Home Forums Safety Incident Report: PG vs Bushes Below Marshall Peak Launch, January 21, 2021

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    David Webb
    General Member

    Incident Summary

    On January 21 @ approximately 15:00, PG pilot was flying below the front range ridge line immediately west of Marshall Peak launch. PG pilot flew a long straight line path directly into the hillside approximately 200 yards below the HG launch ramp, landing in the bushes. I witnessed the entire event from 1k’ above Cloud.


    Weather was cool and winds were light, with moderate gusts. At 15:00, Marshall Peak Launch weather station reported S winds between 4-13mph.

    Emergency or Medical Response

    No emergency or medical response called or required. No radio contact could be made with the pilot but was confirmed on radio by another pilot launching from Marshall Peak Launch that pilot was not injured.


    No injuries reported.

    Pilots Involved

    Student paraglider pilot on an A-rated wing – no USHPA rating or CSS membership.

    Root Cause

    Pilot did not turn away from terrain.

    Proximate Cause

    Pilot should have been under direct radio supervision from their instructor; pilot chose to land in the bushes as they thought they were too low to glide out to the LZ but there was ample time for a verbal intervention to tell the pilot to turn away.

    Corrective Action

    Pilot MUST get a proper USHPA rating before flying solo and unsupervised. Pilot should conduct all instructional flights under direct radio supervision with their CSS instructor. Pilot must also sign the CSS club waiver and join as a member, as all pilots must be club members to fly and land at AJX.

    John Benario
    General Member

    Do we know who the instructor is?  What is his explanation of his student not having either membership that is required to learn and fly at AJX?


    David Webb
    General Member

    We do, and no action / explanation to date.

    Student had no CSS membership. They do have a USHPA membership but no rating and they were flying unsupervised.

    This is the second (very similar) incident (unrated pilot with no club membership flying unsupervised) with the same instructor in under a month.

    Jonathan Dietch
    General Member

    Hi David,
    Something I sometimes notice is unfamiliar, new or visiting pilots not being greeted by any local pilots. The new or visiting pilot is left to his her her own devices which may include being confused about local protocols. It seldom hurts to smile, wave and say hello to pilots we don’t recognize. Sometimes this gets them talking about concerns they may have that would be helpful for everyone’s sake if these are addressed. This goes a long way toward creating and maintaining goodwill among the freeflight community and could avert a CraigslistCertifiedPilot™ from becoming another statistic among other things.
    It’s important to remember that anyone who otherwise follows FAR103 and 36 CFR Ch II is free to engage in unpowered ultralight vehicle activity anywhere it’s not otherwise prohibited even if it means getting injured or killed in the process.  This is anyone’s prerogative and who are we to stand in their way*? We may however be able to help influence them along a better path beginning by merely extending a welcoming greeting.  The key word here is, ‘influence’. It’s typically the best we can do unless we control the property and have the authority of law–and we have neither. Please do not forget this.

    * There are few exceptions including among other things the LPS Act (if we believe the prospective pilot presents a threat to themselves or to others we can call 911 who can then put them on a 72-hr hold). There have been suicides by hang glider and possibly by paraglider. If we notice a pilot is highly agitated and likely to harm themselves or another then a call to 911 is probably warranted before the fact.

    Cheers, Jonathan

    David Webb
    General Member

    This case has nothing to do with what you mentioned above, unfortunately:

    This is a student of a local instructor. This wasn’t someone that just showed up and was left to their own devices.

    The club has rules and policies in place (such as a waiver and a club membership requirement to fly), and those are being actively ignored.

    If the club collectively doesn’t give a crap about those rules and policies, then tear them up – I won’t stand in anyone’s way. But let’s not pretend to care about maintaining an active and safe flying environment if we’re going to rationalize away this stuff when it keeps happening (over and over again).

    Jonathan Dietch
    General Member


    I stand by everything I have stated in my previous post and I will include uninsured instructors along with non-member pilots as described previously.

    I certainly understand your frustration but your report is missing critical facts that you later state in reply to my first comment. Are there other factual details we need to know?

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Pilot safety is a secondary issue. Everyone needs this drummed into his/her/their head. It makes little difference if you injure or kill yourself while engaged in free-flight activity and this includes getting injured or killed while giving wire assistance if you are a USHPA member.

    What matters the most is whether you injure or kill a third party while engaged in free-flight activity whether you are a member or not. A non-member student pilot is probably out of luck if they become a statistic.

    There are several active lawsuits for injury to pilots where the liability waiver is nullified and the Doctrine of Assumption of Risk is also nullified. The RRRG is likely to lose over 15% of its assets from current lawsuits. In certain situations pilots are treated like third parties rather than pilots who have assumed all the risk. When this happens the RRRG and USHPA may consider whether to revoke a chapter’s status or a pilot or instructor’s liability insurance.

