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15 Meter Nationals - Aug 5 Report

2010 15-Meter National Soaring Championships – Uvalde, TX

Report for 5 August


Today is a rest day. We are still dealing with the aftermath of yesterday’s fatal accident.


Here’s what we think we know about the midair collision (but note that the accident investigation is still very much in progress, and none of this should be taken as fully correct and final):


The final turnpoint for yesterday’s task was Batesville, located about 20 miles south of Uvalde and commonly used as a final steering point to bring gliders home from the south.  Chris O’Callaghan (flying OC, a Ventus 2BX) was among several gliders that had turned Batesville and were headed toward the finish.  Ralph Bergh (flying 2NO, an ASG-29) was approaching the final turnpoint.  About 5 miles north of Batesville and at about 3000’, each at an airspeed probably above 90 kts, the two met head-on, with OC passing just a few feet above 2NO.  Neither apparently saw the other until the last split second.


Ralph felt an impact (he thought it wasn’t especially violent) and called a “mayday” on 123.3.  He found that his glider appeared to fly more or less normally, and he was able to glide to an area of agricultural fields close to Batesville, select a good one that allowed an into-wind approach, and land without a problem.  On inspection he saw that the collision had broken off the entire right side of 2NO’s horizontal tail, and that the right side of his rudder was “creased”, presumably as broken pieces separated.


A couple of pilots saw OC after the collision: It appeared that the glider’s fuselage may have been significantly damaged aft of the wing and forward of the tail and thus the glider was not controllable.  After a number of abnormal pitch and roll excursions it struck the ground nose-down with enough energy that the crash was not survivable.  Initial reports said that the canopy was not near the glider but that the straps were fastened.


Chris worked for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, where he was vice-President of eMedia.  The AOPA with characteristic grace today sent an aircraft to Uvalde carrying Laura’s sister, and brought wife Laura home to Maryland.


Our deepest condolences go to Chris’s family and especially to Laura.  This is a difficult time for anyone who knew this erudite, gentlemanly, talented, enthusiastic man.


Posted: 8/5/2010


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