Episode 193- “The Scariest Flight of my Life” with Nikolay Lipko

There are times in a pilots career when things do not go according to plan. This is one of those times. Nikolay Lipko had a rather unusual (but not unheard-of) event flying in Chamonix, France that thankfully ended quite well thanks to a successful reserve deployment. As with all incidents, there is hindsight and modifications to how to take to the skies. And if anything else, this story is a case study for why SIV training is so important. In this instance your host and our guest don’t see eye-to-eye on the cause and effect but the take-aways are valuable. Listen and give our chat some thought.

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Transcript

Speaker 1 (0s): Hi there everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Cloudbase Mayhem. My guest today is Nico Lipko. He is a Ukrainian Russian born pilot who's currently living in Chaman and also a mountain guide. And he reached out to me a few months ago with the subject line The Scariest Flight of my Life. And I thought, oh, interesting. I'll have to look into this. I've been doing some of this fear injury work with Jessica Love, who's working on a thesis on this. And so I read the email and found it quite interesting and got 'em on the show.

And we recorded this the first time about a month ago now, and the recording didn't work on, on something wrong with my platform where I record all these podcasts. And so we, we thought we had it and we didn't. So I had to reach out again, and we did it again. And because we've done it twice, I've had quite a bit of time to think about this. I don't wanna give it all away, but Nico's scary, Flight in Shaman was on a quite a, quite a boisterous day. He has been flying five years.

He was flying at high end e n b and had a massive frontal and really hard inflation. And on the reinflation, the A lines A one s at the Mayon popped the one line which leads to four lines. And so it left the, his aircraft in a very unstable situation, which resulted in the toss. And so you'll hear all about that. But I'd like the takeaway here, and I think I, as you'll hear in the show, I try to remain pretty neutral.

Nico has, is of the opinion that it's a fault with the wing and a fault to the manufacturer. And I read the manufacturer's response to this, which I thought was pretty reasonable. And, you know, these wings are load tested and that's, that, that's where a wing is qualified. And we often put stress, not often, but there are times on really big days where we could put stress on it beyond the load testing. And normally that works out, sometimes it doesn't.

And I, in the show, again, I point out a couple cases that I know personally where it didn't, and I, I, I just, I don't, I have to say I don't fully agree with Nico's takeaway here that this was a fault of the manufacturer. I don't think it was. I think if there was, you know, if this was a problem, we would see this kind of thing over and over again, and it would be a recall. So anyway, I just wanted to put out there that I think the takeaway here should be that, you know, we need to check our gear, that gear, gear failures can, and thankfully not likely happen, but they, they can happen and it might happen.

And we need to be thinking about what's our plan B and c and D when things go wrong. So it's a great story. It all worked out well. And you know, from both of our perspective is it's al always just speculation. We can't prove one way or the other is the manufacturer can't as well. They took the lane back, they, they low tested the other side, it passed. And I, again, I just, I don't think this is necessarily leads to a manufacturing fault.

I did reach out to 7 77 to get their reply to this. You'll hear I read their response in this, and I haven't heard anything by the time we, we put the show out. So I haven't gotten a response. If I do, then I'll put that out into a future show. But you be the judge. It's a fun story and there's a lot of takeaways here. Enjoy. Cheers, Nico, take two buddy. And we're gonna try this again.

Welcome to the Cloudbase Mayhem. The first recording unfortunately didn't work out, so we'll have a plenty of practice this time around, but welcome to the show and, and you sent me an email quite a while back that said it was The Scariest Flight of my Life. And I thought, oh, okay, that sounds interesting. You know, we've been, I've been working with Jessica Love, I don't know if you've heard of her, but she's been a paraglider a long time and spent a bunch of time in beer and she's done a lot of work for her thesis on fear injuries.

And it doesn't sound like you really had a fear injury from this one, but let's give the audience a little bit of background on, on who you are and we'll, we'll stay out of the politics like you mentioned last time. But you're, you're, you've got an interesting background and now you're living in Shaman and you're crazy about flying.

Speaker 2 (4m 53s): Yeah. Hi Gavin, thanks for having me again. So yeah, I learned a lot from this podcast and I hope the listeners will learn something from this one as well. So yeah, I moved to France six years ago, and this is about the time when I started flying. So I started flying like one year after I moved here. And it's, it's kind of started to become more and more my like, well, not the primary sport, but one of the things I'm like super passionate about.

At the beginning it was just like, yeah, simple, like fly of flying. I, I didn't even consider at some point I would progress to anything like serious pilot, pilot wise, but like every year I flew more and more. Last year it was 250 hours, so I also started, it was a healthy year. Yeah, it was, it was, it was a nice one. And also was like a nice season in dials.

So I flew some big 200 K triangles. I also do climate fly because I'm a mountain guide. It's actually also like a career change because before moving to France, I worked in software and hardware engineering for many years, and at some point I was just fed up with living in a big city with all the stress and traffic and everything. So I moved to a tiny village in France to, yeah, to follow my passion for, for the mountains.

And paragliding became one of the things that really compliments everything nicely.

