Friday, September 07, 2018

Schempp Hirth Duo Discus T, N22XC: Fatal accident occurred September 02, 2018 in New Washoe City, Washoe County, Nevada

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Reno, Nevada

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: New Washoe City, NV
Accident Number: WPR18FA247
Date & Time: 09/02/2018, 1335 PDT
Registration: N22XC
Aircraft: Schempp Hirth DUO DISCUS T
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On September 2, 2018, about 1335 Pacific daylight time, a Schempp-Hirth Duo Discus T motorized glider, N22XC (callsign XC), experienced an in-flight breakup while maneuvering near New Washoe City, Nevada. The two private pilots sustained fatal injuries, and the glider was destroyed. The glider was registered to one of the pilots, and operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. The glider departed Truckee-Tahoe Airport (TRK), Truckee, California at 1258. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the cross-country soaring flight.

The flight was part of an informal competition that was organized by the pilot/owner of XC. The goal of the competition was to obtain the shortest flight time between two predetermined locations. Each competitor's flight time would start when his/her glider flew over TRK runway 2/20, and end when they reached a predefined radius around Marine Corps Mountain War Training Center Heliport (7CL4), Bridgeport, California. There was no specific start time, and the gliders departed at staggered intervals throughout the day.

XC was primarily constructed of composite materials. The engine was referred to as a "sustainer" engine and was insufficient for takeoff use. The engine/propeller combination was mounted on a pylon behind the cockpit, and the entire assembly retracted into the fuselage when not in use.

The tow pilot stated that the takeoff and climbout with XC was uneventful, and that XC released after reaching an altitude of 8,000 ft mean sea level (msl), about 3 miles east of TRK, over an area known locally as "The Rocks". TRK was situated at an elevation of 5,901 ft feet msl.

Both XC and several other gliders flying in the vicinity were equipped with "FLARM" traffic awareness and collision avoidance systems. The FLARM system is capable of recording positional data from other nearby FLARM-equipped aircraft, and it was determined that one glider had recorded a series of intermittent track positions of XC. This data revealed that after release, XC began a series of climbing turns over The Rocks, reaching an altitude of about 10,500 ft. It then proceeded east on a meandering track while performing another series of climbing turns. The last position was recorded at 1333. The data indicated that by then, XC had reached an altitude of about 14,500 ft, 12 miles east of TRK, and 1 mile west of the 9,698 ft peak of Slide Mountain.

About that time, a group of paraglider pilots were preparing to launch from an 8,700-ft-high bluff on the eastern face of Slide Mountain. Their attention was drawn to a glider traveling north to south near the face of the slope directly to the east, and about 500 to 2,000 ft above their position. The pilot-witnesses all provided similar reports of their observations. One witness stated that as he looked up, he saw a glider performing a series of aggressive looping maneuvers, such that he initially thought it was a remote-controlled aircraft. He watched as the glider performed another loop. During that loop he started to hear a high-pitch whistling/vibrating sound, and the wings flexed upwards such that the tips almost touched each other. One of the wings then broke off, followed by a large "cracking" sound, and the sky was filled with confetti-like pieces of white debris.

Another pilot-witness stated that when he first saw the glider, it was passing from left to right and performed 2 or 3 full loops that lasted about 2 to 3 seconds each. He stated that the wings of the glider were flexing upwards aggressively throughout the maneuvers, and as it rolled out of the final loop, the left wing broke away and struck the tail.

A third pilot-witness stated that he looked up and saw the glider perform a series of loops, which had a radius of about two wingspans. He described the loops as "smooth and progressive", and as the glider rolled out for the final time, the wings appeared to flex up like "rubber" and form a "U" shape when viewed from the front. The left wing then broke away mid-span, followed by a very loud snapping sound, similar to cracking timber. The witness also heard a buzzing sound just prior to the wing separation. The glider then immediately entered into a flat spin, and white shards of debris filled the sky surrounding the glider. After the first spin rotation, the glider appeared to level off, and the witness considered the possibility that the pilot had regained control. The glider then rolled over, and the right wing failed.

All of the witnesses stated that they did not see any indications that the engine/propeller had been extended.

The wreckage was located on the lower eastern flank of Slide Mountain, at an elevation of 6,630 ft, about 2.5 miles east-southeast of the last FLARM-recorded position. The glider ignited a fire upon impact, which eventually burned a 58-acre swath of brush uphill to the west. The main wreckage consisted of the cockpit, engine assembly, wing and vertical stabilizer fragments, all of which were consumed by fire. A secondary 1,500-ft-long debris field emanated northwest from the main wreckage, outside of the burn area, and contained a headrest and a left wing section, along with canopy and control surface fragments.

Photo 1 - Main Wreckage (foreground), with Left Wing Section Circled 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Schempp Hirth
Registration: N22XC
Model/Series: DUO DISCUS T No Series
Aircraft Category: Glider
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCXP, 4699 ft msl
Observation Time: 2035 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 9 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / -5°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 70°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Truckee, CA (TRK)
Destination: Truckee, CA (TRK) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  39.304444, -119.860833

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

An aircraft crash that started a 64-acre blaze near Mount Rose ski resort claimed the lives of two California men.

The bodies of 80-year-old Sergio Colacevich, of Carmichael, Calif., and 60-year-old James Alton, of San Ramon, Calif., were extracted from the crash site Sept. 3, one day after a glider aircraft crashed 1 mile southeast of the Winter Creek Lodge of Mount Rose Ski Tahoe.

The Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner's Office, which confirmed the identities of the two men, said the cause of death hasn't yet been determined.

Autopsies were performed Sept. 4, and a dental comparison was used to confirm their identities.

The crash ignited a blaze named the Slide Fire, which quickly grew to more than 60 acres. As of Thursday afternoon, the fire reportedly burned 64 acres. Crews reached 100 percent containment on Friday, according to a tweet from the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest.

The crash is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. A public affairs official confirmed the investigation is ongoing. A preliminary report has yet to be issued.

A Federal Aviation Administration official told the Tribune the aircraft was a Schempp-Flugzeugbau GmbH, Duo Discus motor-glider.

The Schempp-Flugzeugbau website describes the aircraft as: "Easy to fly, comfortable, handy, agile — with outstanding performance: The Duo-Discus XL is the perfect device for enjoying flights together, whether in syndicates, in the family or in daily gliding club operation."

The NTSB official said the investigation will determine who was piloting the aircraft at the time. Colacevich was a known pilot. He served as a mentor with the Truckee Airport Soaring Mentorship Academy.

The glider departed from the Truckee Tahoe Airport before it crashed.

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