Changes made after fatal glider crash

The CAA has order changes made to the way glider pilots are trained. Photo: Fairfax.

Changes are being made nationally to the way student pilots are assessed for the transition from dual to single seat aircraft.

The call comes following a glider crash at Tauranga Airport on May 1 2016 resulting in the death of pilot Gavin Harvey, age 40.

The CAA safety investigation finds the accident happened as a result of Gavin losing control of the glider during a steep left turn after a discontinued landing approach to the intended runway.

Due to the low altitude when the loss of control occurred, Gavin was unable to effect a recovery before the glider struck the ground.

Gavin survived the crash but died from head injuries the following day.

The crash happened during his first flight in the Tauranga Gliding Club’s single seat PW-5 glider.

Gavin’s previous dual and solo gliding experience was on board the gliding club’s PZL Puchacz two seat gliders.

He began training in June 2015 and had completed a first solo flight in March 2016 after 16 hours 12 minutes of dual flight time.

At the time of the accident Gavin was nearing the completion of the training required for the gliding A Certificate.

During the course of the training, he completed three solo flights in the Puchacz two seat glider.

The last two solo flights were carried out 11 days before the fatal flight.

At the time of the accident, Gavin had a total of 49 minutes of solo flight time attained during three flights and a grand total of 19 hours six minutes flight time attained during 40 flights as recorded in his log book.

The student pilot had minimal solo flight experience gained in the two seat training gliders prior to the flight in the single seat PW-5 glider, states the CAA report on the accident.

During the safety investigation, a number of gliding clubs in New Zealand were surveyed regarding solo flight experience before pilots transitioned onto a single seat glider. The average flight experience requirements prior to advancing to a single seat glider was 10 solo flights and approximately two to three hours solo flight time.

The solo flight time was required for the glider pilot to consolidate skills and gain further solo experience prior to moving onto a single seat glider. Based on the information gained during the survey, it’s likely Gavin was insufficiently experienced for his first flight in the single seat PW-5 glider, says the CAA report.

There was also “A lack of guidance material available in the Gliding New Zealand Instructor’s Training Manual with regards to single seat glider conversion.”

Following a CAA requirement, the training manual now recommends 10 to 15 solo flights and around 1.5 to 2 hours solo time for someone who has flown only a limited number of two seat glider types.

Following the accident Tauranga Gliding Club introduced a peer review process to evaluate a student pilot’s progress from dual to solo flight.

During Gavin’s training he flew with a number of instructors, which CAA regards as not ideal.

A review of his pilot’s log book and training records revealed that the gliding instructor who was checking him for his first flight in the PW-5 glider had spent little dual instructional time with him. While the instructor had many years of gliding experience, given the little instructional time spent with Gavin the CAA regards it as unlikely that the gliding instructor was fully cognisant of Gavin’s performance and ability.

“Normally, just after solo, a pilot has neither the ability nor the experience to move on to more advanced training sequences or flights. A number of solo flights should be made to consolidate what the trainee has recently learned,” states the report.


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