Speaker 1 (6m 47s): Was it initially was the initial attraction just getting down because you're a mountain guide and spending a lot of time at altitude. I mean, that's kind of why the sport was invented back in the day it was to basically get down. Was that, was that It was, when I first saw Paragliding, I had no idea you could fly anywhere. I thought you just launched and you flew down. That's, I didn't understand that there, you could fly cross country. Was that kinda the same for

Speaker 2 (7m 11s): You? Yeah, it's a good, good question because you know, like at the very beginning I had like no clue about flying even more than that. I was super terrified of flying in general. So before I tried Para for the first time, I think, yeah, it was 2012, I was so much afraid of like just taking a plane Flight, you know, I would stay like glued to my wow seat for, for, for the whole time. And you know, like when I went to Chile and Argentina, like I spent 13 hours just like staring at the window and yeah, no, no sleep on this transatlantic Flight.

And then in 2012, it was actually August 19th, 2012, I remember the day because it's one of those like very rare days when it was possible to top land on the summit of m bla. So I booked, I booked a tandem Flight in Shaman, and we just, you know, like flew around for half an hour and it felt completely awesome, you know, like I wasn't scared, like, like after one minute into the Flight I had like zero fear and it just felt so nice and supportive, you know, like, like with the wind and everything, it, it felt absolutely awesome.

And after we end it, the tandem pilot, he asked me like, do you want to go to the summit of Ola? I, I, I thought he was joking, you know, like, because like how, how it's possible, how, I mean like how can you start at 2000 meters and then like fly to 4,800 meters? It, it felt like, like, like a joke. But he was seriously, he was like, he was totally serious. So he was like, you can pay me 600 years and we go there. I was like, no way. And I, I refused because I didn't have like enough cash with me and I wasn't warm up for the occasion.

But yeah, it felt like really awesome, like how could it be that with like this piece of, you know, like lightweight fabric, you can actually like travel distances. So initially when I started I thought like, wow, it's just like so cool, you know, like to be just flying around, like flying just this, just the feeling of flying. This is what was something attractive. And also when I started, so it took me six years to actually book a course in Shaman to learn how to fly on my own.

So it was 2018, five years ago when I actually did the course. And initially I wasn't one of the best students in the group. And you know, like the instructor, I, I could feel like the instructor's attitude, you know, like I wasn't one of the top guys because some people were just natural. They would just, you know, go and try their reverse launch and it would be like all like, like they were doing this for, for forever. And for, for me, it was really hard to learn.

So it was completely like something I didn't feel natural because for example, I've been skiing for 30 years and para legend was something that I learned from scratch and I was already like an adult, you know? So it, yeah, it, it just harder to learn when you're older. Yeah, it's, it's such, such a difference because I have a daughter and she started skiing when she was less than two years old. And you know, like children, they just pick up everything.

So Yeah, natural. Yeah, yeah, totally. For, for me it was really hard, but like after one year it was even less than, than a year of flying. One day I took off from Shani and then I flew like 40 kilometers and came back and I didn't even plan that, you know, because I didn't have like any instrument apart from a tiny acoustic barrier. So I only flew like the terrain that I knew back then. So no, like gps, nothing.

And then I came back, I was freezing cold and yeah, I was literally shivering because you know, like after two hours it was end of March, so at 3000, like 200 meters, and I only had like lightweight soft shell and very thin jacket. So yeah, I was freezing. And also like, without, without Port Harness, it was just like open harness. I was flying. But it felt so awesome because they were like, glider planes flying below me and I was like, wow, this is, I mean, like, yeah, it's, it's, it's, it's, yeah, it's crazy.

And then I got hooked, you know, like into exif line, and then one day I saw it was February, I think, and I saw tracks which were going to 4,000 meter peak, which is not, not far from, from the lift. And I thought I could do it just like in a day. And yeah, I took my glider, which back then, like with all the kit was maybe 15 kilos and I just climbed this one and I flew down.

And so this is how I got another passion is like climbing stuff and then flying off. And since then I did 24, 4,000 meter like takeoffs in dubs. And there are, there are more to go. So we have 80, 82, 4,000 meter peaks here. So yeah, I have bunch of things to do. And since last year I started doing tandems, so I did a tandem course and I just received my tandem qualification last month.

So it's, it's another way to, to share, you know, like some wonderful moments in the air.

Speaker 1 (12m 54s): And is your, is your main source of income now, the, the, the guiding with the climbing guiding, or is it still software engineering?

Speaker 2 (13m 2s): It's kind of in between because you know, like with my certification, I have to validate it in France and it's, well, it's time consuming because France is great country. I mean, it would have been just like a paradise if it wasn't so democratized. Like there is a lot of paperwork and everything is is super slow. So even though I received my like guide license last year to validate it in France, yeah, it takes, it takes time. So it's still like in this transition period.

So in order to be able to work in France, I still need to get the French equivalent. And so my license is valid everywhere, but France because yeah, this is, this is, this is how it's works. So no, like in Italy it's valid in Switzer zone, in it's valid like everywhere else. Yeah, it's valid. I mean like it's international license, so Yeah. Yeah. But here I need to right to get a special paper.

Speaker 1 (14m 2s): And before we get to your incident, just a couple things I wanted to hit on. Yeah. The first is you've done either quite a bit or some SIV with, with Fabian and, and Mallon, correct?

Speaker 2 (14m 13s): Yeah, that's, that's correct. So far I did five seed courses. Yep,

Speaker 1 (14m 19s): Five. Wow, that's great. Fantastic. You're kind of doing one a year,

Speaker 2 (14m 22s): Why one a year on average? Yeah, and this is what I plan to, to do. Great.

