Kiwi Johnston on launch in Nevada, USA. Photo: James Johnston / Facebook
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Kiwi Johnston: Accident report released

Thursday 3 December, 2020

An investigation into the fatal accident of James Kiwi Johnston, a longtime friend and writer here at Cross Country magazine, has been concluded.

Kiwi was a dear friend to many, and a regular contributor to Cross Country Magazine, and we worked and flew with him for over 20 years. There are several recommendations in the 12-page report that are worth reading by all pilots, including:

– Irrespective of wing size, respect the manufacturer’s maximum recommended weight. Never fly overloaded, above the certified weight.

– When re-lining a wing, ensure the lines are placed on the attachment tabs correctly. The loop of the lines must be held by the attachment tabs. Lines should not be attached with a lark’s foot as this significantly reduces their strength. If you are unsure of the correct procedure, always consult with a professional.

– When flying at high altitudes the effects of G force are more pronounced, pilots have less G tolerance due to the reduced levels of oxygen.

– Never allow an incident to progress to an out-of-control situation, especially on a high performance EN D or competition wing. G forces build fast and can quickly result in a loss of consciousness.

– If you are unable to regain directional control and the G forces are mounting, throw your reserve parachute immediately.

The report concludes that, following an incident at height in strong air the glider suffered a riser twist and then entered a steep and accelerating spiral dive. After one line broke other lines followed almost immediately. The reserve was not deployed, although a deployment test showed it functioned as it should. The report concludes that the pilot most likely lost consciousness during the high-G stage of the initial incident.

The accident report was compiled by Ozone, the manufacturer of the glider that Kiwi was flying at the time of his accident.

The report can be downloaded here: Accident Investigation Nevada 2020.

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