Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pilot Slightly Injured

By John Larson

SOCORRO - Less than optimal flying conditions played a part in the crash of a Civil Air Patrol glider Saturday morning, Aug. 28.
Several dozen individuals at the fairgrounds north of the airport were taking part in activities and preparations for the upcoming Socorro County Fair and watched as the glider began to lose altitude.
Witnesses said the aircraft glided silently over the fairgrounds and just missed hitting the roof of the Kelly Building. It crash-landed just north of the fairgrounds and a crowd of people rushed to the scene.
Dave Finley, the CAP Commander in Socorro, said the accident happened during a routine operation.
“It was an orientation flight with an experienced CAP pilot and a passenger,” Finley said. “The Civil Air Patrol has an extensive nationwide glider program. Cadets can get orientation flights for both powered and glider aircraft.”
According to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, Lynn Lunsford, the cause of the crash is still under investigation. Lunsford said the pilot sustained a minor injury, but the aircraft, an L-23 Super Blanik, was destroyed.
“The aircraft simply lost lift and crashed,” Lunsford said. “When you’re released from the tow plane you try to find a good thermal, or heat, layer to help you get lift. With a glider you are at the mercy of the elements.
“It’s not unusual to make off-airport landings with a glider,” he said.
It had just been released from its tow place, a Cessna 182.
“On hot days you normally have good thermal layers for lift,” he said. “We’ve seen some gliders stay airborne for four to five hours with a good thermal layer.”
Although gliders are not normally housed at Socorro’s airport, they are stored here temporarily, Finley said.
Officers from the Socorro Sheriff’s Department and city police assisted in crowd control and security of the site.

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