The video makes it look like he just launched into wires. Was it just a severe misjudgment? Or was there more?
It could be a lesson using ITIL (I think it’ll work) to decide on a launch site. If you travel and launch strange places you do it all the time, getting somewhere and concluding “yup, I can do this.” With experience that gets better. Some are naturally better at this than others and we all vary in how conservative our choices are.
The first question to ask is “was it even possible to launch there?”
The field is next to Owasso Family YMCA and is surrounded by wires on at least 3 sides. Behind the videographer is a 4-lane road that probably has wires, too, on the other side. See “Accident Field” below, with marked 100-foot squares, to understand the size. The pilot’s start point is shown with a paraglider wing. Had he been launching from the question mark he actually would have had quite a bit of room as you’ll see.
Master PPG 2 is on advanced launching, including from very confined areas with reasonable safety. We figured out how much room was needed then filmed it at an actual confined field that was bigger.
The gist is simple: in nearly calm conditions, takeoff almost in a turn and circle out of the site, staying within the field’s footprint. If the motor quits, circle down to a landing, leveling out at touchdown–something I’ve done just for the fun of better slider landings. Nothing has to actually be very steep.
The “Master PPG 2 Site” (above) shows where we filmed for the video. I launched along the yellow line and turned around, climbing out of the field at partial power to emphasize that it’s not about having lots of power. I was on a Top 80 is already “partial power” to many.
So it was certainly possible to launch here using the circle-out technique. I would have likely worked even without the circle had he gone to the east end (question mark in the “Accident Field” image).
Having to circle out of a place can be unforgiving. What if a brake toggle lets go? I’ve had it happen. Thankfully weight shift and rear riser steer were enough since the launch was more open.
It’s also helpful to be on the right sized wing. Too small a wing increases speed and therefore the turn radius. Too big may prevent getting the necessary bank without spinning. Having practiced in a no-threat, well-measured area, and having nearly calm conditions is key.
The Accident Flight
He’s taking off to the north, across the narrow width of a wide field, probably because of wind direction.
The motor was running roughly as he throttled up but it cleans up quick enough and he takes off in short order. A lot of two-strokes do this, especially if they’re not warmed up well. Not a big factor here.
After liftoff, he goes immediately into the necessary turn. Good. It would have been easy to panic-pull too much into a spin but he didn’t. It’s possible that he could have kept that turn going with some increased bank and turned around to go the other way but, for whatever reason, he let off the brake and straightened out, sealing his fate. Just before hitting the wires, he throttled off. Wisely.
The trailing edge never either deflects excessively (as best I can see) nor does it release, suggesting that he had control continuity. It appears that he flew a perfectly functioning craft into the wires.
The biggest question is why he didn’t set up near where the question mark is on the “Accident Field” picture above. A bigger question is why this field? Of course, we actually know the answer. He wanted to fly and this was probably close to home.
There is More to the Story
I heard from a friend of the pilot and indeed there’s more to it. The pilot had turned down flying with this friend a couple days prior to the accident, explaining that he was going through some life-stuff and didn’t want to fly. They talked after the accident and the pilot said that he was indeed very upset before the flight. So yes, the actual launch decision was bad, the choice of starting point was bad, but this helps understand why.
He has around 30 flights. His all-up weight (pilot, motor, fuel, & wing) was around 305 pounds. The Wasp L is 29.5 m² so he was about 10 Lbs/m² which is pretty typical.
When I saw this video a few days ago I couldn’t believe it. Then I got to thinking, could there be more to it? So I dug in, did the measurements, looked at the field from above, and initially concluded that it was a simple matter of misjudgment. Which is true. The rest of the story helps understand why that choice was made.
Life stress tends to make us less concerned about consequences. That might explain not walking to the other end of the field–he didn’t want to carry his gear all that way. He gambled on ITIL (I THINK it’ll work) and lost. As bad as this seems, in less obvious forms, it has caused MANY accidents. It’s just a matter of degree. Admittedly, there’s a lot of degree here.
Hopefully, this helps us, in a potential future state of distress, skip flying for fear of making matters much worse.