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.

Wing Drop - Clip 1
If the wing drops the glider may ground loop violently or cartwheel. In this cartwheel the glider falls the right way up. See winch launch booklet page 4.
Wing Drop - Clip 2
The cartwheeling glider may hit the ground upside down. Accidents of this kind may be fatal. See the winch launch booklet page 4.
Flick Roll - Clip 1
flick1This and the following simulation were generated by pulling back on the stick to make the glider rotate into the climb too rapidly. The glider stalls and spins while still attached to the cable. Accidents of this kind may be fatal. See winch launch boooklet page 6
Flick Roll - Clip 2
Spin - Clip 1
spin1If the pilot turns after a mid-launch power failure before accelerating to a safe airspeed the glider may spin. The view is from the cockpit. See winch launch booklet page 10.
Spin - Clip 2
spin2This and the following simulation show the spin that can follow a cable break in mid-launch and then turning before the approach speed has been restored. See winch launch booklet page 10.
Spin - Clip 3