This page contains both Accident prevention articles and Soaring Saftey Article Reprints from Soaring Magazine.

Accident Prevention Articles

THE SSF ACCIDENT PREVENTION SERIES - A continuing series of Back-To-Basics articles for using on accident prevention.

Standard Cirrus Tailplane - A link to the Standard Cirrus Web Site. This site contains a detailed discussion on the Standard Cirrus Tailplane assembly by Jim Hendrix. The discussion includes assembly procedures, comments, cautions, checks and a worst case scenario. This should be of interest to all Standard Cirrus Pilots! Go there.

COLLISION AVOIDANCE - A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE -Click to download (PDF format, Acrobat reader needed.)


Soaring Saftey Article Reprints

Reprints of monthly SOARING articles. Did you miss the magazine? Reread the article here! 

December 2009 - Gotcha! Lesser-Known FAA Regulations for Glider Pilots and Towpilots by Burt Compton
As a FAA Designated Examiner for Gliders, I am directed by the FAA Examiner Handbook to ask questions that explore the applicant's depth of knowledge. From my experience giving checkrides (and flight reviews), there are some FAA regulations that some glider pilots and towpilots have overlooked or forgotten. Read the full article.
November 2009 - But That's not what I thouht you Said ... by Gene Hammond (Reprint)
When SAILPLANE SAFETY received the following recently, a small light began to glow in the deep recesses of cognition. "One reason the military services have trouble coordinating joint operations is that they don't speak the same language. For example: If you tell navy personnel to 'secure a building', they will turn off the lights and lock the doors. The army will occupy the building so that no one can enter. The marines will assault the building, capture it, and defend it with suppressive fire and close combat. The air force on the other hand will take out a three-year lease with an option to purchase." Read the full article.
October 2009 - Paper Pilot Certificates by Burt Compton
Still have a paper FAA Pilot Certificate? Perhaps you have an older, but valid certificate with "Glider Aero Tow Only" printed on it? Every pilot is required to obtain a plastic pilot certificate by March 31, 2010. All other paper certificates such as Ground Instructor, Mechanic (Part 65) and those issued under Part 63 must be replaced with plastic ones by March 21, 2013. Read the full article.
September 2009 - Winches - Pay Attention by Bernald Smith
Within only a 7 week period in May/June this summer there were 4 accidents that we have heard about that began while still on the wire/rope during winch launch, resulting in one fatality, two injuries and substantial to total hull loss. In contrast, for the first 26 weeks of this year, we have heard about 3 incidents that began while still on airplane tow which resulted in no injuries, no fatalities and canopy damage only. During 10 incidents/accidents in 2008 that began on aircraft tow, there were no glider occupant fatalities nor injuries reported.Read the full article.
August 2009 - The Value of Club Management by Pat Costello and Burt Compton
Whether they are properly or poorly managed, clubs are going to have accidents. Insurance companies believe properly managed clubs will have fewer losses than their counterparts. In addition, they feel the poorly managed clubs will have larger losses. Read the full article.
July 2009 - Aeortow Signals - Do you know what's going on? by Richard Carlson
In the May issue of Soaring Gene Hammond reviewed the basic ground and in-flight signals used by US glider pilots. The SSA codified most of these signals in the late 1940's due to the coordination efforts of Fritz Compton. However, one in-flight signal "something is wrong with the glider" was added to the mix in the mid 1990's. Unfortunately, this signal continues to be mis-interpreted by glider pilots who release instead of checking to see what's wrong (e.g., the spoilers are open). Read the full article.
June 2009 - Preventing Rollout Accidents by Burt Compton and Pat Costello
You are on final. Got your touchdown spot in sight. Airspeed? Perfect. Spoilers? Set for a moderate sink rate and a good angle to the runway. Traffic? You seem to be the only one in the pattern, and there is no one on the runway. Wind? Headwind is straight down the runway at perhaps 5 knots. Distractions? None. Tense? A little. After all, you¿ve got a passenger who expects you to grease it on. Time to round-out. Adjusting pitch. Holding your breath. Touchdown. Perfect! You exhale. Your shoulders relax; as does your grip on the stick (do you know that feeling?). As you start to silently compliment yourself for a job well done, the left wing drops and the glider veers towards a small ditch left of the narrow runway. Bump. Bump. Bump. Then suddenly a thump as you come to an unexpected and unwelcome stop.Read the full article.
May 2009 - Planning for a PT3 Event by Richard Carlson
