Glider towing damage

BGA accident and incident occurrence data demonstrates that so far during 2023, there have been four accidents on the ground when towing gliders. Three of those accidents involved substantial damage.

Looking back over a ten-year period, among all substantial damage accidents to aircraft during ground operations, almost 50% of these involve towed gliders. The data describes how the most common way of incurring substantial damage to a glider is for the wing to collide with some stationary obstacle (including another aircraft) or person. The second most common way is for a towing vehicle operator to drive off not realising that a glider is still connected to the vehicle. Other substantial damage events include failure of poor quality tow out gear.

Insurance premiums form a significant part of club and individuals gliding costs. The shared risk supported by these premiums means that everyone suffers when there is an insurance claim.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to reduce the number of glider ground towing accidents. Good practice when moving gliders including towing with a rope includes holding the wing tip nearest the obstacle. Pilots who tow their glider using tow out gear cannot see how close a wing is to an obstacle, in which case it makes sense to stop and check, or have someone outside the towing vehicle actively checking clearance.