Newmarket: Collision of gliders was ‘pure accident’

A glider pilot parachuted to safety after a mid-air crash over the Newmarket Gallops.

A glider pilot parachuted to safety after a mid-air crash over the Newmarket Gallops.

A COLLISION between two gliders took place after racing pilots manoeuvred to avoid other aircraft, an investigation has revealed.

One pilot parachuted into a field and another completed an emergency landing after the incident in the skies above Newmarket on July 23 last year.

A report into the accident, which took place on the third day of the 2012 British Club Class Gliding National Championships, has now been completed. Chris Heames, senior accident investigator for the British Gliding Association, said about 12 of the 40 craft taking part in the race were trying to enter a thermal when the accident took place.

Mr Heames said: “Outside controlled airspace people operate under visual flight rules. Basically people look out the window and avoid each other. If you see another airplane, you avoid it visually. In this case there were quite a number of gliders, between 8 and 12 in the area around Cambridge, and they were trying to join a thermal.”

He added: “When you’re trying to join a thermal with others you have to avoid them and so tend to focus on the nearest threat. The aircraft that is most likely to fly into you gets a larger proportion of your interest.

“Unfortunately in this circumstance, each of the pilots involved in the collision were in a situation where there was another aeroplane quite close to them that they were manoeuvring to sequence themselves with so they wouldn’t collide.

“In doing so they hit each other.”

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Mr Heames said the tip of a wing had hit the tail boom of the other glider with enough force to cause significant damage and left the pilot with no choice but to eject.

The pilot, identified as Gerard Dale, was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital after he landed on the east side of Newmarket gallops, near the A1304. His aircraft smashed into nearby trees. The other glider involved landed nearby.

Mr Heames explained: “This was a pure accident. Everyone was doing their best to avoid each other.”

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