On March 16, 2003, about 1000 Pacific standard time, a Schleicher ASW-20 glider, N31AP, collided with terrain during an aborted takeoff at Torrey Pines Gliderport (CA84), San Diego, California. The pilot-owner was operating the glider on a personal local flight under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured; the glider sustained substantial damage. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The primary wreckage was at 32 degrees 53 minutes north latitude and 117 degrees 14 minutes west longitude.

The pilot reported that gliders at CA84 are launched with the assistance of a winch launch system. The winch launch system requires the pilot of the glider to obtain a steep climb attitude to prevent slack in the tow cable, and to establish an adequate airspeed and altitude prior to releasing from the cable.

A commercial glider pilot and a private airplane pilot who witnessed the accident and photographed the takeoff and accident sequences stated:

"The launch operation started normally and the glider rolled forward with good apparent speed. At the normal point of rotation, the typical rapid transition to a high angle of attack did not occur. The glider climbed to 20 to 30 feet above ground level, then leveled off. The glider appeared to overshoot the cable and the tow cable became slack. The glider appeared to be flying near stall speed when the pilot attempted to land on the emergency-intersecting runway. The right wing drug on the ground and the glider ground looped prior to stopping."

The pilot stated that during his winch-assisted launch, the glider did not gain enough altitude or airspeed to continue the flight. The pilot elected to abort the takeoff and tried to turn to land on a short intersecting runway. During the landing sequence the right wing tip contacted the ground. The glider ground looped, and came to rest on the north side of runway 27. The tail boom broke 3 feet forward of the vertical stabilizer, the main landing gear was bent, the belly pan forward of the main gear was cracked, and the outboard 1/3 of the right wing was scuffed.

The pilot-owner reported there were no unresolved maintenance discrepancies against the glider prior to accident flight.

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