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Angel Pala

Emergency Bailout

Accident Narrative - Glider JS-1B

April 29, 2012

On Sunday April 29, I took off in my glider model JS-1B, call sign AP, behind tow plane 09P, from the Moriarty Regional Airport (0E0), at approximately 12:30 local time.

The weather on that date and time of takeoff, was ideal for soaring. Light Winds from the SW on the surface at the airport, plenty of sunshine, excellent visibility and, most important, cloud streets practically in every direction, for what promised an excellent soaring day. Forecasted winds at the altitude of the boundary layer were expected to be 10 to 15 miles/hour from the SW.

We took off to the west on runway 26, on a very normal tow and after circling the airport and reaching approximately 8300' to 8500' MSL, I released from the tow plane, 2 to 3 miles northwest of the airport, over the junction of US I- 40 and state road 41. My release was under a cloud and the thermal generated by that cloud lifted me to around 12,000' MSL. I waited below this cloud for my flying partner to climb to my altitude in his glider. We then proceeded on a cross country flight in a northerly direction, under a lift-producing cloud street.

As stated above, we ran north at about 85 knots, working the lift being generated by the cloud street and only stopping around 10 miles north of Moriarty to work and climb on a thermal to around 11,800 MSL. My glider during cruising and turning in the thermals, behaved normally. We again departed the thermal on the same general course. Around 22 miles north we stopped again for another strong thermal; I was climbing thru 11300' in a right turn, when I observed my partners glider leaving the thermal around 200' higher than my altitude.

I decided to remain in the thermal for a couple of more turns to gain some additional altitude and then continue behind glider N140BH on a northwesterly course. I maintained a right turn with about 30 to 40 degrees of bank, holding right rudder thru the turn. As I started the upwind portion of the thermal turn (wind from the SW @15mph from my on board computer), a loud metallic sound came from the area around the rudder pedals. Immediately my right foot lost contact with the right rudder pedal. As this was taking place, the nose of the glider pitched vertically, thru the horizon going straight down. My immediate reaction, when I lost contact with the right rudder pedal was to apply left rudder. Again there was no left pedal under my left foot. I recovered from the vertical descent to semi-level flight by gently pulling on the elevator control.

My initial diagnosis of the problem was that the pedal adjustment mechanism designed to adjust the rudder pedals for different size pilots had given away. Once I recovered to almost level flight (nose slightly below the horizon), to hold direction and wings level, I had to counteract the right yawing action with left aileron, for what I perceived as a stuck right rudder in full deflection. I then pulled on the rudder adjustment control lever. Hoping that with this action the rudder pedals could be pulled backwards, towards the reach of both my feet and then perhaps, return the rudder to center. It did not work, when I pulled on the rudder pedal adjustment cable it had no tension and did not retract it just hung limp across my right thigh. I tried once more pulling on the cable but again there was no movement of the rudder pedals.

The broken terrain in the immediate area where I was flying does not lend itself for emergency landings. It is formed by rocky bluffs or mesas rising between 200' and 400' over the base terrain, which is somewhere around 6500'MSl. It was obvious that I did not have sufficient altitude to reach level terrain to my west, nor the amount of control necessary to confidently perform an emergency landing in some available field. As I was trying to control the glider and perhaps get access to the rudder pedals, the result of flying in a right skid was a rapid loss of altitude. My descend rate was at probably 700' to 800'/minute. Checking the altimeter (10,000') I had lost about 1300' since the beginning of the emergency. It was at that moment that I made the decision to exit the glider.

I unbuckled my shoulder harness, the canopy release and out I went from the glider. I waited to clear the glider before pulling on the D ring. The Para-Phernalia, model Long Softie exploded above my head into a beautiful fully billowing open canopy. The parachute was repacked at the factory in March 2012. I observed below me the glider descending in a flat attitude gently turning right. I saw the glider hit the terrain below again in a perfectly flat attitude, with the nose pointing to the east and, with the exception of the canopy, all of its parts still attached.

Meanwhile due to the SW winds, I landed about 1 mile northeast from the glider. I sustained some trauma to my left shoulder and head during the parachute landing. It was then necessary to walk about 2.5 miles to the closest asphalt road NM285 to get assistance. I spent 24 hours in the emergency room at St. Vincent's hospital in Santa Fe.

Angel E. Pala

FAA - Commercial, Instrument, Airplane Single, Multiengine Land, Glider