Speaker 1 (14m 27s): Yeah. Yeah. Good for you. And you said you, you said we skipped over something, but you, you said you were in a big city and you were, you were kind of tired of it. You wanted to get out. What, where, where was that? Was that in Russia?

Speaker 2 (14m 37s): Yeah, that was in Moscow, or that was in Moscow? That was in Moscow. So because like, okay, this is the Take two and the listeners don't have the idea about my background, so I'm yeah, like half Russian, half Ukrainian. So I have Ukrainian dad and Russian mom, and this is like, you know, another living proof why this war is like, yeah, it is just nonsense. And it should be, should be stopped. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (15m 5s): Do where are your parents now?

Speaker 2 (15m 7s): My dad is in France and my mom unfortunately is still in Russia.

Speaker 1 (15m 13s): And I, we didn't touch on this last time at all, but what's, what's happening with her? Where, where, where is she and is she, what's, what's her take on that? Give, give us the 62nd, what's her take on this?

Speaker 2 (15m 28s): You mean like on the, well, on politics or,

Speaker 1 (15m 32s): Well, how does she feel about what's going on? Yeah. Not, not enough so much, even politics, but just I'd, I'd love to, you know, I think people, you know, we only get what's what we see in the media. Yeah. And we only get, depending on what e echo chamber you're in, is the media we get. I, I'd just be curious from a local, from someone who lives there and is in Moscow, what, what does your mom think about all of this?

Speaker 2 (15m 57s): I can tell you that so far I know only two people who actually would support like this whole crazy stuff happening and none of my friends really? Wow. Like, no, no one really supports that. And especially, you know, like of course it comes to specific demographics and like education and yeah, general like exposure, you know, like to, to the, the news I would say and like general background. But yeah, I would, I would say that on average, people don't support that.

I mean, it's just, yeah, it's, it shouldn't be happening, you know, like in 21st century we should have worse like this. It's, it's crazy. It's not normal. For example, on my Mountain Guide course, I did it in Kurgestan and most of the like aspirants, they were coming from, they were from Russia, they were from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kurgestan, and like, never ever we had any issues on like the nationalistic, you know, like ground, I would say.

I mean, yeah, I have so many friends and relatives on both sides. And of course like no one wants this. Yeah, it's obvious because, you know, like my, my friends from Ukraine, those with whom I did guide the training now instead of, you know, like working in the mountains, they are like at war. And this is, this is plain role

Speaker 1 (17m 31s): Madness. It is madness. Crazy. Yeah. Well, I, I feel for your mom and your friends and must be a very tricky situation for you. You know, the, and as so many are, you know, both citizenships, it's, you know, there, there should be one, one happy family up there. It's crazy. Yeah,

Speaker 2 (17m 49s): That would be

Speaker 1 (17m 50s): Great. We see it. So that would be great. Yeah. Mean, well, maybe, maybe someday. Well, let's talk about your incident pretty, it it was scary from, yeah, we've already talked about this. We'll do it again, but pretty scary incident with a pretty, pretty happy outcome I would say. But take us through what happened that day.

Speaker 2 (18m 12s): Okay, so it was last year, almost exactly a year ago, that year I changed my harness and I changed my glider. So I had a brand new glider trip seven R three, but we can talk later about it. And I think that was the Flight number 13. So I took off from Shaman on a fairly strong day, but nothing crazy.

I mean, like the thermals were maybe five second, five, five meters per second. So it was strong, but not really like out outrageously strong. And then like one after one hour into the Flight, I had a collapse, so I was like below two MOUs clouds and I decided to move from one to another. There, there was obviously like some, some, some turbulence in between, like some, some sink.

And I had the, I had a collapse, which I reopened and saw like, well, I mean like pop pumped the brakes, like, and on reopening, like there was a very severe shock and like it felt immediately that something went wrong. So like looking up, I could see, you know, because like first I looked up, I could see like the, the collapse opening. And so I thought, okay, fine, like no problem, like fine further, but then like the glider didn't, didn't feel right.

So I look up again and I could see like there is a line in the ear, which is not attached to anything. And turned out that on this reinflation, the A one line snapped at mayon. So it means that I lost four attachment points in the middle of the glider because the way the glider is designed, so like the a one line goes from me, then it splits in two, and then it splits in two another time.

So I lost four attachment points. And at this point, like the glider became irrecoverable, so it was going between stalling and parachute, so like hands up and it would go like parachuted, just like falling down. And if I touch a little bit of brake, it would stall immediately. So my dissent was maybe around 10 meters per second, according to the GPS track log.

Speaker 1 (20m 53s): And any, any rotation?

Speaker 2 (20m 56s): Well, it was spinning. It, it, it was, it was, it was unstable obviously because, you know, like it was like in the middle, but still like to, it was the left side. So yeah, there was, there was some spinning, but I, I, I tried nothing,

Speaker 1 (21m 10s): Nothing violent. It was more, it was more just coming down really fast. It wasn't,

Speaker 2 (21m 13s): It, it was coming down, obviously it was hard to maintain the course, you know, like I could, I, I tried to maintain the course as much as possible, but the problem, as I said, like the moment I touched the brakes, it would just like stall and like we would go into backf fly. And so yeah, it was not, not really like super stable because like even in backf fly, like normally the gliders, they're not like super stable. You can try to adjust your course in the Yeah, in like using the weight shift, but still, yeah, it was kind of like a bit shaky and I was at 800 meters above the ground, so I decided not to deploy my reserve immediately because thanks to Fabian, I, I remember this story that Fabian told us during the first SIV I did with fly about the guy who deployed his reserve at 2000 meters in an sea.

