Safety Tips and Training

On the one hand, we have been praised by our web site readers for our contributions to safety issues, but on the other hand, we are told by one of our competitors that “Safety does not sell” and, in addition, we are questioned as to why we enter that arena at all.
The answer to one is pure self interest and to the other is because of my own experience.
My first point is we are firmly convinced that in our beautiful sport there are too many accidents.  Every further accident swells the number of  people with misgivings.  (Which can include wives)  This all works against the expansion of our sport.  Besides which, a pilot who dies will never buy another glider.
Another thing is our own personal experience.  I barely came away with my life on one occasion and, on another occasion, a club member friend was killed on his 20th birthday.  In both instances, it was “pure pilot error” and, therefore, easily avoidable.  Don’t we have a moral obligation to do “something” after such an experience?

Safety begins in the head.

This is the conclusion and central message in the well known talk given by Bruno Gantenbrink which I strongly recommend reading to every pilot.  (It can be found on our web site.)
When you recognize that you should do more for your personal safety, then there is a lot of advice and references that we would gladly like to show you.  The following list  is not complete, of course, and some of the points you may not completely agree with.  Just take the listed procedures simply as suggestions which are based on our 25 years of building gliders.  Ask yourself critically how you could and should increase your personal safety.

 1. Use Checklists

Two years ago at 11 in the morning, the flight operations at Vinon, in southern France, were interrupted for 15 minutes while the widow of an accident victim laid flowers on the runway.  He started an aero tow with the elevator disconnected!
A unique situation?
On the Internet Usergroup, rec.aviation.soaring, during the summer of 1998, a pilot (Hannes Linke) related how he launched in his LS-6 with the elevator disconnected.  He was severely injured and commented later, “Shit happens…..”
Every manufacturer puts a checklist in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook which should be carefully used during assembly.  Put a copy of this checklist in the glider.  Go through this list slowly, point by point, without disturbance before each launch.  Never rely on a friend who has told you that he has already gone through the checklist.
I use a second checklist I made up for myself which is printed on a self adhesive label and stuck in the cockpit.  My checklist for the DG-808C looks like this (Sorry – it is in German of course):

One thing I know for sure:
When I go through this list before launching, I haven’t forgotten anything important and that’s what it’s all about.

2.  Read the Handbook Again

Do you think you know everything about your aircraft?  In spite of this, read the handbook carefully and completely through again on a rainy Sunday.  You’ll be amazed at the “new things” you will learn.
Especially motor gliders are technically highly complicated.  You should understand as much as possible and know what every switch and spring does in order that if something fails, you will react more quickly.

3.  Don’t Set a Task Which Is Too Ambitious For the Day

It often happens again and again that, on the basis of the weather forecast, one sets a task that one recognizes obviously won’t go even before the launch because the actual weather does not coincide with the forecast.  If you go ahead with the planned task anyway, you’re under additional stress that increases the danger.
Admittedly, motor glider pilots are at an advantage!

4.  Use the Seat belt Properly

You know already:  the seat belt should be very tight, the shoulder belts less tight.
If possible, do not use an extra cushion and, if you must, use an energy-absorbing foam cushion.

5.  If Possible, Use a Parachute With a Static Line

Glider pilots are generally not experienced parachutists.
If it is necessary to use a parachute, it is usually after a mid-air collision.  The pilot is usually in shock after this.  If the pilot does manage to get out, probably he won’t know his right from left. A parachute equipped with a static line will open every time regardless of the state of mind of the pilot.
If our NOAH  cockpit exit system is being used, the canopy must be released and the NOAH system activated.  Everything else after that is automatic if a parachute with a static line is used.

6. Be Prepared For a Rope Break on Every Launch

Whether the launch is a self-launch, an aero-tow, or a winch launch, you must be prepared at every point during the launch for what you would do if the launch system fails.  This is a purely mental exercise in which you go over in your mind what you can or may do at various heights if a premature termination of the launch occurs.  The size of the airport is very important in this connection.  Many airports are situated such that after the beginning of the launch “no chance” is available. And what do you do now?
In no case, after a launch failure under 250 ft, should a turn be attempted.  At such low altitudes, always land straight ahead – regardless of what lies ahead.  The worst accidents always happen during “sharp turns close to the ground.”
Airline pilots say out loud at the start the different speeds, for instance the speed of no return even with a motor failure.  Regardless of the launch method, you should do the same thing with regard to the altitude at which you can safely make an abbreviated pattern.

7. Finish a Self-Launch With Sufficient Altitude

When you self-launch with a motor glider, let the motor run until plenty of altitude has been reached.  Remember that maybe the retraction will not work immediately and that you will have a high sink rate.
There have been many accidents in which the pilot suddenly finds himself out of gliding range of the airport  and now has to find an out-landing place in difficult terrain and with the engine out.

