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Rented glider crashes in Wallis, kills three

An aviation accident in a small city in Austin County killed all three family members aboard, including a 3-year-old child. The glider was operated by an experienced glider pilot, the father-in-law of one passenger and the grandfather of the other passenger.

The glider and the plane that towed the motorless aircraft into flight were registered to the Greater Houston Soaring Association. The company advertises glider rentals for pilots at least 14 years of age. The 68-year-old pilot who died was a member of the Soaring Society of America.

Aviation experts were dismayed by published pictures of the crashed glider in Wallis that showed a tail dolly still attached to the craft. Tail dollies are wheels used to transport gliders across an airport tarmac before the glider is attached to a plane.

A glider manufacturer noted that tail dollies are supposed to be removed from gliders before the crafts lift off. More than one authority on aircrafts stated that tail dollies left on gliders could cause instability. The weight of the wheel at the rear of the glider could increase chances that the vehicle could spin or stall.

Another concern by flight professionals was the presence of the third passenger, a toddler that was not secured in a seat. Federal safety standards require children over age 2 to have separate seats and wear restraints.

The Texas Department of Public Safety reported the glider apparently nosedived the moment the plane released it. Family members on the ground witnessed the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the safety procedures used prior to take off and examine the glider’s wreckage. A report on the crash could take as long as 18 months to complete.

Investigators must consider whether pilot error led to the fatal crash. Weather and wind speeds will be factored. The NTSB will also study the plane and safety procedures used by the glider rental company before determining whether negligence was connected to the accident.

Source: chron.com, "Cause sought in glider crash that killed 3 near Rosenberg," Lorni Kriel, June 18, 2012

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