And then with the valley wind and the strong thermals, he started his Flight under his reserve. So he actually crossed couple of couple valleys from what I remember, and with the rescue services, following him on the ground, watching him in the air. And it must have been like very scary experience because you know, like when you are under reserve and you have like zero control on like what's happening, it's, yeah, it's, it's seriously scary. So I remember this story and I decided that I would wait because also, like in this area above Pasi, there are many cliff faces.

So if you actually get dragged into one of these faces under your reserve, yeah, it's gonna be ugly. And in about one minute I lost maybe 500 meters or so, and then I decided it was time to, to throw. So I deployed the reserve, killed the, the glider as as much as possible. And yeah, basically this was time to prepare for impact because e even though I had steerable reserve, like steerable square, so it doesn't give you like much steerability, I would say, with only one and a half to one glide ratio.

And then I hit the ground really, really hard because initially when I just deployed, it was super thermic and I was actually going like up or staying at the same altitude just with the strength of thermals. So it's possible to see on my track log, I was in zeros for some time and then I started to go down like pretty quick, like five to six meters per second. And I was with a fairly good margin on my reserve, like a hundred kilos out of hundred 25.

So like, so

Speaker 1 (24m 13s): The, the the, so the reserve was rated for 1 25? Yeah, yeah. And you're all up weight was a hundred. Yeah,

Speaker 2 (24m 18s): Exactly. That's fine. Yeah. So like, like 20 to 25% margin is like what's recommended by most heavy instructors. Sure. And unfortunately I couldn't really land on my feet and do P l F because I was still in some rotation when I was going down. And I think this was coming from like thermic activity, you know, like, because it was really thermic in this area. And then later when I was on the ground I could hear like the thermals coming in and like the wind noise was really, really strong.

So I guess it was just like sw effect of, of the thermal that was puting me in some sort of like rotation and lee

Speaker 1 (25m 1s): Side of the thermal or something or

Speaker 2 (25m 3s): I, I don't really think that it was like a lee side because you know, like, like the thermal

Speaker 1 (25m 7s): Space? No, not, no, not Lee side, but lee side of the thermal potentially, you know, you sound like you were in pretty sinky air. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Around very thermic conditions. Yeah,

Speaker 2 (25m 17s): That, that's, that's exactly the case. And so I hit the ground like pretty hard. And unfortunately it was with my back, even though I managed it, like to exit the port, and I was in vertical position with reserve attached to my shoulders. So like everything was, was okay in terms of preparation for, for the impact, but it was just a bit not enough luck in terms of the area where I landed, it was fairly steep slope. And also because I was in rotation, I couldn't control how I land and that's how I landed on my back, probably like the worst possible scenario.

And I was really scared for my limbs, you know, like, yeah, like the, the, the first, the first idea, oh no, I don't want to be paralyzed because yeah, obviously, you know, like movement is absolutely essential part of everyone why everyone's life. But yeah, for, for mountain guide, it's, it is even more essential. So I was really scared, but luckily I could move my, my legs, I could move my hands. So that was okay.

But of course there was like severe shock with like five to six meter per second decent rate. And another thing as I was going down under my reserve, why, why I actually say that it was like the Scariest Flight for like, for two reasons. Because first of all, I had ace surgery just five months before that. So you know, like with five months post postop, you are still not, not really solid like to, to take any sort of significant impact because you can gringer the, the knee.

And the second thing is because just two or three weeks before the accident, I repacked my reserve myself. And so I thought, okay, so if it doesn't work now, then I'm dead because there is no, no other option because like the glider is not flyable anymore. And I only had one reserve, even though I had a harness with two reserve compartments was like a brand new harness. I had only seven flights on it, but I didn't install the second reserve just yet because I thought, well, okay, it's like still beginning of the season, you know, like it's nothing crazy, but it's kind of hard to imagine that at some point your glider will just break in the air, especially a brand new one.

So after I, yeah, so after I impacted the ground, I thought that I'm fine and I actually called the rescue services straight away because they might have received like calls from like some people telling that there was a reserve deployment. So I called the, the rescue services, I told them that I was fine and there is no need to rescue me. And then I called my friends because, you know, as I, as I said, I was five months post-op, so I wasn't supposed to carry 20 kilo backpack downhill.

So I called my friends to come and help me bring the pack down, and then I started to pack everything. And by the time I finished packing, I had very, very strong pain in my lower back and in my abdominals, and it was getting worse and worse. And so I was like, oh no, I, I, I hope you know, like it's not like some sort of internal injury. So I called, called the rescue services again, and I asked them what would they suggest?

And so they put me on the line with the doctor, and the doctor started to ask like multiple questions, like where the pain is like, like given like the grade one to 10 and all this stuff. And then they told me like, there is a risk of internal bleeding, like according to my answers. And so they would rather come and pick me up and bring me to the hospital. So then the helicopter came again, like heads off to French rescue.

