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Turf Soaring Mid-Air, Acro Boxes, Etc

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Old January 23rd 04, 02:44 PM
Rick Brown
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Default Turf Soaring Mid-Air, Acro Boxes, Etc

I have flown at and with Turf Soaring for 32 of their
36 years. I was present when the mid-air occurred,
heard the impact, looked up and witnessed the aftermath.
I went to the scene in case first aid could be of use.
I also 'ran interference' between Roy Coulliette and
the press, becoming the spokesman for Turf.
I have read most if not all of this thread and thought
that I might contribute some useful discussion.

When Turf started doing acro there was no box, neither
was there a FAR requiring one. Turf started the process
of getting a box approved by the FAA to improve safety.
The box has been in place for many years (maybe 15
or 20?). Many thousands, probably tens of thousands,
of aerobatic rides and lessons have been given since
it was put in place. Many of those who have trained
in the box have competed locally, nationally and even
in world championships. Some are champions.

Risks are always a consideration. Should a glider be
stronger, or should it be lighter? Should there be
an Indy Car like capsule around the pilot? Should the
acro box be closer to make it easier for gliders to
get back to the runway or further away?

You should know that we do not take safety casually.
The glider folks were wearing parachutes packed within
the last 120 days by a certified master rigger. The
glider was equipped with not one, but two seat belt
systems anchored at two separate points. The passenger
was briefed on emergency procedures, and the fact that
the passenger's body was out of the glider, while the
pilot's body was still in the glider may indicate that
the passenger was in the process of bailing out and
the pilot was staying with the glider until the passenger
was out.

In an on-going series of safety meetings and separate
meetings, Turf has decided to move the Acro box 1/2
box (.5 kilometer) further away from the runways. This
has been approved by the FAA. By the way, the acro
box waiver was in effect, the box was opened that day
with TRACON, as required and all other conditions of
the waiver were being complied with. The adjustment
of the box has been done already. We are continuing
to review other policies and procedures, consulting
with the FAA as we go and will make other changes after
due consideration. Our current safety procedures have
developed over a 36 year period and we will improve
on them. SAFETY is an everyday consideration here.
Our classroom has (and had before the accident) the
word 'Safety' written in big bold letters on the blackboard.
That word is never erased.

On a more personal note: I knew Keith since he was
a baby. Roy and I each had three sons of similar ages,
they spent a lot of time together at the airport and
my youngest son Jim even roomed with Keith his freshman
year at College. I went to Keith's college graduation.
I also knew Carl. I traded pleasantries and jokes with
him whenever I saw him. Those of you as deeply committed
to soaring as I am know that it is like a family. WE
we might want it to have happened differently, we cannot
change the past, only the future. I plan to keep flying
and work to make flying safer.


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