The Civil Aviation Authority is reminding paraglider pilots to stay inside the weight range for their equipment and continue to familiarise themselves with local conditions before they take flight, as the safety investigation report into a fatal paragliding accident is released today.
The report [PDF 736 KB] details the findings of our investigation into the accident at Mount Cheeseman which caused the death of an experienced overseas paraglider pilot on 14 January 2020.
Shortly after launch the paraglider wing collapsed. Although the pilot recovered from this, the wing collapsed again soon afterwards. Although the pilot was found conscious at the accident scene, they later died of their injuries.
Our safety investigation found that turbulence was the most probable cause of the wing collapsing and the subsequent accident. We also found the paraglider pilot was flying above the maximum weight range for their equipment.
The CAA’s Deputy Chief Executive for aviation safety, Dean Winter, said the CAA investigates incidents and accidents to help prevent similar events from occurring in future.
“Our investigation highlighted the importance of paraglider pilots keeping an eye on their equipment and making sure they remained in the weight range,” Mr Winter said.
“We just don’t know whether this accident could have been avoided if the pilot had been within the equipment weight range, but by staying in the range other pilots might be able to avoid an accident like this in the future.”
The CAA’s investigators worked closely with the New Zealand Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (NZHGPA) following the crash, seeking to understand what happened that day and ensure updated information about the challenging conditions at Mount Cheeseman was available to pilots.
NZHGPA Chief Executive Nick Taber said the hang gliding and paragliding flying community was saddened by this event, and their thoughts are with the pilot’s family at this time.
“We thank the CAA for thoroughly investigating this accident. It is important that all pilots learn from tragic events such as this, which highlights the importance of flying to the conditions and staying in the weight range of your glider,” Mr Taber said.
“Immediately after this accident the local hang gliding and paragliding club took the opportunity to review the site guide and update it, and this has been reflected in the CAA’s report.
“The NZHGPA and its members are constantly striving to improve safety and we have recently launched an upgraded online meteorology exam for all new pilots.
“New Zealand has tricky conditions which can vary from valley to valley so we’re hoping this will help our pilots to better understand the unique flying and weather conditions we operate in.”
The CAA and NZHGPA will continue to work closely together to help keep hang glider and paraglider pilots safe when they take to New Zealand’s skies.
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