WPR12LA205
WPR12LA205

On May 11, 2012, about 0830 mountain daylight time, an Infinity 2000 powered parachute, N541KP, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain following a turbulence encounter near Hurricane, Utah. The commercial pilot was seriously injured and his passenger received minor injuries. The pilot/owner was operating the powered parachute under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight, which had originated from the General Dick Stout Field Airport in Hurricane about 30 minutes before the accident. A flight plan had not been filed.

The pilot reported that he initially climbed to about 1,000 feet above ground level and determined that the wind was from the west about 5 mph. When he was about 5 miles north of the airport, he descended into the canyon of the Virgin River and proceeded downstream towards the west. The pilot reported that he maintained an altitude of 50 to 100 feet above the canyon bottom. About 20 minutes after takeoff, he "encountered an area of severe (as related to a powered parachute) turbulence and gusting" that resulted in the powered parachute descending to within 10 feet of the canyon floor. As the pilot attempted to regain altitude, the gondola of the powered parachute impacted a rock outcropping. The gondola structure was bent.

The pilot reported that the accident occurred at a point where the canyon narrowed significantly and that he likely encountered an air mass that was moving up the canyon and gained velocity due to the narrowing of the canyon, creating turbulence and gusts. He noted that the accident could have been prevented by maintaining "a greater margin of safety altitude when flying in such terrain."

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