In reviewing the 2008 accident statistics, the Trustees noticed a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed. This trend deals with aborted aerotow take-off's or Premature Termination of the Tow (PT3) events. While there are many reasons that a tow might terminate before the glider reaches the planned release altitude, these events can be classified into two major categories. That is planned or unplanned releases. Read the full article.
April 2009 - Soaring Safety Foundation Annual Safety Summary Report FY08by SSF Trustees
This report covers the FY08 (November 1, 2007 to October 31, 2008) reporting period. A review of the NTSB accident database shows US soaring accidents during this time period decreased over 28% compared to the FY07 reporting period. FY08 also saw a 57% decrease in the number of fatal accidents. While these numbers indicate that the US soaring community has reversed the recent trend, reducing both the number of accidents and the number of fatalities, more improvements are needed. Only by instilling an “operational safety culture” can we continue to reduce the number of accidents that impact us all. Read the full article.
March 2009 - Hooray, It's Spring by Gene Hammond
I'm sitting inside my nice warm house in Illinois while outside, the temperature is 10 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of -2 degrees and I realize that flying gliders today is not a worthwhile effort.Read the full article.
February 2009 - First Flight Guide for Instructors and Trainees by Stephen Dee
The concept of the First Flight with a CFI-G offers a terrific opportunity for Instructors to instill professionalism in the ranks of what is largely a part-time flying group. Don't take the responsibility lightly; a little pre-flight planning on what to cover in your training session will go a long way. Read the full article.
January 2009 - The Three Cs by Gene Hammond
The following is a reprint of an article written by Gene Hammond, published in the October, 1987 issue of SAILPLANE SAFETY, the house organ of the Soaring Safety Foundation prior to SSF's commencing publication of safety articles in SOARING in 1996. Read the full article.
December 2008 - WHY? by Bernald Smith
Why can't we reduce the accident rate amongst our Soaring Society of America members? And other questiongs all gliders piltos need to answerread the full article.
November 2008 - Saftey Officer - A Job Description and Training Guide - by Burt Compton
By invitation, the Soaring Safety Foundation has conducted more than 40 "Site Survey" observations of soaring sites around the USA. Most soaring clubs appoint a "Safety Officer" but we see many Safety Officers do not have the backbone or the backing of the club's Board of Directors to be truly effective. Therefore, the SSF offers a 'job description' and resource with the recently published Safety Officer Training Guide Read the full article.
October 2008 - Getting it right the First Time -- by Steve Dee
After many years of flying high and low flying aircraft, fast and slow movers, peace-time and combat, (fortunately, mostly peace-time) I have concluded that aviation is really a very simple linear activity. Regardless of the mount, flying requires that certain things are done in a certain way, and in a very certain order. Get them out of order, and it generally does not bode well.Read the full article.
September 2008 - Woodworking 102 -- by PIC of incident
To repair a wooden spar (or metal spar, too, as far as that goes), in the olden days at least, one did a 10/1 splice. That means the length of the splice is ten times the thickness of the material being spliced, such as a spar cap. So, a half inch thick spar cap requires planing down a ramp like portion five inches long on both sections being spliced back together to fit over/under each other, perfectly matched, touching completely over the total splice area, to be glued together, with or without doublers, depending upon one's faith in one's work, among other things. It is helpful when doing such work to enlist the aid of a master wood workman like Don Mitchell, who old-timers may recall was one such person, par excellence. Read the full article.

August 2008 - Some Things Never Change -- by Gene Hammond
In 1981, in conjunction with the Soaring Society's Flight Training and Safety Board (FTSB), the Soaring Safety Foundation (SSF) was tasked with recognizing, researching, and tabulating glider and soaring accidents. Research through National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data proved somewhat lacking, since gliding and soaring did not provide sufficient accidents to firmly establish causes or alert the soaring community of any trends which would help the FTSB or SSF to propose cures to a rather dismal safety record. Read the full article.

July 2008 - Airspace in the New Century - Revisited -- by Richard Carlson
In January 2000 SOARING published an article by Jim Short entitled "Airspace in the New Century". That article provided US glider pilots with 12 concrete actions that they could use to enhance safety and deal with the evolving US airspace system. Here again are those 12 action items. Read the full article.

