LAX02LA215
LAX02LA215

On July 5, 2002, about 1800 Pacific daylight time, a Rolladen-Schneider glider model LS8-18, N818JF, collided with mountainous terrain about 10 miles southeast of Incline Village, Nevada. The pilot/owner was operating the glider under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airline transport rated pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries; the glider sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed. The local personal flight originated near Truckee, California, about 1400, after being released from an airplane tow.

A witness reported in a written statement, that while driving, he observed a glider about 1 mile to the west of his location maneuvering about 25 to 50 feet above the treetops. About 1745, the glider appeared to be northeast of Spooner Lake. He recognized the glider's maneuvers to consist of 360-degree turns and figure eight configurations to the left. The glider encountered a thermal and quickly gained altitude, climbing to about 75 feet above ground level. Shortly thereafter, it began to lose altitude and while descending, began to level out. About 1750 to 1800, the witness saw the glider wing over to the left and then he lost visual contact with it.

In a written statement, a glider pilot and friend of the accident pilot reported that he had flown with the pilot the day of the accident. About 1400, 25 miles north of Reno, he made contact with the pilot via the radio, and they agreed to move in a southerly direction with the intention to rendezvous later in the flight. After encountering challenging soaring conditions, they met up around Smith Valley and flew in the local area for about 1 1/2 hours. About 1700, at 17,000 feet mean sea level, they parted with the intention of flying back to their different airports.

After diverging paths, the glider pilot made a mental assessment as to the accident pilot's flight back to Truckee. Despite strong headwinds, he thought that the pilot would have no problems making it to Carson City or Minden airports, but noted it would be difficult, if not impossible, to continue onto Truckee. He thought that the location of the crash indicated that the pilot glided to the area where he had the best chance at finding the remaining lift needed to gain enough altitude to glide through Brockway Summit and return to Truckee. He also noted that from the crash site, he believed there were several options where the pilot could have retreated back to Spooner Summit, enabling him to return to Carson City.

The accident site was on the west side of Snow Valley Peak, in mountainous terrain, at an elevation of 9,068 feet. The wreckage was located on a 25-degree slope, about 50 feet below the ridgeline. The glider came to rest inverted, with the nose pointed in a southerly direction. Damage was prominent on the bottom of the fuselage from the nose back to the aft portion of the cabin. Both wings remained attached to the fuselage, with the left wing tip bent, and the right wing tip separated from the wing. Several large boulders off the right wing of the glider revealed white markings and scrapings, with aircraft debris scattered around.

A local weather reporting station indicated that at the time of the accident winds averaged 22.4 miles per hour (mph) at 243 degrees, gusting to 30.8 mph.

An autopsy performed by the Office of Medical Examiner Washoe County, did not reveal any preexisting disease or medical condition that contributed to the accident. The Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing; the tests were negative for volatiles, ethanol, and drugs.

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