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.

Charts from thunderstorm ride

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.

These were the charts from the day the pilot experienced his incident.