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Mid Spiral Malfunction Causes Broken Back

PPG Type:
Type of Injury:

Pilot Details

Age: 27
Weight: 180
Gender:
Highest rating held at the time of the incident:
Pilot experience level:

Gear Details

Wing Brand:
Model: Dudek Snake 18M Unrated
Size:
Paramotor Frame: Blackhawk Kestrel Pro with HE 220cc Airmax – Approx 75lbs with fuel and reserve. with

Incident Details

January 13, 2014
Location of the incident:
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Type of Incident
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Just after 8:00AM the pilot took off from Chalet Suzanne airport intending to demonstrate the PK system on the Dudek Snake, as well as to work on a few aerobatic maneuvers over the nearby lake.

After rounding the pattern at approximately 800′ the pilot turned the glider right into a low power spiral dive to lose altitude over the LZ. As the glider gained speed, the left swing arm bolt appears to have sheared. The safety straps immediately went into affect, but the additional 6″ of weight shift into the turn steepened the spiral significantly. The pilot was able to bring the wing back overhead with just a moment to spare, allowing him to cross power lines and impact the roof of a home on site..

Though the wing was overhead the pilot recalls that the wing was still sinking and gaining energy as he hit and that neither brake pressure, nor power had enough effect on slowing that sink.

The impact on the roof was glancing, causing the pilot to slide up to the peak (approx 30′) and then to depart the roof. Moments later the wing impacted an oak tree and the pilot was whipped backwards into the ground. Coming to rest just in front of the tree’s trunk.

After the pilot was checked into the hospital it was discovered that he had acute fractures of the L3 & L5 vertebra, leg abrasions (from the roof) and a series of bruised ribs (likely from the right swing arm). The motor is in usable condition but the cage and harness are totalled. The wing sustained a 2′ rip from the tree and several broken lines from it’s removal.

Overall Take Away By Pilot: If I’d been higher, or I’d not been in a spiral, this failure would probably have been a non-event. However, because the rear of the swing arm is not supported by the safety straps, the additional “weight shit” made this event nearly catastrophic. I’m very thankful to be alive, and I’m thankful that my injuries are not worse.

In the future, I’ll ensure I have a better safety strap system and I will probably ensure that any bolts holding swing arm bars are aircraft rated and replaced regularly.

Since my incident, the manufacturer has been in contact and is reviewing the machine to determine what may have caused the failure of the bolt. They have also taken my recommendation for an additional safety strap under advisement.

Any time an incident of this magnitude takes place, one is forced to reconsider their choices… If only I’d been higher, if only I hadn’t done that maneuver, etc. etc. Overall though, I am thrilled to be alive, I am excited for the future of this sport, and I’m thankful that I can help contribute to the safety of it without having to add to the fatality sheet.

I’ll see you all in the sky soon.

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