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Flying High: Power Lines

Postby Rick Masters » Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:54 pm

Image
All power lines can kill you. The ones with lower voltage can electrocute you. The ones with higher voltage can set you on fire. Not just your harness or sail. You. Your meat.

What it's like
The hang glider struck and was caught in high voltage transmission lines. "I heard it when it hit and then I heard the guy screaming. He was screaming and screaming for help. He was still alive when I went for help." The motion of the pilot brought a leading edge into contact with another wire. "Maybe if he had stayed still, they could have got him down. I saw it when [the powerlines] arced across." The pilot's harness then caught on fire. He separated from the glider and fell to the ground in flames, setting nine acres of brush on fire. Firefighters had to extinguish the fire before rescuers could reach the body.

What to do
Understand the deadly nature of power lines well enough to react instantly. Anything is better. A stall is better. A downwind landing is better. Landing on a roof is better. Landing in a turn is better. Striking a solid object is better. Crashing into a tree is better. The glider is expendable. Engineer a crash you can survive by breaking as much of the glider as you can before your body hits the ground. Flying into a gap too narrow for the glider, like between trees or poles, cars or walls, is a good way to diminish kinetic energy and minimize potential injury.

Survive the crash
Prime yourself for instant response.
Know in advance what you are going to do to survive a roof landing. Be cool. Flare aggressively. Grab something on the roof.
Know in advance what you are going to do to survive an impact with a wall. Be cool. Try to drag a wingtip or yaw so a leading edge strikes the wall first. Flare aggressively. Wrap your arms around a downtube. You want the impact to throw your body up into the sail.
Know in advance how to crash downwind. Be cool. Flare aggressively. Wrap your arms around a downtube. You want the impact to throw your body into the sail.
Know in advance how to crash in a turn. This can be necessary when your landing spot is surrounded by power lines and your only choice is to spiral into it. As you near the ground, flatten your turn. Do not slip. Be cool. Flare aggressively just before the lower wingtip digs in. Wrap your arms around a downtube. You want the impact to throw your body into the sail.

Caught in strong wind
If you are being blown backwards toward power lines - be cool. Face the wind, speed up and rotate to create maximum drag. This will increase your rate of descent. Look behind you. Will you be pushed into the power lines like this? If so, you must immediately turn at minimum sink and cross the lines, then continue the descent on the other side.

How to better your chances
Nature abhors straight lines. Look for poles and towers. You will see them first. Make mild S-turns as you descend, this will cause the poles and towers to move against their background. Fly at a medium speed that gives you instant maneuvering response. Constantly run alternative flight paths through your mind. Do not commit. Be prepared to react instantly. Know what you are going to do if you are forced off your approach.

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Rick Masters
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Re: Flying High: Power Lines

Postby Rick Masters » Thu Apr 16, 2015 4:58 pm

How many people have been executed in the electric chair in the US by state and federal authorities. 121

How many hang gliders pilots have died by electrocution in power lines? 8
John Purviance 1976
Peter Rogers, Greg Scrabut 1978
An Australian 1981
Dan Racanelli (rescuer) 1986
Mark Rose 1987
A Brit 2002
Kevin O'Brien 2013

How many soaring parachutists have been electrocuted in power lines? 10
Valery Dvizov 2003
A Brit, a German, a Swede 2006
A Pole 2008
A Brazilian, a Columbian 2009
A Swiss 2010
A Spaniard 2011
A Brazilian 2014

These are only the ones I know about. I have left out a bunch of powered PG and HG electrocutions.
But if we look just at freeflight electrocutions, we find a similar number of deaths from pilots attempting to avoid power lines and stalling, grazing and losing control, or falling from power lines. We can't do anything to improve the numbers for people dying by getting caught in the wires or falling out with collapsed paragliders, but some hang glider pilots might be saved if they can improve their technique of surviving the subsequent crash or improve their observational skills.
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Re: Flying High: Power Lines

Postby Bill Cummings » Thu Apr 16, 2015 7:36 pm

Rick,
About 25 to 30 years ago a Skyline Skydog Club member from Duluth Minnesota went to a waste rock mining dump (man made hill and ridge 200’ high) to launch at a site near West Eveleth Minnesota.
I think his name was Jeff Fox. If I remember correctly he worked at WDIO TV station in Duluth.
He launched from the mine dump and got gusted to his right and flew into the power lines that fed all of the town of West Eveleth.
Before he tripped out the power lines at the breakers at the substation which cut all of the power to West Eveleth his maroon t shirt burned off of his body and the white plastic coating on his flying wires melted and dripped into a puddle of white plastic on the ground below him. He spent quite a long time in the Duluth Miller Dwan (SP?) Burn Center. They had to do much skin grafting and after that he had an irregular heart beat. I don’t think he ever flew again.
The date might be in one of my log books.
I could dig for more information if you like.
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Re: Flying High: Power Lines

Postby Rick Masters » Thu Apr 16, 2015 9:06 pm

Sure, Bill, I don't have that one in the database. PM me any accident data so we don't drift off topic and I'll research it.
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Re: Flying High: Power Lines

Postby Bill Cummings » Thu Apr 16, 2015 10:07 pm

Ok Rick, I'm on it. I'll pm you with information on this event.
I'll call my Sky Dog members and tap their memory banks for information that will help fill in your data base. :thumbup:
(Thank god for you keep up the good work.)
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