Accident

Here’s an example from the CAA Database.

On the morning of Sunday, 27 February 2011, the pilot completed the final two flights (supervised by an Advanced Pilot) he required to progress from the hang-glider Beginner Rating to a Novice Rating.

After the flights the pilots headed home.

Later that day, the Novice Pilot talked with his wife at their home in Levin. The wife said that when she left the pilot was, “having a beer […] and seemed relaxed.”

The Novice Pilot decided to go for another hang glider flight. He drove to the home of the Advanced Pilot, who joined him on the drive to Paekakariki Hill, the launch site.

While the pilots were rigging their hang gliders the Novice Pilot asked about ’top landings’ (a landing on top of a hill, usually back at the takeoff point). The Advanced Pilot gave strict instructions that the Novice Pilot ”was not to top land because of the danger of rotor winds, and that even experienced pilots don’t top land.”

This was the first time the Novice Pilot had flown this type of Hang Glider and had ridge soared.

The pilots ridge soared for approximately 15 minutes until the Advanced Pilot landed on the beach beneath them.

After landing the Advanced Pilot looked up to see how the Novice Pilot was doing but could not see him. He was expecting to see the Novice Pilot in the general vicinity of the beach, so he started search of the beach and Paekakariki Hill area.

The hang glider wreckage and deceased pilot were located early the following morning.

Conclusion

It was concluded the accident occurred because the hang glider departed from controlled flight and was unable to be recovered in the height available.

The departure from controlled flight was likely caused by:

a. a mishandled manoeuvre, or

b. entering an area of rotor or inconsistent airflow.

The Pathologist concluded that the pilot was ‘mildly intoxicated’ at the time of the accident, due to the level of alcohol in the blood.

The CAA Principal Medical Officer (PMO) agreed with the Pathologist’s findings and stipulated ”there is no level of blood alcohol elevation that is compatible with safe aviation, even the slightest increase in blood alcohol leads to levels of measurable impairment.”

The PMO went on to say that intoxication with alcohol could be expected to impair many aspects of the pilot’s ability to fly safely, including his judgement, reasoning, decision making, reaction time, coordination and memory.

While it is possible to conclude the pilot’s intoxication may have had some impact on his abilities as a pilot, it was not possible to establish what level of impairment the pilot would have been suffering at the time of the accident.