Published date: 6 March 2024

A Civil Aviation Authority report, released today, found that a series of decisions by the pilot led to loss of control of the aircraft, causing it to crash on Mount Saint Cuthberts, near Omarama aerodrome. The pilot didn’t survive.

The accident occurred on 17 January 2022, after take-off from Omarama aerodrome by aerotow.

The report analysis showed that the pilot released the aerotow earlier than would’ve been prudent, given the weak thermal lift conditions at the time. Shortly after release, the glider’s airspeed became too slow, resulting in an aerodynamic stall and spin entry. There was insufficient height available for the pilot to recover before the glider struck terrain. The report states that the crash was not survivable.

“Caution and precision are important attributes for pilots,” said Deputy Chief Executive of Aviation Safety, David Harrison. “This accident is a sobering warning that errors in judgment in aviation can have serious outcomes."

The investigation also revealed that there were previous occurrences which had caused concern among others in the flying community about the pilot’s abilities, with certain gliding clubs refusing the pilot membership. This highlights the importance of raising such concerns with the pilot themselves, an instructor, or the CAA, so that the appropriate action might be taken.

“While it might be uncomfortable to report one of your peers, it just might save lives.” said Harrison.

The CAA expresses condolences to the family of the pilot for their loss.

More information

Fatal accident report: CAA occurrence 22/204 [PDF 2.2 MB]

Vector Online: Everybody knew (Winter 2023)

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