I, I think these guys, they're, they're just amazing, you know, like, because they landed the helicopter in a tiny opening. I mean like, it didn't land completely because it was steep slow, but like the rotor blades, they were like one and a half or two meters away from the trees and it was such a thermic days and you know, like because, and it was windy and it's, it's crazy. Like their, their, their skill is absolutely amazing. So thanks a lot to these guys. They brought me to the hospital and there I did like bunch of checks spent there, a few hours in an emergency room and yeah, recklessly, nothing was broken, just like severe shock.

And I had a lot of neck pain and lower back pain for the next few weeks. But yeah, I had to rehab it for a bit, but nothing, nothing broken.

Speaker 1 (30m 28s): Must have, must have had some pretty serious internal bruising and stuff that, that stuff takes a long time to

Speaker 2 (30m 34s): Yeah. To

Speaker 1 (30m 35s): Get over. Yeah. Yeah. Several things that strike me is, is quite fortunate is just having this accident in Passy and not in, you know, a million other places in the world where it would've true you wouldn't have had the helicopter option. And, and I mean it is quite a cliffy area there. I can see how you were hesitant to throw. And so you've had a year to think about this in a year to kind of unpack it all.

Before we get into your thoughts on the, the glider itself, anything you've changed since this incident in terms of gear preparation, training, anything? I, I don't know. Is there anything you wish you would've known a year ago that, you know now that would've potentially changed the outcome? Although the outcome in, in many ways was very good, but yeah, is there anything you would've done differently?

Speaker 2 (31m 39s): So yeah, I, I I, so is there

Speaker 1 (31m 41s): Anything you do differently now?

Speaker 2 (31m 43s): Yeah, there are like some things that I changed and some things that I, I would say I would keep doing the way I did before because I think this is what saved my bacon that day. So what I would change from now on and like something that I started doing like a year ago from now on, I would only fly the equipment of the top brands. I mean like everyone decides what the top brand in paralyzing is, but I just think that, you know, like some companies they devote more attention to quality control than, than the others because even like the smaller companies than some, they sometimes make outstanding products which are really good and which in certain categories can outperform the others.

But I think the quality control is just not the same. And like overall, you know, like amount of resources and time spent for r and and g yeah, it's something that finally might affect the overall quality and safety of the product. What I would also do, I would say that I would try to minimize flying without reserve. I mean, in some countries, like flying without reserve is illegal, but here in France, like you can see this fairly often, especially for those guys who do hike and fly or climate fly, you know, like flying in string harness without reserve, without a helmet, I definitely can't endorse this sort of flying.

But at the same time for climate and Flight projects, especially for like high attitudes, you know, like bringing a reserve is, is really cumbersome and it takes not just like the weight because like modern reserve normally weights like around one, one kilo if it's like the lightweight one, but it's just like the volume. And then with the volume you're getting a bigger pack, it's more difficult to move around. So for climb and fly, i, I still do some projects without reserve, but for hike and fly, I would never even consider like doing that without reserve because for climb and fly in general, you just go somewhere in more or less calm conditions.

So you don't do it like in crazy ur ideology, for example, with stronger winds or with like potential th effect or like in the east side, or you don't pull crazy maneuvers without, without reserve. But for a general like hike and fly, I don't see a point why would someone save one kilo of weight?

Speaker 1 (34m 33s): Yeah, I don't, I don't think I agree with you a hundred percent. I don't think this is where we try to save weight. I mean it's, it's, it's been an interesting kind of mental exercise for me. Even with the X Alps, with the four campaigns there, you know, my reserve is, I don't have the 20% that you're talking about, you know, I, I am taking on automatically a lot more risk just by flying a reserve that's incredibly light. And you know, I think my reserve is 980 grams and so, you know, I'm gonna be coming down and this is in good air.

I'm gonna be coming down at least five meters per second, if not six. And that's definitely where you can start snapping stuff. So yeah, I mean I think maybe that's justified in, in something where you're participating in a race like that where you know you're talking metric tons over the course of the race that you're carrying and every little gram counts, but you've certainly gotta be willing to accept the, the trade offs. And that's a whole nother discussion with with lightweight gear, you know, the, there, there are definitely a lot of compromises we're we're accepting there and I think we, we need to frame it that way, that you're accepting more risk that when you're flying lightweight gear, just, it's just, it's automatic, you know, it's physics.

Yeah. But, okay, good stuff. I mean I, why I really kind of liked your email and the reason I've wanted to talk about this is it just we don't hear about gear failures in our sport. It's usually, you know, our heads that make the mistake, you know, flying conditions that are beyond our ability, flying on bad days, you know, just not like Santa Croci says, you know, you fly the good days and so you're, we're automatically, you know, by flying better equipment.

The reason the accidents have not gone down like Russ Ogden says is because it's, it allows us to fly in, in harsher and harsher conditions. We can fly in more wind and wind is dangerous. You have Lee and all this stuff. But in this case it was a, it was a gear failure, which is really interesting. I wanna read triple seven's response. We received the glider with broken a one line. The pilot stated that the line broke after heavy frontal collapse flying in strong conditions. You've just confirmed that we examined the line and found the line has the right stitching according to our production files.

The tread material is as per production files, we used the line on the other side and performed a line break test. The line broke exactly at the same value as the line sample certified Eric Turquoise is the test center in Switzerland. This complies with the theory that the materials and labor work have been done as it has been done on the certified line and load and shock test wing possible conclusions the way the line broke shut the shows that it has been a subject to a massive load higher than the one that has performed for the certification of the lines and links for load and shock tests. This kind of abnormal thing can happen where the load distribution ends up on one rather than two single points in the, in a moment in time.

