Study on PG Accidents with Spine Injuries
by Karl Slezak, DHV Safety Chairman
From the DHV-Info, No. 100 (May 1999) from the Safety Issues Section
(a rough translation by Ulf Arndt).
About one third of the reported 120 PG accidents in 1998 in Germany
resulted in spine injuries. During the research it was endeavoured to
contact all the pilots who had suffered spinal injuries. Where this was not
possible, the hospitals were queried.
1. Cause of accident
These figures highlight again how important it is to control tucks and
- Nearly half (46%) of injured pilots had a tuck
- 22 percent overcontrolled (spin, stall, parachutal)
- 13 % misjudged approach
- 11 % came down on reserve
- 8 % impacted with an obstacle
2. Severity of injuries
Checking with hospitals, it looks like the real number of accidents is
about double the number reported to DHV.
- permanent back damage 2 pilots (4%)
- medium permanent handicapped 12 pilots (29%)
- light permanent handicapped 12 pilots (29%)
- complete recovery 10 pilots (24%)
- no injuries 3 pilots (7%)
- unknown 3 pilots (7%)
3. Position of pilot on impact
Impact on ground with
This supports the trend to develop backprotectors and side protectors.
- back and/or bottom first 59%
- side, hips 22%
- legs first 19%
4. Usefulness of protectors
Of the pilots who impacted on the back and got injured,
Using combination of 17cm foam and airbag
- 16 had no or unsuitable back protectors
- 2 had only an airbag
- 3 had no injuries
- 1 had non-serious crack, out of a 10m full stall
- Backprotectors based on foam or foam/airbag with enough thickness reduce
the risk of serious spine injuries when impacting on the back or buttocks.
- Backplates with thin foam are not enough protection.
- A backprotector is no help on side impacts. At present there is not enough
data to study the efficiency of side protectors. There is one case of a
pilot who probably suffered no injuries due to side protectors.
- When impacting with legs first, back and side protectors initially are of
no help. It must be endeavoured to use the legs as shock absorbers on
impact and then roll over side and back (Parachute Landing Fall). It is
important to keep the legs together and knees bent.
- Impacting with straight, stiff legs can result in very serious,
permanent spine damage.