June 2008 - Ground Launching, A New Idea? -- by Gene Hammond
During The SSA Convention in Albuquerque in February, 2008, the Soaring Safety Foundation presented a series of lectures regarding methods and techniques that could offer the individual pilot guidance to safer flight, including talks on ground launching. Read the full article.

May 2008 - Things to Consider - ICU -- By Bernald Smith
So, assuming a healthy condition of both you and your glider, you get into your ship and you go flying without a care in the world nor a need to deal with the FAA for permission to make your flight nor a need to tell anyone what you're going to do. Maybe you're going cross-country so you've checked the weather. Maybe you just plan to stay around the field, but you've still checked the weather because it might change. Maybe you don't have any crew nor trailer so you want to stay within gliding distance of your home airport, or one from which you can easily arrange an aerotow retrieve, so you tell the towpilot to be alert for a possible call. Read the full article.

April 2008 - 2007 Soaring Safety Report - Executive Summary -- by Richard Carlson
This report covers the FY07 (November 1, 2006 to October 31, 2007) reporting period. A review of the NTSB accident database shows US soaring accidents during this time period increased over 25% compared to the FY06 reporting period. FY07 also saw a 133% increase in the number of fatal accidents, ending a four year trend of decreasing fatalities. These numbers indicate that the US soaring community needs to rededicate itself to improving their soaring organizations operations. Only by instilling an 'operational safety culture' can we reduce the number of accidents that impact us all. Read the full article.See a for a list of complete report

March 2008 - Density Altitude Dilemmas -- by Stephen Dee
Whether you are a Self-Launching or Aero-towed glider pilot, this question is for you: when was the last time you calculated the Density Altitude (DA) as part of your pre-flight preparation? It doesn't matter if you use a Flight Computer, Electronic Calculator, or pencil and paper, but both common sense, and the FAR's dictate that you do it before every flight. Specifically, FAR 91.103 (b)(2) states: "Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. This information must include, (2) For civil aircraft other than those specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, other reliable information appropriate to the aircraft, relating to aircraft performance under expected values of airport elevation and runway slope, aircraft gross weight, and wind and temperature."Read the full article.

February 2008 - Winch launching revisited -- by Bernald Smith
A little over a year ago in this column, we reported on the documented losses/fatalities due to the dangers of winch launching compared to aerotow. In one case, there were 8 times as many fatalities/major injuries during winch launch compared to during aerotow. (To be clear, we're talking about what happens to the glider after a launch failure, i.e. other than a normal release.) Does that mean that winch launching is too hazardous to consider? Is there anything that can be done to counter the risks? Read the full article. 
BGA winch launching hazards Brochure

January 2008 - Recurrent Training -- by Bob Wander
Recurrent training for flight crews is pursued by every scheduled air carrier (United, Northwest, American, Delta, and so on) every six months. This is the recurrent training schedule for pilots who generally fly around 70-80 hours a month, every month, as vocational, professional, full-time pilots. Read the full article.

December 2007 - Last Flight -- by Bernald Smith
Don't have a last flight! Unless it's because you've retired from flying. SSF advocates First Flight! That's our program where we urge everyone to make their First Flight of each year, one with a Glider Flight Instructor. Not a BFR, but just a flight to add to the middle name of SSF: Safety. Your safety. Is it worthwhile? What if you're the most experienced pilot in the world? What if you're much more experienced than any flight instructor you might be able to find? Read the full article.

November 2007 - Which Approach -- by Richard Carlson
“Tell me your touchdown point. What is your stopping point?” At some point in your training you probably heard your instructor utter these two phrases. Instructors ask these questions because precision landings are a specific task spelled out in the Practical Test Standards (PTS). While every licensed glider pilot has made precision landings, most of us would agree that not every landing we make would meet the PTS standards. . Read the full article.