    If and when our chapter status is revoked, we lose our site insurance. Then we also void our land lease with the DWR and Andy Jackson Airpark’s future goes into limbo. We can still fly locally and land anyplace we don’t get prosecuted for trespass. I land out fairly often and won’t be as badly affected as others might. But hundreds of pilots may be turned away from local flying or even the sport altogether. I do not know the future.

    So it’s important to present ALL the facts upfront whether you need help from the community at large or not. Attacking the very group whose assistance you need in order to be an effective safety director is not helping anybody’s cause. I am of course assuming you still want enough of us to back you up. Do you?

    It would be relatively easy to start either a WhatsApp or Telegram group to share information that you or we may feel is too sensitive or controversial to publish in public. There’s no harm in drafting messages that members of the safety support group can email to the USHPA directors and RRRG to make them acutely aware of individuals who pose a risk to pilot and especially third party safety.

    Good luck getting it straight from USHPA or RRRG. Both corporations and their directors seem to behave if they fear being sued personally. Ironically this leads to activity and inactivity that foment the very liability they try to avoid. I have heard that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Let’s not pave the road any farther South than we already have.

    Cheers, Jonathan

    David Webb
    General Member

    I don’t see how I’m attacking a group that I’m asking for assistance from, so if I was I apologize – not my intent.

    Many messages have been sent to USHPA/RRRG regarding our repeat offenders (that’s one of the responsibilities of my board position), but to date, no intervention has been deemed necessary.

    As far as presenting all the facts – I have the pilot’s account of the incident, and I watched the whole thing from directly above, start to finish. I have gotten no other information from anyone that contradicts what’s in the incident report. I was just sent a text stating that the instructor was on launch and on radio with the student, but due to the LONG straight path the student flew directly to terrain and a LOT of time available to pipe up on the radio and tell that student to turn away from terrain, I’m at a loss on that. Up to USHPA or someone smarter than me to figure out what’s true.

    I’m also really baffled by this continued “screw USHPA and RRRG and let them cancel our insurance and who cares if the site is shut down” attitude. I see a lot of complaining about safety issues (AJ, the approach pattern, HGs getting cut off, etc), but then hear from the same people that “don’t tell me what to do” thing. You can’t have it both ways. I feel like I’ve done what I could over the past year to improve our safety record, and better our relations with USHPA (since we’re one of the problem child clubs for obvious reasons), but am definitely ready to be out of club politics. I didn’t manage to move the needle so hopefully the next one in the chair will be better at it.

    If anyone has any facts to add to the report, please send them in to safety@crestlinesoaring.org. Otherwise, let’s move the “future of the club” chit chat to another thread.


    David, I appreciate the work done by you and all the CSS officers this past year. 2020 has had many challenges. The professionalism displayed by the CSS is at a higher level than it has shown for quite a few years.

    Thank you for your service!

    David Webb
    General Member

    Thanks Rob! Really appreciate the kind words.

    Albert Sharp
    General Member

    Jonathan, you make a great point and everyone should be warm and welcoming at launch and at the LZ.  If a person feels welcome they might be more inclined to ask and accept advise about launches, landings, site hazards, and protocols.  As a new pilot I remember feeling very intimidated on launch and in the LZ because I was surrounded by so many people with more experience than I had at the time.

    I can also appreciate the desire not to be governed by unnecessary rules and regulations.  But that is not the climate we live in at our location at this time.  Safe practices and financial liability are important and must be satisfied.  The Club has rules and protocols in place for the safety of the individual and the liability of the Club.  I for one hope to fly here for a very long time.  I love this site and the things that club members do you improve the site and my experience there.  If there are too many accidents then the Club will become unsustainable.  What happens then?  Will the land will be sold, other land owners trespass anyone who lands on their property, the forest service block access to launch?

    I believe it is a reasonable expectation to be a current Club member, and Current USHPA member with the proper rating, to satisfy the safety and liability concerns of our sport and our Club at our location.  I think the argument that Club rules don’t apply to a launch that is outside of the Club boundaries is factually correct but a dangerous position to take because accidents will draw negative attention to CSS, and a financial burden in the event CSS is named in any legal action.

    But it doesn’t matter what I think.  Those are the rules of the Club.  If anyone disagrees then as a club we should discuss, vote, and amend the policies and rules as necessary. But right now, those are the rules we should follow.


    John Benario
    General Member

    Albert is exactly correct.

    David Webb
    General Member

    Spot on, Albert.

    Mario Miralles
    General Member

    I also agree with Albert and will echo Rob in thanking David Webb for his work, responsiveness and patience.

    David Webb
    General Member

    Thanks Mario!

    Jonathan Dietch
    General Member

    What everyone else said, David. Thanks for all your efforts as safety officer and everything else you selflessly and often thanklessly do for the club.

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