D-2929, December 2007 – Controlled Flight Into Terrain

Date: 21 December 2007
Time: 1541 hours
Location: Turret Peaks
Registration: D-2929
Aircraft Type: Alexander Schleicher Flugzeugbau ASG-29
POB: 1
Fatalities: 1


D-2929 was in the lead group of three gliders competing in an international Grand Prix style cross-country soaring race having departed Omarama. When tracking signals from the aircraft were lost, the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) was advised and an aerial search conducted in the vicinity of the last plotted position. The aircraft was found, having impacted a mountain ridge and the first ground parties to reach the wreckage found the pilot deceased.

Accident aircraft Alexander Schleicher Flugzeugbau ASG-29, D-2929 Location of D-2929 accident, 21 December 2007
image embedded from Wikipedia on 10 September 2010 map embedded from Google Maps on 10 September 2010

Flight History

On the day of the accident, D-2929 was being flown in a race that comprised part of the final round of the FAI1 World Grand Prix Gliding Championships, based at Omarama. The task involved a 272 kilometre circuit around Omararma, the Lindis Pass, Lake Hawea, the Siberia Valley, Lake Pukaki and concluding overhead Omarama. Eighteen aircraft started the race at 1445 hours and proceeded direct to “Goodger” (see route below), before turning northwest to “Siberia”. For this second leg D-2929 accompanied two other aircraft, who flew a similar route, as the lead group. The pilots of these two aircraft reported last observing D-2929 in the vicinity of “Siberia” and the aircraft was later found to have impacted a minor spur running off the ridgeline on the north face of the Turret range at approximately 5370 feet altitude.

D-2929 route on 21 December 2007
image reproduced with CAA permission on 10 September 2010


A high pressure system dominated the weather pattern on the day with winds at 5000 feet forecast to be 5-10 knots from the northwest. A sea breeze was anticipated in the afternoon with no significant turbulence, cloud or precipitation, however other competitors later reported experiencing moderate turbulence at times which was described as rough in strong up and down-drafts when the wind spilled over ridges.

Wreckage and Impact

D-2929 was found to have impacted a small spur approximately half a metre below the spur-line in a 30 degree angle-of-bank right turn and at an estimated 120 kilometres per hour. After the initial impact the aircraft bounced and rotated, finally coming to rest inverted only 4 metres from that initial impact point. The severity of the deceleration resulted in the pilot's harness attachment points failing and subsequently unrestrained, the occupant was thrown clear of the aircraft.

D-2929 wreckage
image reproduced with CAA permission on 10 September 2010

CAA Analysis and Conclusions

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority report on the accident concluded that as the aircraft was observed to be contour flying with very little terrain clearance prior to the accident, that it was possible that severe local turbulence and downdrafts were encountered and subsequently the pilot of D-2929 had insufficient altitude to maintain terrain clearance. The extreme forces involved in the deceleration on impact were determined as not survivable.

HFACS Analysis

A brief HFACS Analysis of this accident reveals a causal factor which can be classified as an unsafe act.

HFACS Category Causal Factor
Decision Errors The pilot’s decision to fly with little terrain clearance gave little margin for error or room to manoeuvre in unexpected wind-shear and downdrafts. The pressure of international competition and the competitive nature of the sport may have been factors in this very experienced and accomplished pilot’s decision to cut his margins too finely. Unfortunately the decision was fatal.
1. Stevenson-Wright, P. (2008). CAA Aircraft Accident Report: Occurrence No 07/4533. Retrieved from http://www.caa.govt.nz/Accidents_and_Incidents/Accident_Reports/D-2929_Fatal.pdf on 23 August 2010.

Want to know more?

CAA Accident Report 07/4533: D-2929
The published Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand report into this accident.
AviationKnowledge - Human Factors Analysis and Classification Systems (HFACS)
Visit here to find out more about the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System.
AviationKnowledge - Fatal Gliding Accidents in New Zealand
Visit here to find out more about other fatal gliding accidents in New Zealand.

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