October 2007 Motorglider Certification and Training -- By Stephen Dee
When I got involved in soaring in 1967, motorgliding was considered such an oddity that it was not mentioned in polite company! The prevailing philosophy back then seemed to be that if you wanted to fly an aircraft with an engine, you were encouraged to go fly an airplane, because sailplanes were reserved for the purest form of flight. Forty years later, the purists still exist, but I’ve heard that nearly 70% of all gliders built today are equipped with some type of engine, whether it be self-launcher or sustainer, so the concept seems to have taken root. The machines have matured with the concept, and we now have a wide variety of motorgliders to choose from, that span the field from trainers to high performance sailplanes. In this article, I will address some of the certification issues, both for motorgliders and pilots, and provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve fielded along the way. Read the full article.

September 2007 - Ground Non-Flight Damage. Is Your Canopy Insured? -- by Bernald Smith
No, not the one over your back patio, nor the one you use at the beach. I'm talking about the one on your sailplane. Most of us have them insured, as part of our glider hull insurance policy. So, when we have a hull loss claim for a damaged canopy, we have coverage, minus deductible of course, which may be as low as zero if we've had no claims for several years. Read the full article.
August 2007 - Risk Management Toosl for Soaring Pilots -- by Mike Bamberg
The general aviation community has had, for several years, tools to help pilots develop personal minimums and for assessing risk for individual flights. We have modified these tools to make them more appropriate for the soaring community. . Read the full article.
July 2007 - Avoiding Surprises! Motorglider Safety Tips -- by Stephen Dee
How many times have you heard, “Flying is safer than driving,” or “The most dangerous part about airline travel is the drive to the airport!” While I agree entirely, there is no escaping the fact that the environment we fly in, regardless of the type aircraft, is simply not a forgiving one. Whether mistakes are made in execution or through simple ignorance, both have the same potential for disaster. I am of the opinion that the best safety device in any airplane is a well-trained and prepared pilot. So, I offer these suggestions for preparing both the pilot and his machine for an upcoming season. First, let’s talk about pilot preparation. Read the full article.

June 2007 - Three C's Promote Safety -- SSF Safety article reprint
The following is a reprint of an article published in the October, 1987 issue of SAILPLANE SAFETY, the house organ of the Soaring Safety Foundation prior to SSF’s commencing publication of safety articles in SOARING in 1996. Read the full article.

May 2007 - Four Simple Steps to Improve your Proficiency -- By Rich Carlson
Most pilots will agree that being proficient is much more desirable than simply being current. The major question these pilots ask is, how can I become proficient? Read the full article.

April 2007 - Soaring Accident Rates -- By Rich Carlson
A cursory look at the 2006 soaring accident rates shows both good and bad news. The bad news is that the number of accidents remained constant from the previous year. The good news is that there were 50% fewer fatalities than in 2005. Read the full article.

March 2007 - Emergency Response Plan, Suggestions for Soaring Sites -- By Burt Compton
How would you respond to a wingrunner falling and seriously scrapping their hands and knees? A bee sting? A glider that has landed just off the airport and has run through a fence, trapping the pilot and the passenger in the cockpit? A towplane that flips over after a bad landing, and now has fuel dripping onto a hot engine? Read the full article.

February 2007- 100 of us will have Accidents in 2007! WHO? -- By Bernald Smith
Please read this next sentence out loud: I may have an accident on this flight. That is my way of getting readers to put themselves into the position of knowing that I’m meaning the sentence to apply not just to me, the author hereof, but to all readers.  What in the world am a doing, you rightly may wonder. Read the full article.

January 2007 - Starting the Year off Right -- by Gene Hammond
The Soaring Safety Foundation introduced, the “First Flight” program in 2006 and again remind you to take the first flight of 2007 with an instructor.
As we frequently see during a sports event, the coach appears and stresses the need to return to fundamentals rather than “looking pretty.” Since many pilots do not have a “coach” (unless you consider the grouchy instructor at your site as a coach), the Soaring Safety Foundation wants to reinforce the need to review the fundamentals learned in the past and use that knowledge to build an even more solid base for flying safely. Read the full article.

December 2006 - Potential Hazard Training -- By Bernald Smith
So, compared to aerotow, winches can be dangerous, as shown by statistics last month.  Does that mean winch launching is too hazardous?  Is that the only risky thing about soaring?  What about stalls?  They shouldn’t be risky, except of course, close to the ground.  Ditto for what comes after a stall in many aircraft, the spin.  Aerobatics risky?  Even up high?  For all flying, didn’t our mothers tell us don’t fly too fast; don’t get too far above the ground?  What does that old saw tell us?  Maybe that the ground is what folks are used to, where you probably wont get hurt if you don’t move, (unless the move is to jump out of the way of a falling object).Read the full article.

