Thursday, July 31, 2014

Willi Muller XC Challenge July 31

Quite a bit of drama today as we had two accidents and a probably-averted one.  #1 was a Russian tandem pilot (unrated, uninsured) with extremely sketchy and unairworthy equipment (a 21-year-old glider!), as well as questionable judgement, attempting to launch in perfectly launchable conditions.  After 2 attempts he was shut down quite forcibly by two pilots who told him in no uncertain conditions that he was not welcome to kill himself or his passenger while we were around and to take a hike.

After said Russian tandem left it was a slow wait for things to turn on as it was quite stable-looking with a clear haze/smoke layer visible across the valley.  Finally pilots starting launching and scratching around the tits.  It was at this point that reports starting coming in about a possible PG pilot in the trees on the tits.  After ascertaining who it was and their location (based on their SPOT data) we started heading to his location while 911 was phoned.  For those who remember the Nationals a few years ago, it was more-or-less the exact same place that Jeff Whishney crashed, right next to the heli-pad.

Search and Rescue taking the downed PG pilot out from where he crashed on the tits.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
Alex got to the crashed pilot first and looked like some back pain and a broken ankle as he had broken off the top of the tree and landed with his glider on the ground below (hence he was invisible from the air).  Fortunately he was only 150 m from the heli pad which meant it was pretty easy for the paramedics to get to him and he was evacuated quite efficiently.  From last reports he is on his way to Calgary for the best treatment of his fractures.

Things that we noticed with this accident is that the pilot wasn't using the radio properly, not giving his identity or his location or the fact he had crashed and needed help.  Possibly his radio was damaged or the volume turned down during his crash as we could hear him but he couldn't hear us.  The other big thing is that despite having a SPOT, he didn't push the HELP or 911 buttons!  The SPOT device was inside his cockpit and not easy to reach, but also the device was very new to him so using it for its intended function may not have been foremost on his mind.  Also shock may have played a role in his non-use of those buttons on the SPOT.

We thought the day was finished but then we got reports of a hang glider pilot crashed in the 15 km field according to his SPOT.  He *had* pushed the help function on his device so rescue was already on its way, but Randy and Leif happened to get to him first.  A sliced nose from the wires as he swung through on landing.  This field is actually a no-go LZ right now as per the initial safety briefing due to the not-yet-cut-crop, but he apparently missed that part of the briefing and so when coming in he likely caught the basetube on the waist-high crop.  Plastic surgery is on his horizon.

So it was quite an eventful day and not many people went XC due to it being very stable and windy high up.  Fortunately no thunderstorms in the area so we at least had that going for us.

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