Rich Greenwood, a trained accident investigator, took on the task of uncovering as much detail as possible on an unusual fatal crash that involved an in-flight break up. He was helped by Michael Pohlman. We paid for the metallurgic testing but these folks donated time and expertise. Download the whole report PDF here for pictures and detailed descriptions from all available witnesses. Accident Investigation Team
The Mishap Flight (MF) was a three-ship recreational flight of wheeled Powered Paragliders (PPGs) consisting of the Mishap Pilot (MP), Wingman 1 (WM1) and Wingman 2 (WM2) operating under Title 14 Chapter I Subchapter F Part 103.
The MF departed Gator airfield (3FD4) at approximately 6:45 AM on 29 July 2019 and headed Northeast. During the flight, the MF decided to fly over a friend’s house, Ground Observer 1 (GO1), who was another PPG owner/operator. The MF arrived over Lake Beauclair at approximately 7:20 AM at 1500 feet AGL. The MP texted GO1 that they were approaching his house. GO1 and his friend, Ground Observer 2, (GO2, was not a PPG pilot) then went outside to watch. GO1 requested that the MP “get low over us” via text.
WM1 was ahead of the MP and WM2 was slightly behind.
Witness statements indicate the Mishap Aircraft (MA) then began a very aggressive right-hand turn, so aggressive it was disconcerting to both WM2 and GO1. (The initial turn was not observed by WM1) After about 1 and ¾ turns GO1 and GO2 saw the wing collapse, a “dark object” fly off, and the reserve open. (GO1 described it as the reserve while GO2 said something “white” which was the color of the reserve.
The dark object was later determined to be the MP in the front part of the MA.) WM2 reported seeing the MA in a spiral and then the wing “split in half” but did not see the “dark object” fly off. WM2 radioed to WM1 that the MP was in trouble.
WM2 watched the reserve parachute and began a descent to follow it as it landed in the water, after which he turned on his video camera. While circling the debris field with the reserve parachute, WM2 noted a secondary debris field in the water about 750 feet northeast of the first. When circling the second debris field, WM2 noted the MP’s head and shoulders under the water. He and WM1 then proceeded to land at a golf course near GO1 and GO2. Meanwhile, GO2, seeing the events, called 911.
The Sheriff’s office responded and approximately 3 hours later the MP and the wreckage were pulled from the water. The MP received fatal injuries during the event.
The following recommendations were listed in the report and are included here for convenience.
- The USPPA and instructors should include in their training syllabus the hazard of overstressing equipment, both airframe and wings, when discussing steep spirals.
- Pilots who choose to fly with a reserve parachute should contact the manufacturer with regards to their recommendations on reserve parachute installation. The installation should consider the airframe failure noted in this report.
- Pilots should carefully consider their type and location of flying and the possible consequences of the decision to deactivate the automatic activation feature of floatation devices.
- Pilots should understand that there is no guarantee of any load carrying capabilities when flying non-certificated equipment.
- Pilots should read, understand and adhere to all manufacturer’s instructions when purchasing, assembling and installing any aftermarket equipment.
- The USPPA and instructors should include in their training syllabus a review of the information in Advisor Circular 103-7, with emphasis on Para 4a.