November 2006 - Winch Launching -- By Bernald Smith
There’s been some recent discussion among some folks within SSA about the cost advantages of winch launching vs aerotow, spurred no doubt by the perceived rising prices of aviation fuel.  (I note that at $3/gal, auto fuel is relatively cheaper than when I first started to drive in the early 1940s.)  It should be recognized that along with advantages, there may be disadvantages to winch launching, compared to aerotow.  At least one important one is that of their relative safety, as reported by countries with extensive winch launch experience. Read the full article.

October 2006 - What happened to my 50:1 Glider? -- By Eric Greenwell
It’s not a surprise to a self-launching sailplane pilot that his sailplane doesn’t sail nearly as well when the propeller (and engine on a lot of them) is extended. What is a surprise to many is how much performance they lose, because they’ve never tried it, or it’s been so long since they tried it, they forgot what it was like. Read the full article.

September 2006 - Current or Proficient -- By Rich Carlson
FAR Part 61 clearly states that pilots must be both current and proficient if they are to safely operate a glider. Currency requirements like, 61.56 Flight Review, 61.57 Recent flight experience: Pilot in command, and 61.69 Glider towing: Experience and training requirements typically spell out the minimum amount of flight experience that a pilot needs to exercise the privileges of their pilot certificate. Other regulations like, 61.31(j)(1) Type rating requirements, additional training, and authorization requirements, and 61.107 Flight proficiency state that the pilot must be proficient in various flight maneuvers. While most pilots are familiar with the currency regulations, they tend to gloss over the proficiency ones. Do you? Read the full article.

August 2006 - Spins -- By Bob Wander
Over decades of instruction I have discovered that very few pilots can answer all three questions that follow. Please write down your plain-English answer to each of the three questions below. Limit yourself to 50 words or less for each answer, please! Question # 1: When the spin begins, why does the glider nose pitch down? Question # 2: When the spin begins, why does the glider bank to the left or to the right? Question # 3: When the spin begins, why does the glider yaw develop into continuing rotation? Read the full article.

July 2006 - Nothing published

June 2006 - Nothing published

May 2006 - Stalls -- By Bob Wander
The Soaring Safety Foundation is concerned with the number of stall and stall-spin accidents that occur. These accidents feature high energy at impact. High impact energy translates into significant risk of personal injury or death. The 'G' forces that your body must endure, in a sudden stop, vary with the square of airspeed. Impact at 50 knots features four times the G-force than does an impact at 25 knots. Read the full article.

April 2006 - Slips -- By Gene Hammond
During discussions with pilot examiners across the United States, the Soaring Safety ` Foundation (SSF) has learned that one of the weak areas noted during practical tests for all glider ratings is slips to landing. Read the full article.

March 2006 - Keep your eyes on the Goal -- By Rich Carlson
“My that experienced pilot looks low! What’s he doing now?  Why is he heading in that direction?  He should know better than that!”  How often have you heard these questions at your gliderport?  How many times have you been the pilot?  Did you ever think that some pilots may have been inadvertently trained to do this? Read the full article.

February 2006- Bad News -- By Bernald Smith and Gene Hammond
Folks, lets get serious about our flying.  According to the data listed below from the NTSB and other sources, for the years 1999-2004 inclusive, there were 48 glider/towplane fatalities.  We have to go on faith with the government data, but if it’s even close to being correct, that’s pretty bad for what’s going on. Read the full article.

January 2006 - Time to Stop Flying? -- By Bernald Smith
Its a great time to be growing older - people are staying active and living longer, which means there are more senior pilots in the air.  Are they more likely to be accident-prone?  If you look at age-rated highway accident/fatality rates compiled by AMA and NCIPC, the per-mile accident/death rates do go up with age.  But, a study by BGA shows age-rated glider accidents lower for older pilots.  Statistics from the SSA Glider Insurance program also support that, in that there are far fewer accidents with older pilots, but of course the population of older pilots is unknown within SSA as we don’t have those kinds of statistics like BGA has.  Are old pilots superior to the spectrum of old car drivers? Read the full article.