Rapid wind change ensnares PPG Pilot. Thanks to the submitter for his willingness to share.
The evening started with little wind and clear skies. A friend and I launched at 7:20pm from our favorite flying field just east of Colorado Springs. The first half hour of flying was fantastic. I followed a small herd of antelope for a while, then climbed to 2000 feet and pulled some big ears and small wing overs.
As it was starting to get dark I decided to work my way back to the field but I got side tracked for a bit. I still had plenty of light since the sun sets pretty late this time of year. I was still about 3 miles from my vehicle and about a mile away from my friend when I got rocked by a sudden increase of wind with a drastic change of direction. The airport we fly from records and graphs data so I was able to look this up later. The wind jumped from 3 MPH to over 20 almost instantly and the wind direction changed from 260 degrees to 10 degrees in the same instant.
Needless to say this shook me like a rag doll. The wing lurched side to side and oscillated violently. I reduced power and worked the wing to keep it overhead and as stable as possible. I tried to crab crosswind to see if I could make it back to my launch area or at least closer to a nearby road. This effort lasted a very short time when I got an elevator ride that shot me up 50 feet or so and shook my wing in all sorts of uncomfortable ways. At this point I was flying backwards even with my trims 3/4 out. The rocking hadn’t subsided and the wind speed kept picking up so I decided to get down as fast as possible. I knew I was in for a turtle and a dragging since I kept moving backwards faster and faster it seemed.
Just before hitting I killed the engine. As soon as I hit I was pulled back hard onto my cage and dragged. I was shocked at how fast I was being dragged with the cage beneath me, it didn’t even seem to slow me down. I was able to reach back and disable the wing after 10 feet or so. Luckily I had no injuries and my friend, who also landed as fast as he could, only suffered a broken prop since he didn’t get his motor killed before he hit.
I had to drag my gear about a 1/4 mile to the road and gently work my way over a barb wire fence. Then I got my first experience at hitch hiking. Luckily a gentleman with a truck was curious enough about all my weird gear to stop and pick me up.
I was still confused by the gust front since I could see no evidence of a storm in sight. Then as I was packing up in the dark I noticed lighting in the far off distance. Just at the horizon. This was the direction the gust front came from so it makes sense. It was so far away I could only see it once it was dark enough for the lightning to show on the horizon. It’s kind of scary to think that a storm so far away which you cannot see can cause so much grief.