Rope breakage led to glider crash Federal agency determined after glider crash in Hangelar

Sankt Augustin · The Federal Office for Aircraft Accident Investigation is investigating the crash of a glider on Saturday in Sankt Augustin-Hangelar. There was no news yet about the condition of the seriously injured 17-year-old pilot.

 At the scene of the accident: Fire and rescue services were on duty at Hangelar airfield on Saturday afternoon.

At the scene of the accident: Fire and rescue services were on duty at Hangelar airfield on Saturday afternoon.

Foto: Peter Kölschbach

After the crash of a glider at Bonn/Hangelar airfield on Saturday afternoon, the Federal Bureau for Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) in Braunschweig has started its investigations. On Monday, the investigators were unable to provide any information on the state of health of the 17-year-old pilot who was seriously injured in the accident. The young woman had been taken to a clinic by a rescue helicopter.

The 17-year-old was in a Schleicher ASW 28-18 aircraft of the Aeroclub Bonn-Hangelar. The club will not give any information this week on the circumstances of the accident or on air sports, a spokesperson said at the request of the General-Anzeiger newspaper. During the winch launch of the single-seater plane, the high-strength polyethylene rope, with which the glider is pulled to a height of about 400 meters in about 40 seconds, had ruptured, according to the club. According to eyewitnesses, the instantaneous loss of forward thrust and lift due to the rope breakage led to a so-called stall: The aircraft went into an uncontrolled position and staggered to the ground. During the impact, the 17-year-old pilot was seriously injured but not trapped inside the aircraft. The fire department rescued her from the plane.

Standard procedure for injured persons

Investigations by the AAIB are a standard procedure in air accidents with injured persons, explained AAIB spokesman Germout Freitag on Monday: "In phase 1 after an incident, we decide whether or not we have to initiate an investigation and whether an investigator from our company or a commissioned investigator on site will be involved, who will then make initial contact and secure evidence.“ A commissioned specialist had started work at the scene of the accident immediately after the rescue work and, as is usual in the second phase, had also begun surveying the scene of the accident, documenting it by taking photographs and interviewing eyewitnesses.

The specialist was assisted in this by the Sankt Augustin Volunteer Fire Brigade, which took aerial photographs with its drone. "Parallel to the work on site, an in-house investigator takes care of the process. Over the next two to two and a half months, all the information will be summarized for a so-called interim report", says Freitag: "It is purely a presentation of facts according to the triad of man, machine and environment, i.e. with information on the pilot, the glider and general conditions such as the weather“.

Avoiding accidents in the future

The interim report is followed by the analysis, which also contains a conclusion and sometimes a safety recommendation: "We do not do the work, nor do we ever assign blame, but we analyse the event and want to avoid future accidents. That is why our reports are also made anonymously and published publicly on our website".

While the BFU spokesman is not allowed to anticipate the investigations, an experienced glider pilot and flight instructor, who does not want to read his name in the newspaper, confirms: No pilot is immune from a cable break during winch launch. Therefore, the rope breakage at various altitudes and the release of the built-in predetermined breaking point on the towing hook underneath the glider are both the subject of practical pilot training and the content of regular training flights. Every active glider pilot must pass two of these training test flights with an instructor within the past 24 months.

Training for rope breakage

As could be learned from aviation circles at the airfield, these training flights are even more frequent than prescribed at the Aeroclub Bonn-Hangelar and are carried out annually at the start of the season for all members. The training of a rope break is comparable to the training of an emergency stop with a motorbike: You practice the situation in training and demonstrate the emergency stop in the test. However, this is not a guarantee not to crash in real road traffic, according to the comparison. Every pilot is aware of this, and the 17-year-old pilot has found herself in such a situation.

(Original text: Thomas Heinemann / Translation: Mareike Graepel)

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