A pilot at a regional contest thermals into a tree and is seriously


A pilot at a regional contest tries to do a low pass at 50-55 knots

and is killed.

A student pilot lands after his first long flight and taxis into a

truck parked beside the runway.

How in the world could the above accidents happen?  You are probably

thinking that no one in their right minds could make such stupid

decisions.  Yet each of the above did happen here in the United

States.  At the same time you are correct.  No one in his/her right

mind would make any of the above decisions.  The key phrase is "in

his/her right mind".  In each of the above cases it is thought that

dehydration played a critical role.

What is dehydration?  Webester's defines it as the abnormal depletion

of body fluids.  Where do the body fluids go?  They leave our body

through the skin.  Why?  To try to keep our body from overheating. 

Flying sailplanes is the perfect place for dehydration to take place. 

The canopy acts very much like a green house and on many soaring days

keeps the inside of our sailplanes very warm if not hot.  We sweat to

try to keep ourselves from overheating.  If we run out of fluids the

body starts to overheat.  What part of the body is first affected by

overheating?  The BRAIN.  When the brain starts to overheat it does

not simply stop working.  Rather it stops working in subtle ways. 

That is, you start making decisions that you would otherwise not make.


The NTSB investigates all general aviation accidents.  In well over

80% "pilot error" is the cause.  What is pilot error?  It is not

physical errors such as your hands quit working or you go blind.  It

is mental error!!  BAD DECISIONS!!

Thermaling into a tree.  Trying to do a low pass at 50-55 knots. 

Pulling off the runway directly into a truck.  Don't think it cannot

happen to any of us.  The pilots in these examples were each

intelligent people.  One was a high time glider pilot.  Each made

very, very stupid decisions.  Their brains were probably not working

properly at the time.  They were not "in their right minds".  That is,

each was dehydrated.

How do we prevent dehydration?  In two words - DRINK FLUIDS.  Now

certainly there are other things that can help prevent dehydration. 

Dress to cover your body.  That is, a hat and long sleeve loose cotton

shirt.  (Although I did not mention it you will also need some pants

so as not to get arrested if you land out.)

How fast can dehydration begin?  It depends on many factors including

the pilot's general health.  However, as a rule, a person can start to

dehydrate within the first hour of flight under the right or should I

say wrong conditions.

DRINK FLUIDS!  You can carry the water in an inexpensive insulated 1

or 2 quart container.  You should carry it on each and every flight

you take.  How many times have you planned a short flight only to

discover that the lift was much better than anticipated and you stayed

up for considerably longer than anticipated?

DRINK FLUIDS!  Every club and commercial operation should have a rule

that water (or some other drink) must be carried on each and every


Finally, the embarrassing point-if I drink water I may have to go to

the bathroom and I have noticed there is not one in my sailplane. 

There are now products on the market that can help in this area.  This

magazine has advertisements for some of the products.  Check them out.



Frank Reid