Emergency Landing!

Summary of flying for Saturday 26 September 2015
Total Hours0h 15m
Best Height Gain250 feet
Total Flights1

I had been monitoring the forecast throughout the week and it was only by Friday night that it hinted that there would be enough North in the Easterly wind for Bo Peep to be on. Since the demise of Swanborough as a hang gliding site, there are very limited local options for a hangie to fly in an Easterly wind, especially for one that wishes to escape the hordes of paragliders! This was reinforced by reports I had heard of yet another mid-air between two paraglider pilots at the Devil's Dyke on the Friday; sadly one sustaining potential serious injuries!

Saturday morning soon came and I had expected weak east of north east winds to be forecast with the high pressure system that had settled over the UK. I was correct, however they were forecasted to increase mid to late afternoon and I saw an opportunity to finally get my feet off the ground once again.

I arrived at Bo Peep shortly before 1pm and with such favorable weather to all, the road leading to Bo Peep had turned into an extended car-park with the many visitors. Somehow I managed to find a parking space in the hangie car park.

High above I spotted a rigid glider, probably Cookie but the Bo Peep ridge was full of paragliders all scratching about at ridge height. David W. had just landed and Paul and Dave M. had rigged. I assisted Paul to launch then returned to my car to wait for the wind to pick up. The occasional thermal would tear through sucking up a handful of paragliders which was then followed by a lull.

By 3pm the wind had increased and all but the hardened paragliders had been grounded. In anticipation I had rigged and performed a self-hang check and made my way to the front of the hill. The wind blew slightly off to the east which made the takeoff area a little rough. I waited for a lull in the wind then took off.

For the wind strength it wasn't particularly buoyant and I missed my vario which I had to leave on the ground after breaking its Velcro fastener. I used my senses as best as I could to seek out lift and climbed to an estimated 300ft above takeoff. I hung a little more head down than usual as I had adjusted my harness the day before.

After I had zipped my legs up I wiggled in my harness to get comfortable and tried to raise my head a little. At that point I'm not too sure what exactly happened but I felt a pop and my body slipped downwards out of the harness. I grasped the control frame and looked down at my chest to see that the harness had become unzipped and the chest buckle had separated. I was only secured to my glider by my waist buckles and arms holes on the harness. I hung much lower than I had ever been before and felt very uncomfortable and unsecure! After quickly pulling myself onto the uprights and using the footplate of the harness to support myself I contemplated my options; top land, bottom land or attempt to re-fasten the buckle and harness in flight. I decided on a bottom landing!

I flew to the large field beneath the main Bo Peep bowl and for several moments forgot the predicament that I was in and admired the glide of the U2 160. It just kept going and going and I had to perform a series of S turns to ensure I didn't overshoot the field.

Despite the eventful flight the landing was a perfect no stepper. Safely grounded I began checking the harness and contemplated how I had got into this awful situation and have come to one of three likely causes:

  • 1. I simply forgot to fasten my chest buckle.
  • 2. The chest buckle was only partially secured.
  • 3. The chest buckle failed.

In the days that followed I tried to replicate the fault by hanging from my harness in my garage to no avail. This has led me to believe that option 1 or 2 was the most likely culprit but of course, I will never be sure.

Flying Log(s)

TypeHill Launch
DateSat, 26 Sep 2015 - 15:30
GliderWills Wing U2 160
SiteBo Peep
Duration00h 15m
CommentsRough take-off. Chest buckle and harness zip popped open in flight so had to do an emergency bottom landing.
Height Gain250 ft
Total Hours80h 40m

Total Flying Statistics

The total flying statistics up to and including 26 Sep 2015:

Total Hours80h 40m
Longest Flight1h 43m
Gliders Flown5
Unique Sites Flown20
Best Height Gain3,000 feet
Total Distance38.4 km
Furthest Flown13.4 km
Total Flights265
Hill Launches138
Winch Launches105
Aerotow Launches22