Mid-Air Collision of Glider and Jet near Reno: ASG-29 vs. Hawker XP800
There's been a lot of buzz this week about two recent accidents in the western United States, both of which occurred on Monday of this week. Amazingly, neither accident killed anyone. This is about one of them.
Akihiro Hirao, a visiting pilot from Japan, towed out from the Minden-Tahoe airport in an ASG-29 (one of the hottest new German sailplanes, a similar one is pictured at the right). A few hours later, he collided with a Hawker XP800 (a fast business jet) around 15,000 feet (different reports have published numbers between 13,000 and 16,000) that was descending to land at the Reno after a brief flight up from San Diego.
The impact was dramatic. The Hawker was traveling at roughly 300 knots (well over 300 miles per hour) and it completely destroyed one wing of the glider as well as the nose cone of the jet. I've not seen any pictures posted of the glider wreckage yet (they'd look a lot worse since it eventually hit terrain at high speed). But here are shots of the jet, which managed to make a gear-up landing at the nearby Carson City airport (I was there not long ago myself).
In the close up you can see the glider's wing spar sticking out of the jet!
As you might imagine, this has sparked a lot of discussion and debate in the soaring community--especially those of us who fly in the Reno area during the summer.
We won't really know everything that we can until the NTSB finishes their investigation. Based on the information I've read and heard this week, there's a good chance that the accident was preventable.
I'm led to believe that the ASG-29 had a working transponder on board but that it wasn't currently powered up. If that's the case, it means the glider was virtually invisible to the jet's pilot and co-pilot, not to mention Reno Air Traffic Control. Even if the jet pilots couldn't have visually detected the glider (which is pretty difficult going that fast), their TCAS would have picked up the transponder signal and suggested a safe diversion.
If the glider was not equipped with a transponder, that was a serious oversight. While they're not required (yet?), it's a very good idea to have one if you're flying in busy airspace.
There's a lot more I could say about this, but I'll hold off until the NTSB publishes their report a few months from now.
People are often surprised to find out that glider pilots routinely wear parachutes. An incident like this makes it clear. Having a parachute may be the difference between living and dying. The glider pilot parachuted to safety and was picked up a few hours later.
I was visiting my local parachute rigger (Silver Parachute Sales and Service in Hayward) today and we chatted about this. They heard the news pretty quickly, partly because this sort of news travels fast, and partly because they packed the parachute. This was, in fact, Darrin Silver's "first save."
The pilots of the jet and the glider are to be commended for getting themselves and, in the case of the jet, their passengers safely on the ground. Looking at the pictures of the damaged jet cockpit, it must have been pretty chaotic in there.
You can read more coverage here:
- Glider pilot survives mid-air collision with jet - Minden Soaring Club
- Collision with glider forces jet's crash-landing; none hurt - RJG.com
- Jet Collides With Glider - NBC San Diego
- Collision site well-known glider haven - Reno Gazette-Journal
- Glider pilot says he didn't see jet before collision - Nevada Appeal
Update: Pictures and more links added on the morning of 8/30/2006.
Update #2: I've posted NTSB Preliminary Report on the Glider and Hawker Collision as a follow-up to this article.
Posted by jzawodn at August 29, 2006 11:33 PM