The vast majority of winch launches take place without incident. Because of this, most pilots have never, thankfully, witnessed any of the types of killer accident that can – and do – happen. When they happen, though, these accidents develop rapidly.
The video clips on this page have been produced to illustrate three of the types of winch-related accidents that cause fatal or serious injuries:
- cartwheel after a wing-drop on the ground
- accelerated stall and flick-roll during rotation
- spin after power loss in mid-launch
The videos were generated using the standard software used in the glider simulator at Lasham. To induce a flick roll during rotation the launch was begun with the stick held fully back. For the spin, the glider was allowed to climb to 400-500ft, the cable was released, the pilot waited 2 seconds before lowering the nose, and the pilot turned as soon as the nose had been lowered to the normal gliding attitude. The groundloops and cartwheels were induced by putting the wing on the ground with aileron and rudder.
The simulated glider does not break into pieces when it crashes. This is not representative of the behaviour of real gliders! The simulated glider also seems to spin rather more rapidly than real gliders. With these two reservations these videos provide a graphic representation of some of the departures from controlled flight described in the BGA’s Safe Winch Launching booklet.