Accident to the Schempp-Hirth Discus 2C registered F-CLUF on 09/07/2020 at Ramonchamp (Vosges)

Investigation progression Closed
Progress: 100%

The following information is principally based on the pilot’s statement. This information has not been independently validated by the BEA.

This is a courtesy translation by the BEA of the Final Report on the Safety Investigation published in July 2020. As accurate as the translation may be, the original text in French is the work of reference.

1.  1 - History of the flight

Note: some of the information in this section is based on the path extracted from the onboard FLARM data.

The pilot made a towed take-off from Belfort Chaux aerodrome around 12:15. He flew over the plains south of the Ballon d'Alsace before getting close to it at about 12:45. He then headed toward the northeast sector of the Ballon d'Alsace.

At about 13:00, while spiralling in an uplift at an altitude of about 1,800 m[1], he contacted the pilot of another glider who was spiralling roughly above the Rouge-Gazon tourist resort. The latter told him that he was benefiting from a rate of climb of 2 m/s. The pilot of F-CLUF decided to join him but had difficulty positioning himself in the uplift.

The other pilot then flew north and found a new uplift. The pilot of F-CLUF joined him. He was then at an altitude of 1,400 m. He had difficulty reaching the altitude of 1,600 m at about 13:15, flying in an area that he considered less conducive for climbing. He then decided to head back south towards the Ballon d'Alsace and fly locally to Belfort Chaux aerodrome. He emptied the ballast tanks that he had previously filled with 40 l of water.

During the transit, the pilot observed significant sink rates. When he reached the ridges north of the Ballon d'Alsace, his altitude was 1,200m.

He then looked for new uplifts to regain height and chose to head west where cumulus clouds were present[2]. Passing downwind of the Ballon d'Alsace, the glider lost altitude again and descended to about 1,000m. The pilot flew away from the Ballon d'Alsace in a north-westerly direction and prepared for the possibility of a landing in a field listed as suitable for a precautionary landing near the étang de Presles lake. He contacted the pilot of the other glider on the radio to inform him of the situation. The latter replied that, given his altitude (about 1,000 m), it would be better if he headed for the Ramonchamp sector, because the field near the étang de Presles was considered difficult to land in.

The pilot managed to climb back to about 1,100 m and continued northwest toward Ramonchamp. When he arrived in the area, he was unable to identify the field listed as suitable for a precautionary landing. He spotted another field that he considered suitable for an off-field landing[3]. He flew over the field to check it out and noticed in particular the presence of a power line and a wall of trees that would not allow him to land into the wind. He therefore prepared to land with a tailwind component. Due to the presence of a slight rise in the terrain with houses, he followed a high approach slope. 

The approach speed was high during the descent. The glider came into contact with the ground at half the available distance of the field. During the run after landing, the glider bounced off a bump and glided again for an estimated distance of 50 m. The pilot then realized that the remaining distance for the landing would not be sufficient and modified his path to avoid a frontal impact with the trees at the end of the field. The glider's right wing hit a tree 1.5 m from the root, tore off from the airframe and the glider came to a stop. The pilot evacuated the glider unaided.   

2.  2 - Additional information

2.1 Pilot statement

The pilot indicated that, focused on the search for uplift, he did not anticipate the possible alternatives when he chose to go west of the Ballon d'Alsace. Furthermore, he added that, when he arrived in the Ramonchamp sector, he felt that the Ramonchamp microlight platform[4] was too far from his position to reach it. He thought that his GPS could have indicated that he was in the local area of the microlight platform but, focused on the search for a field, he did not think to use it.

2.2 Weather information

The 13:30 METAR for the Luxeuil Saint Sauveur aerodrome, located 30 km southeast of the accident site, indicated:

  • CAVOK ;
  • wind 250° at 9 kt, variable direction between 220° and 280° ;
  • temperature 29 °C.

The pilot stated that he had discussed the particularly complex aerological conditions with other pilots on previous days. He was aware that the conditions on the day of the occurrence would probably be similar to those of the previous days.

2.3 Pilot information

The 68-year-old pilot had held a glider pilot licence since 2003. He had logged about 1,750 flight hours, including 1,220 hours as pilot-in-command. He had flown 33 hours within the 30 days before the accident. Since 2015, the pilot had flown about 20 hours on F-CLUF. Over the same period, he had flown about 190 hours on another LS8 type glider.

The pilot indicated that he had flown one flight per day since 3 July (except for the 5th), for a total of 25 hours. He believed that the difficult conditions during these long flights had contributed to his state of fatigue.

 


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[1]The pilot estimated the ceiling at an altitude of about 1,900 m.

[2] The presence of cumulus clouds is an indication of a convective zone conducive to uplifts.

[3] The landing distance available in this field was about 290 m.

[4] This microlight platform had a grass runway 09-27 measuring 400 x 20 m.