It's insidious. You look down for just a moment to take care of some
problem and lose focus on your primary task: aviating. Jets crash due to
it, too. Plus, focusing on distractions frequently breaks the
all-important routine. Surprisingly simple little surprises have
waylayed the best laid plans. This is near and dear to my heart as a
frequent phototrapher, especially when doing close work down low. But
the distraction can be anything that takes your eyeballs from where
Trimmer Adjustment To Hangar Whack
by Phil Hyland, submitted by Jerry Starbuck. Thanks to
An accident with injuries occurred at approximately 10:30 EDT on
September 8th, 2007 at Warrenton Air Park, located near Warrenton,
Virginia. A pilot with 75 PPG flights was flying a Vittorazi motor
mounted on an SD 100 frame on a
Pilot was making his second flight of the morning at his local field.
The weather was clear, about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 5-6
MPH. surface breeze from the south and
moderately bumpy, sometimes slightly gusty winds
near the surface. Eyewitnesses estimated the wind
at treetop level at 10-12 MPH.
The pilot chose an approach path for landing
that passed into the prevailing wind, over a line of
60-foot trees. About 30 seconds from touchdown
pilot noted trim was not set to slow setting, so
decided to execute a go around. However,
adjustment of trim became focus before gaining
ample altitude resulting in brushing the treetop of a
pine and loss of altitude into the hanger just beyond.
The engine was heard to rev just before his
feet and knees, hanging from the leg straps in a
landing configuration, were observed to impact the
top of the trees. This was followed in 1-2 seconds
by the very loud sound of the pilot contacting the
top of the metal clad, wood stringer construction
aircraft hanger. Eyewitnesses reported that after
striking the trees the wing “fell over” to the pilot’s
left and he dropped down and impacted the hanger
Nearby pilot rescuers reached the scene
within a minute and 911 was dialed immediately.
The pilot, hooked into his harness and paramotor
was visible at the top of the hanger, near the peak.
The pilot was found suspended at chest level in the
corrugated metal roof by the paramotor frame and
harness. He was not moving, but did occasionally
respond vaguely to questions, complaining of chest
pains. He was breathing with minor bleeding from
cuts on his chin and knee. He was wearing a
helmet. The motor was running at idle when
rescuers reached the scene. Gas was leaking
slowly onto the roof from the gas tank. The spark
plug wire was pulled to stop the motor to prevent a
One person stayed with the pilot as other
rescuers set up a tall ladder inside the hanger. The
pilot was able to put some occasional weight on the
ladder. He could not easily be extracted upward
out of the roof hole, and rescuers assessed he could
not climb down the ladder inside the hanger.
Professional paramedics from the local fire
department arrived soon and climbed up on the
outside of the hanger roof and up the ladder inside
the hanger. They decided to call for a ladder truck
equipped with a long extensible ladder with a cherry
picker platform at the end. This arrived about 10
minutes later. The pilot’s paramotor frame was
attached by straps to the cherry picker platform and
he was extracted vertically out of the roof, swung
clear of the hanger, and lowered to the ground
where he was placed in a stretcher, and transferred
by ambulance to a medivac helicopter that had
landed at the airfield.
Upon transfer to a hospital the pilot was
diagnosed with broken ribs on both sides of his
chest, a cracked sternum, a lung contusion, and
several minor cuts and scrapes. He spent the
evening in the hospital, was released to home the
next day, and is making a full recovery. Damage to
the equipment included a broken prop, bent
paramotor frame, broken frame hoops, bent J-bar
(right side), and all wing lines cut by rescuers. The
gas tank was leaking. There was no immediately
apparent other damage to the wing. The hanger
roof had a two foot diameter hole in the metal
corrugated sheathing and broken 2x4 wood
Root cause of the accident is assessed as
pilot selection of a landing approach profile with too
little margin over trees and last moment distraction
due to riser trim adjustments. Loss of focus on
flying at a low level was the critical error.
You wouldn't think this could happen. During launch the pilot somehow
got his calf muscle into the prop while making large strides.
As of Sept, 2007, I know of two similar incidents.
Ideally this would be impossible but,
until manufacturers improve protection, it's up to the pilot. Make sure the frame is hiked up high and that there is
protection from the prop.
You must hold the frame above the thrustline. Otherwise, a thrusting
motor will want to come over the top of your hold point. Always be in a
position, as this pilot is, to hold back the motor at power.
Always check the throttle
at the carb before starting. If you ever see me skip this step, feel free
to remind me how foolish that was.
Having a bar across the
frame higher up would improve pilot protection by offering leverage as a
hand hold and provide a place to brace against a thrusting motor. There
is protection against the motor coming forward, though, as strong
netting is used (hard to see in the picture) across that entire middle