There is always a possibility of micro damage prior to the event, but this would be speculation at this point. So that'd be sand or salt water or something like that. Since the glider and its manufacturing is up to the point of the cereal wing, 77 is not taking any further actions from here. How does that response sit with you?

Speaker 2 (37m 53s): Well, obviously I was happy, especially because I paid for brand new glider. And the second reason is because that was my second triple 77 glider. I flew the night before that for like 200 something hours and I did my first bigger cross-country flights with, with the night I flew my first a hundred K on the night and with r yeah, I was really disappointed to see that because you know, obviously after an accident like that I would never ever have the trust to fly under this wing again, even if it's like up to specification or whatever.

I just just believe that there is some design issue with this particular model. And the reason I believe that is because I saw a guy on para gladin forum who did SIV, I think it was in EA and during practice in the frontal collapse, he had also a one line snapping on his R three and in his case it didn't break at the mayo, it broke at the glider attachment.

But anyway, you see like there are two gliders of the same model and they have some issue on frontal collapse. So to me this is something to, to think about and to start thinking that this is not coincidence. So I think in the case of, and in this, in this case 7 77 should have done more inspection and more, more tests maybe, I mean just like flying like maybe not, not this particular wing because I actually think that like this particular wing is just exactly as, as all other routes out there, but some sort of design like decision maybe, you know, like the combination of like the way how they, they split the lines and how the way is distributed combined with the fact that r has extremely small openings on the leading edge.

And this leads to the shock inflation at some point. I, I don't know because I think I had like a smaller collapse on the R before, before that, like maybe a week or two before that. And also it felt like the reopening was a little bit harsh even though the collapse wasn't like a big one. And so I, I I, I don't know, it just feels that something is wrong with like particular design decision on this glider. I, I don't want to say like triple seven make like bed gliders because I actually think like they make a very nice, very nice gliders and I was very happy owner of like knight and I know many people who flew like queen and so on, but like this particular model I believe has some issue and they just don't want to acknowledge that because if they do, they would have to recall all the gliders of this model on the market.

And this might be like yeah, really, really financially taxing on the company.

Speaker 1 (41m 9s): So I, I want to be clear here for the listener that this is obviously all conjecture. We, you know, we don't have, you know, you or I don't have proof, we don't have backup, we don't have, I I literally know nothing about triple seven, so I I I can't even weigh in here, but I'm curious if you have, did you, you talk about your incident with Mallon and or Fabian and or Fabian. Did they have, what was their opinion?

Speaker 2 (41m 38s): Yeah, of course I talked with them because actually after this accident I had SIV in three weeks after the accident. So I, I bought another glider and did SIV just after that, which was really like confidence inspiring, you know, like, and which was great way to come back to flying. And both Fabian and Malam, they told me that they have never ever encountered anything like that during the SIV courses that they run.

Fabian, Fabian had the similar accident on a prototype glider that he was flying for one of the companies, but it's completely different, you know, like flying a prototype, which yeah, this, this can happen. I mean probably many people saw this footage on Instagram or YouTube where the glider rips like apart in two pieces, one, one of the prototypes. But when you have a serial wing and it breaks in Flight, I I have never met any SIV instructor who witnessed something like that because I, I talked I think with four or five SIV instructors and also with other like training instructors in Shani and around no one ever heard of anything like that.

So this is something, well I would say at least su suspicious and also because we have this second case with the guy who had problem with the glider also during the frontal collapse. These, these things, they tell me that it's not, it's not a coincidence.

Speaker 1 (43m 22s): So I, I can say that I have heard of this happening in, in two other scenarios. One is obviously the very famous case of Kiwi, our friend that that had his terrible misfortune in an accident in Nevada. Now Ozone did a study on that. He was on the Xeno and they, they got the glider back, you know, it had been sitting in the desert for a few weeks. It was an older glider and he had relined it.

And the conclusion was that the, the knot you do at the, at the fabric end, at the wing end is it's very important how that girth hitch is. And if you don't get that right, it can compromise. I, I believe they said in the study maybe 20% I've got Russ on the show next week. I can confirm that. But you know, when collectively you have, you know, typically this wouldn't be a big deal. But collectively, you know, he, he was flying in extraordinarily strong air and you know, big guy, big wing.

And you know, probably the theory is we don't know for sure, but the theory is he took a huge hit and probably popped a line or maybe two lines and then zippered out, you know, so, so, and then that that just put more and more and more pressure on the succeeding lines and, and literally came, you know, unattached from the Wing. Another case is a good friend of mine and neighbor Nate Scales was flying here.

I think it's the only time he's thrown his reserve. I don't remember what year this was. It's quite, it was about 10 years ago on the ice peak six ni, which is a bomber wing. I can at, I mean everybody can attest to that. And you know, I don't know how many hours he had on it, I don't know anything about the, the, the where the wing was at, but it was in incredibly strong conditions, you know, 12 to 14 meter day. So exceedingly strong it, which is, you know, not typical even for here, but, but it does get that strong here.

It's very, very strong place to fly. Kind of like the Owens out in California and, you know, he took a monster hit and and blew a whole bunch of his a lines in, in the Reinflation. So, you know, I think there are circumstances where, and I'm not saying this one way or the other with your wing. I think there are circumstances where we just put forces well beyond what a manufacturer can even build for. And, and then it's, you know, then it's a crapshoot if if if it, if it's gonna, if it's gonna hold together or not.

