Dust devil led to crash that killed paraglider pilot in Alberta: safety board

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GIBBONS, Alta. — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says an Alberta pilot who died after crashing his powered paraglider hit a dust devil.

The crash occurred on May 13 near Gibbons, about 40 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Board officials say they did a limited, fact-gathering investigation into the accident.

Their report says the pilot was on a recreational flight over a private field northwest of the town.

It says he flew for about 25 minutes and the entire flight was captured on a video camera attached to his helmet.

One minute before the crash, the report says, the glider went through a dust devil — a rotating updraft that can be common in Alberta on warm, sunny days.

"This localized pocket of hot air rises quickly in a small spinning column, and cooler air rushes in below to replace it," says the report. "The resulting vortex is made visible by the dust it picks up.

"Dust devils seldom extend higher than 100 meters, but those that do can flip objects like lawn furniture."

The report says the dust devil caused the RS Ultra Kangook MF glider to suddenly climb faster. It rolled sharply to the right and its lines wrapped around the pilot, the trike, and the turning propeller. Eventually the entire canopy collapsed.

"Control was lost and the aircraft impacted the ground, fatally injuring the pilot."

The report concludes that meteorological events such as dust devils can present a hazard.

"Paraglider pilots need to be aware of the conditions that can be conducive to the formation of these phenomena, and avoid operating in these conditions where possible."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

The Canadian Press