Off-Field Landing Without Injury
If uninjured, tend to personal needs and then secure the glider. Make contact with the retrieval crew or emergency crew as promptly as possible. If the wait is likely to be long, use the daylight to remove all items necessary for darkness and cold. It is worth remembering that even a normal retrieval can take many hours if the landing was made in difficult terrain or in an area served by relatively few roads. If cellular service is available, use a cell phone to call 911 if you are concerned about personal safety. Glider pilots should always consider alternate means of communication to include satellite telephones and ham radios as cell phone service is not always available. To help identify position, relay the GPS coordinates, if available, to ease the job for the retrieval crew or rescue personnel. It is a good idea to write down the GPS coordinates if the GPS battery is exhausted or if the GPS receiver shuts down for any reason. Use the glider two-way radio to broadcast needs on the international distress frequency 121.5 MHz. Many aircraft, including civil airliners, routinely monitor this frequency. Their great height gives the line-of-sight aviation transceiver tremendous range when transmitting to, or receiving from, these high-altitude aircraft. Calling other glider pilots in the area on the glider-to-glider radio frequency can hasten retrieval or rescue. Another tool for pilots is the personal locator device offered by several companies as a rescue device. These devices use the 406 MHz satellite signal, and global positioning system (GPS) technology to accurately track and relay the pilot’s location in the event of an off-field landing requiring assistance.
Once contact has been made with outsiders to arrange for retrieval, attend to minor items, such as collecting any special tools that are needed for glider derigging or installing gust locks on the glider’s flight controls.
Off-Field Landing With Injury
If injured, tend to critical injuries first. At the first opportunity, make contact with emergency response personnel, with other aircraft, or any other source of identifiable assistance. Use the glider radio, if operable, to broadcast a Mayday distress call on emergency frequency 121.5 MHz. Also, try any other frequency likely to elicit a response. Some gliders have an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) on board. If the glider is equipped with an ELT and assistance is needed, turn it on. The ELT broadcasts continuous emergency signals on 121.5 MHz. Search aircraft can hone in on this ELT signal using radio equipment designed for search and rescue (SAR). These SAR-equipped aircraft reduce the time spent searching for the pilot’s exact location. To transmit a voice message on an operable two-way radio at 121.5 MHz, turn the ELT switch to OFF for the voice message to be heard. The newer ELTs, like the 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs), are becoming more popular because of their substantial benefits. Only ATC ground stations routinely monitor 121.5 MHz anymore and that is line-of-sight reception only. The newer EPIRBs have stronger signals, transmit longer, and are monitored by the satellite network. According to CFR part 91, gliders are not airplanes and therefore old very high frequency (VHF) ELTs are not required, which is why an EPIRB would make a much better choice when flying a glider. If mobile (cell) phone coverage is available, dial 911 to contact emergency personnel. If possible, include a clear description of the location. If the glider is in a precarious position, secure it, if possible, but do not risk further personal injury in doing so. If it is clearly unsafe to stay with the glider, move to a nearby location for shelter but leave clear written instructions in a prominent location in the glider detailing where to find you.
It is best to stay with the glider if at all possible. The glider bulk is likely to be much easier to locate from the air than is an individual person. The pilot might obtain a measure of protection from the elements by crawling into the fuselage or crawling under a wing, or using the parachute canopy to rig a makeshift tent around the glider structure. After attending to medical needs and contacting rescue personnel, attend to clothing, food, and water issues. The pilot should make every attempt to conserve energy.