Key points of attention:
  • Plan ahead and discuss the emergency procedures before every winch launch
  • If the cable breaks: follow the cable break procedure
  • Stay calm and decide what your safest option is

This lessons deals with how you should react to an unexpected cable break, which decisions you need to make and how you can fly a safe approach at a low altitude. Before every winch launch you should plan and discuss with your instructor how you will respond to a possible cable break or launch interruption at different heights. Take into account the local circumstances such as the slope of the runway, the wind direction and strength and possible landing spots. A cable break around the most critical height of approximately 300ft above ground level deserves the most attention. By preparing for the unexpected it will become easier for you to master this critical phase of the launch, and you will be able to make the right decisions when this is needed.

An interruption of a winch launch can have various causes, the most common of which are:
  • The winch cable is overstressed and breaks (a ‘classic’ cable break)
  • The weak link breaks because it is overstressed
  • The winch has a technical problem (loss of power for instance)

During the training you will practise several cable break procedures. At first, your instructor will announce a cable break. Later on, he or she might expose you to them unexpectedly to assess how you react. After every cable break there is only one thing you need to do immediately: push the stick forward to lower the pitch attitude. It may take a few seconds before you will reach the approach airspeed. After you have pushed the stick forward to lower the pitch attitude to normal and increase the airspeed to sufficient, first pull the release knob (2x) to make sure you are not dragging a piece of cable along. Do not rush into making a turn and do not open the airbrakes! In fact, do not rush any other decisions, but consider your options carefully and take a few seconds to decide which is the safest option.

If you cannot land straight ahead and your position is not high enough for a shortened circuit, consider making a full 360° circle or “S-turn” before landing. If you do need to make any turns, make sure the first turn (if possible) is to the downwind side. In summary, depending on the altitude, there are four options:
   1.  Land straight ahead if it is safe to do so
   2.  Make one full 360° circle or “S-turn” before landing
   3.  Fly a shortened reverse circuit to land upslope in a tailwind

   4.  Fly a (shortened) circuit

  • Push the stick forward to lower the pitch attitude to normal and obtain the approach airspeed
  • Pull the yellow release knob (2x)
  • Take a short break! Choose the safest option
  • In a crosswind, the first of turn you make should preferably be towards the downwind side
Once more: never forget to release after a cable break. Remains of the cable that are still attached to the glider are not only a hindrance when you are landing, they can also be very dangerous to persons, traffic or animals on the ground.
.1 Cable break up to approx. 300ft AGL
  • 1 Land straight ahead if it’s safe to do so.
2 Cable break at the critical height of approx. 300ft AGL
  • 2a Turn downwind – fly a shortened circuit.
  • 2b If local circumstances, for instance a down sloping runway, require and upslope landing, turn towards the downwind side first and fly a shortened reverse circuit – landing with a tailwind.
Be careful: landing in a tailwind requires a different landing technique and should be avoided as much as possible.3 Cable break at heights of over 300ft AGL
  • 3a Shortened circuit in the upwind direction (not favourable when at a low height)
  • 3b Shortened circuit in the downwind direction

Depending on the local circumstances, there may be off-airfield landing options in the immediate vicinity of the airfield, which can be safely reached with a few course alterations from a low altitude. Perhaps you could use these options for safety reasons. If there are alternative options, your flight instructor will discuss them with you.

The winch is equipped with a cable cutting mechanism for emergencies. If the glider is for some reason unable to release the cable, the winch driver will cut the cable. The cable cutting mechanism is an additional safety feature and it is almost never used.