And so, you know, I think air turquoise obviously does their job and they do it very well and, you know, load tests are Ian certified and we have, we have all these things to test a glider. But I, I would postulate that in this case you may have taken a hit that is beyond, you know, load testing certifications. You know, whether that's acceptable or not. I don't know. I, I just, I don't know enough about these things.

What I do need to do is reach out to 7 77 and, and just get their, you know, further thoughts on this. I agree with you. The email seems a little, I would, I would've liked to know a little bit more than that. Yeah. Anyway, I, I can't conjecture either, either way. I think really the, the, the lesson here is like you said, you know, flying gear that you're really comfortable with. I think the other thing that's, you know, something that I rarely do is really check my wing and, you know, this, this has helped affirm for me that that's a necessary part of our, you know, procedures.

You and I spoke last time, I, I've had two instances about gear I would call massive failures that have been in my career, that are my flying time that have been both were were really scary. One was a harness, I got a brand new harness. I, I won't name the manufacturer and you know, the shoulder straps of the, of many harnesses are the strap itself, you know, where the buckles go through is covered by kind of a webbing, you know, stretchy material that so, so dirt can't get in there and, and you know, and, and the, the, the tabs come out of that where you can either loosen or tighten, everybody listening knows what I'm talking about, but it's, I, I just happened at a pure sheer luck to grab the harness to go fly it the very first time and kind of yanked on the shoulder strap to pick it up off the ground.

It was a, it was a seat harness, acro harness. And, and so it was, you know, they're quite heavy, two reserves and everything and I grabbed it and yanked it off the ground and the shoulder buckles weren't buckled. So they were, they were just tucked up into this, up, up into this webbing material, the stretchy webbing material, you know, it was brand new. It was delivered to me in the box like this. And that's not something we would ever check. You would obviously, you know, sit in the, in your simulator and adjust things, but an acro harness, you know, a seat harness, they're comfortable.

I can adjust them in the air. I, I didn't need to do that. I just grabbed the harness and go fly it, you know, but it wasn't, if I had flown that harness, I could have just, you know, picked up, you know, tipped upside down and fallen straight out of the thing, you know, cuz they had just skipped that they hadn't done the buckle, they hadn't done the shoulder straps together. So crazy. Another one was one time I went to throw my reserve and ripped the handle right off the bag and it was bag again that was, that was, you know, manufactured by X company.

And, but the, the, it it had looked, you know, on inspection afterwards because, you know, after I threw the handle off, I, you know, it's pretty hard to get a reserve out from under your butt that doesn't have a handle on it. It's, and it takes quite a bit of time. So it was, it was scary and it took quite a bit of time. And so, you know, we inspected it afterwards and the handle part that was sewn to the bag was literally, it, it had kind of three little stitches for, with the kind of st with the kind of material that you would, you would make a ch child's project out of.

I mean, it wasn't even, it was just a joke was, and I don't know how this got through and the, the, the company I bought it from sent it back and the answer was, we don't know how this happened. This is, this is absurd. I mean, it, it wasn't, it was, you know, so it was a whole reserve bag that again came with the harness that was almost a toy. And so, you know, these are thankfully unusual. But to your point, I think that many companies are small and the testing procedures are, I, you know, I I think, you know, most of this stuff is manufactured overseas and we, we just need to be mindful that mistakes, you know, they're made by humans and humans make mistakes and it's a good idea to inspect your gear.

I mean, the handle thing is just not something I would ever think of. It would just, oh, okay, when you, you pull the handle and it's gonna, you know, but it just came off. It wasn't that I was overly aggressive, you know, that a handle should be sewn properly onto the reserve bag.

Speaker 2 (51m 12s): Yeah. On the, on the same note, you know, like with the company of the, the same manufacturer, when it got delivered, I had like, well at least in one, one of the like lines and yeah, it was just like one, one of the belts was twisted and the dealer who was delivering the harness, you know, like he was really ashamed because he was like, oh wow, how, how could they assemble it like this way, you know?

And so he, he had to disassemble it like in front of me and put it back like normally, I mean, this was not like a safety issue because it was just like aesthetically wrong. Sure. But on the same note, when I received my tandem glider and after I did about 20 flights on it, and also after I did like a course with a, like with a French, with a French school. So two instructors watched me at the takeoff and none of us noticed that on this tandem glider, they were like B and C gallery lines.

They were crossing each other. So it's, it's really crazy because like, it's, it's very, very hard to see. And luckily, like during the, the Flight phase, there were no consequences. So the glider wasn't deformed, it was flying straight. But imagine like if there was any sort of, like in Flight incident, it might have create created friction and this friction would have destroyed the, the lines because like bees and Cs, they were crossing each other at, at, at the gallery.

So like towards the glider.

Speaker 1 (52m 54s): Yeah. And especially important with tandem gear, you know, then you, you,

Speaker 2 (53m 0s): I, I flew my daughter on this one, you know, like, like I did like maybe 15, 15 flights with my daughter, and then I discovered that yeah, the, the gallery lines they cross. Yeah, it's crazy. Wow.

