On June 15, 2013, hang glider Lin Lyons experienced his worst nightmare.
He attached the glider’s link to the tow line incorrectly, and once he was at 1,000 feet in the air he realized he couldn’t release himself. He knew he was in trouble and couldn’t fix situations, suddenly descending at 3,000 feet per minute. And the whole thing was caught on his glider’s camera.
Lyons used some quick thinking to manage the situation, but the panic if pretty obvious. Below is his recount of what happened on the Vimeo clip, and if you don’t want the story spoiled you can just watch the whole thing in the player above. If you want to see where you should skip to the good part, then read below — just know that there may be some spoilers.
At 1:09 in, I release my auto-release. That allows me to get somewhat higher without it disconnecting the tow. At 1:24, you can see me try to release the tow, and nothing happens, even after several tries. By 1:30 in, I know I’m in trouble. I kicked my feet out of the harness to indicate that I had a problem. (But they already knew that.) By 1:40, you can see the tow line, nearly straight down, over the base tube, starting to put pressure to dive. By 1:50, I start fishing, with one hand, for my parachute. That didn’t work. At 2:00, I begin to use both hands, and at 2:10, the parachute is finally out. The video shows that ‘chute waving around, but it’s still. The glider and I are doing the waving. That’s obvious if you see the shadows on the glider wing. At 2:19, you can see the glider shudder. That’s the tow line being cut on the hose clamp that holds the wheel in place. By 2:23 I’m on the ground.
If you look at the angle of the glider with the horizon, at around 1:40 and compare that with the angle at 1:54, you can see that I’m headed nearly straight down. On the ground, thinking, “Hey, I’m down, alive, and I don’t hurt. Amazing.”
At the top of my flight, I was dragging about a mile of tow line behind me. Harold had released the power to both winch drums, and watched the line scream off both drums at a rate he’d never seen, or heard, before. He was pretty much terrified. “I’m really sorry Harold.”
On the hang glider accident video page, Lyons says, “More excitement than I need, I can assure you.”
Check out more of Lyon’s videos on his Vimeo page.