Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
26 April 2012
For further information contact:
Senior Communications Adviser, Emma Peel
Tel: 04 560 9646, or 027 272 3545
Glider likely downed by turbulence
A glider that crashed in hills near Blenheim in 2009 is likely to have flown into significant turbulence and downdraughts. The 55 year old pilot was killed when the aircraft hit the side of a steep hill in an almost nose-down attitude.
The CAA safety investigation could not determine the cause of the crash for certain, but there is no indication that mechanical failure contributed to the accident.
The Mini Nimbus HS7 glider had been towed into the air by powered aircraft at about 0825 on 18 December 2009, with the intention of a long distance cross country flight of at least 1000 km non-stop. Had it continued safely, the flight would have stretched from Omaka aerodrome to the central South Island, back to the Blenheim area, south again to central Otago, returning finally to Omaka aerodrome – a journey of about 12 hours.
Instead, the glider hit terrain just 34 minutes after take-off. Its GPS unit showed the pilot had been ridge soaring as he made his way up a valley about 14 km south of Blenheim in an attempt to gain height. At the last recorded position, the glider was about 400 feet above terrain.
It is thought most likely that the glider was struck by massive turbulence and downdraughts, resulting in an unsurvivable nose-down impact.
The alarm was not raised until the evening of the accident. Although there is little chance that the pilot survived that morning’s crash, this accident serves as a reminder to the gliding community to ensure adequate flight following of long-distance flights.