Weight warning after fatal crash
The death of a paraglider on a Canterbury mountain has prompted a warning for paraglider pilots to ‘‘stay inside the weight range for their equipment’’ and familiarise themselves with local conditions before they take flight.
South African Trudi Meij – who was an experienced paraglider with about 600 flights and 250 flying hours – was killed while paragliding in the Mt Cheeseman ski area near Castle Hill, about 97 kilometres northwest of Christchurch.
The crash happened on January 14, 2020 – just two weeks after she moved to New Zealand.
The wing collapsed soon after the 37-year-old launched from the car park at Mt Cheeseman Ski Area.Video evidence showed Meij recovered from this, but the wing collapsed again. She was found conscious at the crash scene but later died of her injuries.
Philip Jansen van Rensburg reported his wife obtained weather information from various websites before leaving home that morning and told him it ‘‘looked good for flying’’.
A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigation found some pilots who flew that day said wind conditions were ‘‘more turbulent and challenging’’ than had been forecast or assessed from the ground. One pilot said he would not have taken off if he had known how rough the flight would be. Meij was using her own Nova Mentor 5 wing, size XS, which was ‘‘certified for an all-up weight range of 70 to 90kg’’. The combined weight of Meij and her equipment that day was 107kg.
The CAA contacted Nova regarding the likely effect of flying 17kg over the maximum stipulated weight range and it advised ‘‘this amount of additional weight would significantly change the flying characteristics of the wing’’.
Nova said it was impossible to say whether the additional weight caused the crash, but it wouldhave made recovering from a wing collapse more demanding.