NTSB Releases Prelim Report on July 15 Glider Crash - Southern Maryland Headline News

NTSB Releases Prelim Report on July 15 Glider Crash

By somd.com Staff Writers

Partially deployed spoilers (air brakes) on glider during takeoff may be root cause of accident

This YouTube video shows an unrelated glider taking off with its spoilers deployed. You can see the pilot retract them at 0:35 in the video. The gentlman who posted the video, who identifies himself as the Association President, had this to say: "Lucky for us, the pilot realized the spoilers were deployed and closed them to avert an accident. This is the second time in a month one of our more experienced pilots has taken off with the spoilers open. I know, because one of them was me."

CALIFORNIA, Md. (July 21, 2011)—The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary report about the July 15 glider accident at the St. Mary's County Regional Airport in California which claimed the life of the co-pilot and critically injured the pilot.

The co-pilot James Michael Dayton, 55, of Mechanicsville, died at the scene after being ejected from the glider. The pilot, Nicholas John Mirales, 53, of Prince Frederick, was initially listed in critical condition.

According to the NTSB report, the pilot was attempting to make an emergency landing on Route 235 after the crew had released the tow cable prematurely from the tow plane because, after noticing that the glider was not climbing properly, they observed the tow plane's pilot signal them by wagging the rudder back and forth. The pilot told the NTSB he sent the signal because he also noted the improper climb and subsequently observed the glider spoilers were at least partially deployed above and below each wing.

The glider overshot the highway during the attempted landing and crashed high atop several trees adjacent to Route 235.

While the issue of the spoilers being deployed was prominently mentioned in the preliminary report, the NTSB has yet to make their final finding regarding the root cause of the accident.

The glider had been purchased by the pilot only a week earlier. He told investigators that he had only accrued about 1 hour of flight experience in it.

The accident happened during the peak of rush hour, resulting in traffic on northbound Route 235 being backed up for miles.

The NTSB's preliminary report follows in its entirety.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA401
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, July 15, 2011 in Hollywood, MD
Aircraft: SLINGSBY CAPSTAN TYPE 49B, registration: N7475
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On July 15, 2011, about 1535 eastern daylight time, a Slingsby T-49B glider, N7475, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees while maneuvering for landing in Hollywood, Maryland. The glider had released from tow immediately after takeoff from St. Mary's County Regional Airport (2W6), Leonardtown, Maryland. The certificated commercial pilot was seriously injured, and the commercial-rated copilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight that was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The glider pilot provided a comprehensive written statement, and a brief interview following the accident. According to the glider pilot/owner, the glider was purchased a week prior to the accident, and he had accrued about 1 hour of flight experience in it. He assembled the glider and completed all post-assembly checks prior to departing. The pilot and copilot then performed the before-takeoff checks "outside the aircraft," and confirmed the tow release operation, and "confirmed trim and spoilers closed."

The glider and the tow pilot exchanged ready-for-takeoff signals and the takeoff was performed by both aircraft. During the initial climb, the glider pilot noticed the glider "wasn't climbing." About 100 feet above ground level (agl), and over the trees beyond the departure end of the runway, the glider pilot observed the tow plane rudder "waggle" back and forth, and his copilot shouted, "Release! Release! Release!" The glider pilot pulled the release handle, released the glider from the tow, and entered a left turn to the north for a forced landing on the north/south divided highway east of the airport. The glider overshot the highway, and collided with trees on the east side of the roadway.

In an interview, the tow plane pilot provided a similar description of the events. During the takeoff, the tow plane was producing power as expected and the takeoff was smooth, but the tow plane pilot noted a slow rate of climb. He observed the glider spoilers were at least partially deployed above and below each wing and rapidly "wagged the rudder," to alert the glider pilot to "check his spoilers." At that moment, the glider released from the tow, banked to the north, and struck trees adjacent to the highway.

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