Key video failed to tape
in fatal glider crash

One of the videotape cameras recovered from the wreckage of this month's fatal glider crash in Mokuleia did not record the crash, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator said yesterday.

Nicole Charnon said the Schweizer SGS 2-32 owned by Sailplane Ride Adventures Inc., which does business as Soar Hawaii Sailplanes, had a tail-mounted camera to record the flight, and another one inside the cockpit to record passengers' reactions.

"The camera on the tail didn't record," she said.

The crash into a ridge above Dillingham Airfield killed pilot Tyler Nelson, 22. Passengers John Streich, 52, and his daughter Ashley, 12, of Gig Harbor, Wash., walked away with scrapes, bruises and sore muscles.

NTSB investigators in Washington, D.C., are still reviewing the voice recording and the video of the passengers taken by the cockpit camera.

Charnon does not determine the cause of the crash in her preliminary report.

The report said another pilot who was in the air near Nelson's glider before it crashed said she saw the glider spin twice to the left, then spin to the right before she lost sight of it behind some trees.

She told crash investigators her glider was in front of Nelson's, approximately 400 to 500 feet above the ridge, when she saw it "turn right (toward the ridge) and its nose come up slightly." She said the glider turned about 45 degrees to the right, then turned back to the left before entering into a spin to the left.

That account matches what Streich and his daughter told investigators.

They said they were circling around a hill and thought they were heading back to the airport when the glider crossed over a ridge to a valley to look at a waterfall. They said the glider turned right, then left, and also pitched up and down so they felt like they were falling.

Streich said the pilot announced that they were "going in" before their glider crashed and came to a rest upside down. They were 17 minutes into a scheduled 20-minute scenic flight.

Another glider pilot said the area where the glider crashed is known as the "toilet bowl" because of the unpredictable winds that flush up and down the mountainsides.

Nelson received his student pilot certificate March 16, his private pilot certificate with a glider rating March 24 and his commercial pilot certificate with a glider rating March 26.

According to his pilot's logbook, Nelson had 48.4 hours of flight time on the day before the accident, of which 31.2 hours were as pilot-in-command.

Charnon said it takes just 25 hours of flight time to get a commercial glider pilot license, including time spent as a student pilot and as a private glider pilot. In contrast, she said it takes 190 hours of flight time to get a commercial pilot license for powered aircraft if done through a flight school, and 250 hours if not done through a flight school.

"It's something that we are looking into," Charnon said. "I have been discussing it with the FAA and talking to the Soaring Society (of America)."

Nelson's funeral services were held April 15. His parents and an older sister are coming to Hawaii this weekend to take a glider flight and to spread his ashes.

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