Almost Crash - Glider flies into IMC - What could happen if VMC pilot flies into IMC?

I’d argue that an iPhone/android attitude indicator would have been good enough in this circumstance to allow a relatively unexciting turn to the right where they knew the cloud ended and where the terrain was lower. Even if the horizon was 5 or 10 degrees off, it would have been enough to keep the aircraft pointed in generally the right direction and at a manageable attitude.

If that was the case, I agree. But is that possible with a smart phone accelerometer…?

Now, this ForeFlight system seems small and light enough to be used in a glider, so that will probably work. But I doubt that just a smart phone will be good enough.

I’ve only flown VFR lighties in Australia so I guess I’m already terrified of cloud… I don’t know if I’d feel more comfortable around them if I had been flying in Europe or the UK.

Two equally dangerous components collided in that video. Yes, there was the cloud. But just as important was the rotor. The rotor is in no way a feature of the cloud. It would have been there on a clear day with otherwise similar wind and stability conditions. The cloud made effective recovery impossible so, yeah, that was a massive problem. But that rotor! It’s just like the textbooks say. You are riding the narrow lift band along the wave. You then guess wrong, fall off and sink through, hitting the vortex rotating under. When reading about it, it seemed exaggerated. Now I know. I’ve hit rotor flying airliners. Commonly, when passengers talk of “clear air turbulence” that, or similar phenomena, is really what they mean. I guess 200,000 pounds versus 700 pounds makes a difference. But whatever you are flying, when you combine wind and mountains some conservatism is called for. It’s a lesson we all need to be reminded of.

Those two could do the world a favor by detailing their respective thoughts as the flight progressed. You just know they both had their doubts. When the front-seater started feeding in left stick, I would kill to know what the back-seater was really thinking. This is just the kind of material Beach, Paul, Troll, and the rest of us are fed during recurrent training. I will bet the farm that that this video will make the rounds in CRM classes the world over next year.


Ridges can bite you, even in clear air. This fatal crash at Taupo Gliding club (where I learnt to fly) this year, currently under investigation, happened on the Mt Tauhara ridge. That ridge was where I had my first flight. Ridge soaring is exciting, but dangerous, as you can get pushed onto the ridge.

Not necessarily the cause of the crash but the club has suspended air experience flights on the ridge.

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Yeah…that is pretty intense stuff. I’ve hit some pretty nasty stuff on the downwind side of the Rockies coming into KBJC, but I have plenty of speed and lift to play with…those guys just hit a bad spot at a bad time and it coincided with the cloud layer. It is a bit like a low-head dam…glassy smooth on top, then all of the sudden you are feeding the gators on the bottom. Ugly.

You do well to recognize that it did take some exceptional airmanship and trust between pilots to have escaped that with a story to tell. I’m guessing 9 out 10 times that scenario ends in a very different way.


Here’s a video I took back in 2008 of the downwind rotor from Mt Tauhara in Taupo NZ (where that crash referenced above happened). Flight ops got stopped when we were airborne and approach back to the field took us through the messy air downwind of the ridge. It was pretty bumpy.


Well, that got out of hand in a hurry.

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