The Soaring Safety Foundation (SSF) is the Training and Safety arm of the Soaring Society of America (SSA). Our mission is to provide instructors and pilots with the tools needed to teach/learn both the stick & rudder skills and the Aeronautical Decision Making skills needed to safely fly a glider. We also provide information and analysis of incident and accident trends in order to develop better training tools.


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The Soaring Incident Database is now available to help pilots, safety officers, clubs, and commercial operators develop new programs that can help prevent incidents from becoming major accidents. See more incidents by searching the database or register a new incident.

Region Pilot Certificate Pilot Injuries Passenger Injuries Type of Flight Launch Method Type of Aircraft
East Private None None Local Self Launch ApisM
Incident Activity Damage to Aircraft Damage to Canopy Incident Date Incident Time Weather SSA Member
Flight None 0000-00-00 1200-1400 Clear Yes
Incident Description This incident is a reminder for every pilot to have, and use, a written checklist to be used JUST before takeoff. Taxiing and turning with a self-launching glider requires use of the brakes which on many sailplanes is at the full aft travel of the airbrake handle. I got ready for launch (turn on radio, instruments, radio call, etc) but failed to lock the airbrake lever forward. I probably did not even lower the airbrakes at all, for if I had even touched that handle I would have pushed it forward and locked it. I launched and within seconds realized I was not climbing well at all. My short strip has no overrun at the end so I am always committed to complete the launch after a few seconds of climbing.I was immediatly worried and checked the tachometer. The RPMs were normal and the engine sounded normal. Now I was just above the trees and not climbing much at all. I made a slow turn back towards the airport as soon as I was just high enough and cleared the tree tops. I cut the engine and grabbed the airbrake handle, sensing that it was already at least partially open but too busy to really absorb that fact. The landing was bouncy but with plenty of room left. Nothing damaged except my fear-factor. Got out and inspected the entire ship. I recognized that I had probably taken off with the spoilers at least partially open and they may have vibrated to open more. Got back in taxiied again, LOCKED THE SPOILERS CLOSED, took off and had a great flight! That evening at home I made up a PRE-LAUNCH checklist and have it taped to my instrument panel.
Other Comments Use of a pre-launch checklist is vital.

Find out more about the Soaring Safety Foundation: (trustees, mission, By-Laws, or Contact us by email).