8. Practice Emergency Procedures

Especially motor glider pilots should continually train and practice reacting properly to in-flight malfunctions.

  • Can you retract the propeller without using the automatic retraction system according to the handbook method using the propeller brake?
  • Can you do it without use of the manual propeller brake?
  • Can you start the engine without use of the starter motor?
  • Can you land the glider with motor running?
  • Do you know your glider so well that you are clear on the causes when something doesn’t function properly?

All glider pilots should be aware of and practice the following:

  • Practice slow flight and stalls, but with sufficient altitude!
  • How do you recognize an impending flow separation?

If you know that, you can avoid stalling which is especially important in the mountains.

9.  Use the oxygen system when it is required far enough ahead of time

For the sake of comfort, begin using oxygen at 10,000 feet when you are climbing rapidly at great heights.  Oxygen is absolutely necessary above 13,500 feet and must be used if you are going to be above 12,500 for more than a half hour.
Equip yourself with a bail-out bottle with at least a 10 minute supply of oxygen if you fly above 20,000 feet.
Please read about the use of oxygen carefully.

10. Decide Early Enough For an Outlanding

It happens over and over that pilots pass up a good out landing field because they are convinced  the next cloud or ridge will produce a thermal.  Seeing into the future is anything but an “exact science.”  In the mountains there are often wind conditions which are difficult to predict.  It suddenly becomes impossible to reach a landing field which the glide calculator said was within gliding range.
If an out landing threatens, look for a suitable field in plenty of time and stay near that field while you look for more thermals.  Remember that the decision height for restarting a motor is considerably higher than the decision height for finding an outlanding field.
Should the motor not start, then you must retract the motor as much as possible (perhaps with the emergency switch) and still have time to set up a good approach and landing.  Only attempt to start the motor at low altitudes when at the end of the attempt, a good landing field is available.

11. Always Make a Spot Landing

What do you have against making every landing as precisely as possible?  Make a kind of game out of it.  Even if the runway is as long as an airliner’s airport, pretend that it is an aircraft carrier and land with the correct speed directly on the chosen “spot”.
Then when you have to make an out landing on a short field, you have plenty of practice.
Especially motor glider pilots tend to make longer landings than necessary.  Of course, you in particular, never have to make an out landing.  True?
And naturally, you should always land with the gear down and locked.  That applies equally to plowed fields, water, and the back side of the moon!
Especially when you know ahead of time that the gear will be damaged, it is important to have it down because the energy absorbed by its collapse helps protect you from spinal column and cord damage.

12. Always launch with a full fuel tank.

Pete Williams from USA is adding:
If you get trapped low especially in high head wind conditions, a full tank is imperative.

13. Never execute engine trials without mounted wings!

Don’t ever and under no circumstances power up the engine w/o mounted wings!!!
On the one hand the fuselage will fall to a side and secondly we have heard about pilots being chopped into pieces by the propeller due to its invisibility when in motion.
And never run your engine without a propeller. The pump will inject too much fuel for the demand and the normal gas throttle is not effective. This causes a runaway in revs ending in an exploding engine. The only way to stop this is is with the fuel tap. Better is never to try this.

Do you know any other safety tips?

Then write to us please so that we can complete the above list.

– friedel weber –
translated by David Noyes, Ohio

Here you find “officially issued” warning advice from the manufacturer:


All sailplanes, especially those with retractable power plants, are very complex technical devices. If you don’t use yours as it is intended and within the certified operating limitations or if you fail to carry out proper maintenance work, it may harm your health or place your life in danger.

Prior to flying the aircraft read all manuals carefully and regard especially all warnings, caution remarks and notes given in the manuals.

  • Never take off without executing a serious pre-flight inspection according to the flight manual!
  • Never take-off with a motor glider  without checking the max. engine RPM and the ignition circuits!
  • Always respect the relevant safety altitudes!
  • With a motor glider never rely completely on the engine extending and starting.
    Plan your flight path so that you are always able to carry out a safe outlanding if necessary.
    Be aware that with the engine extended but not running the rate of sink increases remarkably. This means that with a motor glider you have to decide earlier for an out landing than with a pure sailplane.
  • Self launch only if you are sure that with  an engine failure during the initial climb there is the possibility to execute a safe out landing or to return to the airfield.
  • Respect the stall speeds and always fly with a safety margin above the stall speed according to the flight conditions, especially at low altitudes and in the mountains.
  • Use only the types of fuel and oil for your motor glider as specified in the flight manual.
  • Use only the battery chargers as specified in the flight manual.
  • Don’t execute yourself any work on the control system except for greasing.
  • Repairs and maintenance work should only be accomplished by the manufacturer or at certified repair stations rated for this type of work. A list of stations which have experience with DG aircraft may be obtained from DG Flugzeugbau.
  • Even if no annual inspections are required in your country, have your aircraft checked annually, see maintenance manual section 2.
DG Group Website