
0.211 (ug/mL, ug/g) Fluoxetine detected in Blood 0.861 (ug/mL, ug/g) Norfluoxetine detected in Blood 10.161 (ug/mL, ug/g) Fluoxetine detected in Liver 36.277 (ug/mL, ug/g) Norfluoxetine detected in Liver
Fluoxetine is a prescription antidepressant known by the trade name Prozac, commonly used to treat depression. Norfluxetine is a metabolite of the medication Fluoxetine. The pilot had not indicated the use of any medications on his most recent application for a second-class aviation medical certificate dated April 14, 1997.
The wreckage was released by the FAA inspector under direction of the Safety Board investigator to the glider pilot's wife at the conclusion of the on-scene examination dated June 21, 1999.