I decided to write this article after hearing about the accident in Pennsylvania that killed three people.† (Sorry it has taken me so long to get this one into the column.)† A tow plane (an L19) towing a glider and another sailplane (a Grob 103) ran into each other killing the tow pilot and both people in the Grob.† The sailplane on tow released just before the crash and landed safely.† I have absolutely no idea what happened and how three sets of eyes could not see each otherís planes.† However, it did get me thinking about collision avoidance.†
I believe that many of the hats/caps we wear are dangerous things to wear when flying, be it a sailplane or an airplane.† It simple blocks way too much upward vision.† Put yours on and see what you can see right above and ahead of you.† Not much, huh?† Take it off and imagine a plane there as you climb out on takeoff or as you are thermaling.† Could you see it?† You need a hat that does not block too much of your upward vision.† This could be either a narrow brimmed one or one that can be turned up/buttoned up whenever you are in a high traffic area such as thermaling or around the glider field.†
Just to complete the thought about the accident before I go on to talk about the hats we wear, how could the two pilots in the Grob possibly miss the towplane as it was climbing out?† The next time you go up in a sailplane fly straight and level and check out how much space below and in front of you that you cannot see because the nose of the sailplane blocks it.† It is not wise to fly for long periods of time in a straight and level attitude when other planes could be climbing up in front of you.† Remember, I have no knowledge about how the accident happened.† Iím just giving a possible scenario that could explain what happened, nothing else.† Maybe we can at least learn not to let a situation occur which could lead to a similar type of accident.
Now, what I hate most of all is the baseball cap.† Not only does it block our upward vision, it also has a button on top!† Hit some turbulence and if your head hits the canopy your chances of personal injury (i.e. a hole on your head) and the chances of breaking the canopy are magnified greatly.† Why?† Because you are concentrating a large force over a very small area, the button.† It can go into your head and/or it can shatter the canopy.† If you did not have a button on your cap the energy would be dispersed over a much larger area of your head (assuming you donít have a pointy-head) and the canopy.† Hence, the possible damage to both would be greatly reduced.† We had an incident here at Bermuda High at the beginning of last season where a pilot had a hard landing, nothing more.† However, he was wearing a baseball cap.† His head hit the canopy and broke it.† The cost to the insurance company was over $3,500.† If you want to wear a baseball hat go play baseball.† If you want to fly gliders get a more appropriate hat.
We wear hats to protect us from the sun and that is very important.† (I should know as last year I had an operation to remove a cancerous growth from my nose that was probably caused by too much sun.† Iím now using sun block and zinc oxide) However, in the process are we creating a more serious hazard of blinding ourselves from seeing other traffic above us?† If your hat blocks too much of your upward vision get rid of it now.† Find another more appropriate to flying sailplanes.† ďSee and avoidĒ is our aviation collision avoidance motto.† However, you need to see in order to avoid.† Is the hat you wear a help or a hindrance?† Think about it.
Bermuda High Soaring