BRS Save Pilot's Report:
Tonight I was in my Cobra B ultralight enjoying the
relatively calm cool air above Maryland. I was doing some yankin' and
bankin' at about 500' AGL when the right wing buckled and bent back
sending me into one incredible spiral. It took a couple seconds for me to
realize that I wasn't going to come out of this spin and by then, several
hundred feet of airspace closed between me and the ground.
I heard the
engine speed drop, or
least I THINK I heard it drop. I was looking straight down and saw the soy
bean field getting closer and closer. Finally, I heard my instructor's
voice in my head telling me to pull the chute. I was very disoriented due
to the spinning and it was hard finding the chute handle. Fortunately, BRS
paints them bright red. I looked down at it, saw it, and grabbed hold. I
yanked as hard as I could and *POW* I heard the charge of the exploding
rocket. I kept falling and the ground was VERY close by this time.
I remember thinking to myself... "why hasn't the
plane been flipped to a horizontal position because of the chute?" then
all of a sudden, I felt the chute grab the air as I was jerked. I was only
about 15 or 20 feet above the ground when it deployed.
The nose of the plane rammed into the ground and the
plane seemed to collapse all around me. I was still suspended in my seat.
I had on a seat belt and a shoulder harness that came across my chest. I
unbuckled the harness and seat belt and dropped to the ground. Eventually,
I found an opening big enough to crawl through. I got out as fast as I
could so that the guys with whom I was flying would know that I was OK. I walked
around surveying my plane.
I don't think there's a single piece of tubing that
isn't bent or broken. Even the sails have tears in them where there is no
reason to be torn. The plane is totaled even the prop blades are broken.
I got away with a couple knots on the old noodle, 2
cuts on the right side of my head, my glasses are bent, and I have one
hell of a head-ache. I don't know what my head hit on. I don't remember
feeling anything until after I crawled out from under the plane.
The chute didn't flip me horizontally because the
heavy cable from the rocket to the chute lines got tangled in the tail
section of the plane because of the spiraling. Kinda confirms the
definition of "auguring in." All of us that fly UL's know that anything
can happen at any time. It's part of the sport. I've thought a lot about
what can happen while flying. When I got out of the plane I wasn't scared
or nervous or shaken. I didn't have an adrenalin rush. I was concerned
about my plane and the people I was with... I wanted them to know I was
Lessons learned: 1. Be sure to have a rocket deployed
parachute on your ultralight. you'd never believe how fast that ground
comes up to meet your falling plane. If I would have had only a
hand deployed chute I wouldn't be here to write this. (BTW, I have (had) a
BRS soft pack chute which hasn't been repacked in probably 6 years -
alright, that may be stupid, but it's the truth.) You all know that if I
didn't have a chute at all, you'd probably be reading my obituary here
instead of my account of the accident.
GET A CHUTE IF YOU DON'T HAVE ONE.
2. Get a good 3 (minimum) or 4 point safety belt
system. I'm guessing, but i'll bet I would have sustained a lot more and
more severe injuries if I would have been using only a lap belt. The
shoulder harness saved my ass (along with the chute). Even when the plane
hit the ground, I stayed securely fastened to my seat.
I don't even have a bruise on my chest.
3. get some instructions before flying. I can't
believe that I actually heard my instructors voice in my head telling me
to pull the chute, but I'm here. Flying without instruction is crazy.
4. Practice what you would do in an emergency. Like I
said, I've done a lot of thinking about what to do in an emergency. I
practice engine outs and dead-stick landings. I guess there's no way to
prepare for what happened to me today, but do what you can to ensure your
So there you have it. I guess I'm the luckiest pilot
in the world today.
I was able to, literally, walk away from a 500 foot
straight down spiraling fall.
I guess I'll not be flying tomorrow. Damn! the
weather is supposed to be perfect for ultralighting.
Non-Fatal Accidents, 1994
(from Broomsticks cautionary tales)
2001 Structural Failure in Cobra, BRS Save