The Soaring Safety Foundation (SSF) is the Training and Safety arm of the Soaring Society of America (SSA). Our mission is to provide instructors and pilots with the tools needed to teach/learn both the stick & rudder skills and the Aeronautical Decision Making skills needed to safely fly a glider. We also provide information and analysis of incident and accident trends in order to develop better training tools.


Visit the Soaring Safety Foundation's Youtube Channelyoutube
The SSA's YouTube Video Playlist

The Soaring Incident Database is now available to help pilots, safety officers, clubs, and commercial operators develop new programs that can help prevent incidents from becoming major accidents. See more incidents by searching the database or register a new incident.

Region Pilot Certificate Pilot Injuries Passenger Injuries Type of Flight Launch Method Type of Aircraft
East Private Minor Instructional Aero Tow SGS 2-33
Incident Activity Damage to Aircraft Damage to Canopy Incident Date Incident Time Weather SSA Member
Flight Minor 0000-00-00 1400-1600 Clear No
Incident Description The (very experienced) student pilot got a tow to do some solo practice but almost immediately experienced PIO on the tow. He was unable to resolve the PIO and with the oscillations getting worse he opted to release at about 300AGL. His turn back to the airport was uneventful and in a good location/direction but he overshot the runway and then came back across to the usual landing area, overshot again and opted to make a very low very tight turn back into the wind rather than correcting to land downwind. There was 2000ft or more ahead of him to land downwind but by turning he nearly hit the treetops, nearly stalled, flew over the runway one more time in the turn, causing a VERY close near-miss of a departing airplane, and came close to hitting the wingrunner who couldn't figure out which way to run. He managed to touch down somewhat under control anyway but at an odd angle. He recalls seeing the people and vehicles and continuing the turn away, but turning less would have been better still. And turning more would have put him into safe low scrubby vegetation. With his landing direction and lack of braking he then rolled right into a drainage culvert lined with rocks. Clearly during this event, his ability to think clearly was severely impaired. He has no idea why he didn't just land downwind especially since he had done so multiple times for rehearsed rope break scenarios.
Other Comments In addition to simply training on rope breaks, I think it should be emphasized that in such a real-life scenario one should (nearly) always "do it like they trained" and should be encouraged to take the sure-thing option over an "I think I can make it" option. In addition, I think that more training on the "hand off" recovery for PIO might be helpful since most people who try harder usually do make PIO worse. In this case the pilot thought maybe the rudder wasn't working right and may have been blaming the PIO on the aircraft or gusty winds which may have made him try even harder, causing worse overcontrol.

Find out more about the Soaring Safety Foundation: (trustees, mission, By-Laws, or Contact us by email).