Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Loss of Lift: Schempp-Hirth Ventus 2cT, N514TW; accident occurred May 11, 2020 in Stuarts Draft, Augusta County, Virginia

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Richmond, Virginia 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Stuarts Draft, VA
Accident Number: ERA20CA178
Date & Time: 05/11/2020, 1500 EDT
Registration: N514TW
Aircraft: Schempp Hirth VENTUS 2CT
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of lift
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


After departing on a local flight, the pilot of the motor glider crossed a ridge line into a valley at an altitude of about 8,000 ft mean sea level, and then glided to the south in search of lift, but was unsuccessful. He decided to land on a brown, flat, field that appeared to be recently tilled. The pilot set up for a landing, and then deployed the glider's sustainer engine. The engine did not start, so he continued his approach to land. During the landing, the right wing struck the ground, the glider ground looped, and was substantially damaged. The flight manual for the sustainer engine advised that, the sustainer engine should only be extended and started when there was suitable terrain for landing within gliding distance, and furthermore, below 984 ft above ground level, starting attempts were to be avoided "so as to have a safe height left for planning the approach pattern should the engine fail to run!" The pilot stated that there was no mechanical malfunction or failure with the glider, and that he would recommend trying to start the sustainer engine at a higher altitude.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
A loss of thermal lift during a motor glider flight, which resulted in an off-airport landing.

Contributing to the accident was the pilot's delayed attempted engine start.


Environmental issues Thermal lifting - Effect on operation
Aircraft Altitude - Not attained/maintained
Personnel issues Use of equip/system - Pilot
Personnel issues Delayed action - Pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering Loss of lift (Defining event)
Emergency descent Attempted remediation/recovery
Landing Off-field or emergency landing
Landing Dragged wing/rotor/float/other
Landing Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport; Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 59, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Multi-engine Sea; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Glider; Helicopter
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s):  Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Glider; Instrument Airplane
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/03/2019
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 03/02/2020
Flight Time:  18000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 142 hours (Total, this make and model), 13732 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 81 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 46 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Schempp Hirth
Registration: N514TW
Model/Series: VENTUS 2CT No Series
Aircraft Category: Glider
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 191
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 01/26/2020, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1323 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2150.6 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: SOLO
ELT: C91A installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: 2350
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 26 hp
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: SHD, 1201 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1455 EDT
Direction from Accident Site: 18°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 5500 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 16 knots / 21 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 300°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.03 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 12°C / 0°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Amelia Court House, VA (2VA3)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Amelia Court House, VA (2VA3)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1230 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class G 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 37.992500, -78.981389 (est)