NYC01LA121
NYC01LA121

On May 12, 2001, about 1515 eastern daylight time, a Schweizer SGS 1-26E glider, N33907, was substantially damaged during an off airport landing, in New Milford, Connecticut. The certificated student pilot received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the solo instructional flight. No flight plan had been filed for the local flight that was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The student pilot departed in a glider from an airport with an elevation of 675 feet, and was aero-towed to 3,000 feet msl over the airport.

According to a statement from the pilot:

"...I released the tow at 3,000 feet [msl] and climbed to 4,000 feet at the south end of the field. I then headed to the north end and the sand pit area. Upon reaching the sand pit area, I lost 1,000 feet. After 10 - 15 minutes I had lost another 900 feet. I headed back for the airfield and encountered rain and 5-6 sink [500 to 600 fpm down]. I realized I was too low and radioed in twice to announce a straight in landing. When I realized I would not make the airfield, I slowed to 40. At this point I was about 1,000 feet from the field. About 50 feet from the trees, the left wing dropped. As soon as I brought it up, I entered the tops of the trees. The glider was spun 180 degrees to the left and caught in the trees. After a few seconds, the plane dropped to the ground...."

A witness reported seeing the glider about 15 minutes after release, about 2 miles northeast of the airport, at an altitude of about 2,000 feet agl. It was headed straight toward the approach end of Runway 17, on an approximate heading of 220 degrees. He watched the glider as it descended into the tops of trees, about 1/4 mile northeast of the approach end of Runway 17.

The pilot was asked how this accident could have been prevented, and he replied that he should have maintained his awareness of the winds, and the location of the airport while searching for thermals. He further added that he had focused his attention on finding a thermal and lost his awareness of the airport location, and his ability to return safely.

The field safety manager for the club reported that prior to departure of the student pilot, he had cautioned him to remain up wind of the airport.

According to the inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), both wings and the fuselage were wrinkled and bent.

According to statements from several pilots, the winds at the airport were from the southwest at 5 to 10 knots. The pilot had reported winds from the southwest at 5 to 7 knots. The direction was primarily from the southwest, but was variable between south and west. The sky was described as unstable with cumulus clouds present. Visibility was described as 10-15 miles. Cloud bases were estimated at 5,000 feet to 6,000 feet mean sea level. The pilot had estimated the cloud cover at 3/10. However, another witness said it was near overcast just after the accident.

The pilot reported that he had completed 51 flights in gliders, for a total flight experience of 14 hours, 22 minutes, including 3 hrs, 07 minutes solo, and 1 hour 02 minutes in the Schweizer SGS 1-26E.

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