Speaker 1 (53m 13s): Yeah, we need, need to check our gear. Any mental issues, any kind of fear injury that came along with this? Anything you had to battle back from, or it sounds like you got back on the horse with SIV a few weeks later, but it was, was that any kind of an issue?

Speaker 2 (53m 28s): You know, I'm actually very happy that I jumped on the horse, as you say, straight, straight away. So actually less than 24 hours after I was discharged from the hospital, I was at the takeoff. My wife brought me there. I still had my previous glider, which was also made by the 7 77. And I did a Flight like for one hour. I mean, like not very mellow conditions.

It was it spring day, but late in the evening and the Cloudbase was really high. So I basically jumped into flying straight away after the accident. And I, I think for me, this was the way to deal with the, with the fear injury, obviously every time now when I overfly the, the crash site, and this is like particularly known area for fairly rough thermal, I always have this in the back of my mind, you know, like, yeah, what what happens if, yeah, if I ever like have a collapse like that big and if it, I dunno.

I, I, I think it's really, really unlikely that I ever experience again the gear failure like this, because I think it's like one in a million or whatever so unusual. It's, it's extreme, it's extremely rare. And yeah, this is again, why it, it feels very strange that the same model had similar breakdown like twice. So yeah, like this SIV was excellent way to also to to push myself.

So I bought a new glider with a recommendation of Malin, so thanks to, to him and I had very nice season after that. So, you know, like I actually think now that doing SIV on a new guider is probably the best, the best way to, to discover how it behaves in different scenarios, how it reacts and yeah, it makes you not just safer, it makes you also much more confident.

You, you just trust you, you trust your gear, you try, you trust your instincts. And in general, this is something that I plan to do in the future. I want to keep doing SIV courses once a year. And yeah, hopefully also I can do it like every time I change equipment that that's like the best way to discover it because during my SIV courses in the past five years, I deployed my reserve twice.

So just, just on purpose because I wanted to, and I think this is one of the, the reasons, like in my accident there were no severe outcomes because I knew exactly what to do. So first of all, I didn't deploy when I was very high. The second thing is that I, I knew how to kill the glider and finally I knew how to deploy because actually like deploying your reserve, you know, like it's something that you should, you should practice. Like even if you don't go to SIV, for those listeners who like don't do this often or like don't do this at all, even though I highly recommend it, you should just like deploy your reserve when you repack it.

Like just like sit in your harness, you know, like mount it and like throw it. Because actually, yeah, especially like under GForce it might be not so obvious how, how to do it. Especially like if you have like a heavier reserve and also like some harnesses, they have different configurations, you know, like how far back you should reach and those who fly with just one reserve. Yeah, obviously, like if you are in rotations scenario, it might be extremely difficult to throw reserve if you are in outer rotation.

And in this, in this scenario, like again, like I just quote Mullin here, he says that 30 to 40% of deployments when you throw in out rotation, they would go in the glider in the lane, yeah. Straight. Yeah. So yeah, it's something that I plan to do from, like, since last year I will always fly cross country, like big cross-country flights. I'll always fly with two reserves because it's just like another extra safety measure, unfortunately not something that you would do, you know, like at hike and Flight competitions, which I also started doing.

But yeah, as you said, you know, like it's, it comes to measuring every, every gram of course. Like if you do excels it's even even more crazy because you are doing this for a very, very long period of time and yeah, because you cover a lot of vertical and also flood distance, but even like when you do one, three days, it went, it's something, yeah,

Speaker 1 (58m 35s): I don't, I don't think there's much of a good argument for not flying with two reserves. You know, if you're, if you, if you're not, then you're, you're compromising seriously on safety. I, I had a very, very low incident before the last exiles here doing a bivy trip that I've talked about on the show several times, but it was, you know, instantly into an auto rotation. And I, when the incident happened, I was a hundred meters off the deck, so I was very low when it happened. And my, my immediate reaction was to throw the reserve.

I didn't have any time to deal with this, so I didn't even think about it. I just started reaching for the reserve. But then I started winding up and I had my SIV instructor's, you know, voice in my head and I was flying lightweight bivy gear. I only had one reserve, I only had one shot at this. And so I solved the auto rotation first and then flipped then through because I was so afraid of that thing going into the wing. And I would've been, you know, either severely hurt or dead had I, and so I was very happy for that SIV training.

But it also, you know, it would've been, I would've been a nice scenario to have two reserves just Huck and Huck and, and one of 'em was probably gonna at least work out. But yeah, I, I I think again, it comes down to, you know, what's the risk profile that people are willing to accept? And this is a fascinating story that I'm really glad you shared with us because it's just not often we hear about gear stuff and the, I'm, I'm not sure I'm fully in your, in your court that it was, it was because of the gear.

It might've just been like you said, a, you know, a really big hit. And, but it's, again, it's all speculation. We don't really know and let the listener decide. And I, I'm just happy that it worked out for you so well and that you had a great season and you know, yet again, reserves work. We gotta use 'em. We just had a, a terrible incident down in the World Cup from Brazil where there wasn't one and the ending couldn't have been worse. So thanks for sharing your story, Nico and I, I appreciate it.

I'm gonna reach out here to triple seven and hopefully get their response before this goes live. But thanks for sharing all this with me and, and, and our audience and good luck to you bud. Have some fun flights this year and I hope to see you Cloudbase.

Speaker 2 (1h 0m 54s): Thank you Gavin Kevin, nice season as well. And see you at the Cloudbase.

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