Reporting incidents and accidents in 2022

Dear members,

We’d like to clarify some information on reporting incidents and accidents, how the processes have changed over time, and the value we all get out of accurate, timely, and comprehensive reporting.

Based on our experience and observations, we estimate that more than 70% of incidents and accidents go unreported, something that negatively affects the safety of our growing sport.

Retributive Culture

In the past, incidents and accidents were sometimes held against pilots who were trying to upgrade their licenses. Pilots were sometimes also grounded, suspended, or banned from the sport. This was a counter-productive approach, which led to widespread resistance to disclosing incidents or accidents.

This means we lost opportunities to understand and learn from mistakes and make the sport safer for others. Thankfully, the aviation industry has moved away from this retributive culture towards a just culture.

Just Culture

Just culture is the philosophy of creating a safe space to disclose, reflect and learn from mistakes without fear of prejudice, judgment or punishment. We now ask: “What went wrong?” and “How can we avoid this in future?” and not: “Who caused the problem?”

(The only exception to this is gross negligence, wilful violations and destructive acts.)

The SAHPA committee has formally adopted just culture, and are guided by these principles when dealing with safety-related issues. To support this philosophy, all references to punitive action in response to Incidents and Accidents were removed from the MOP and TPM in 2020.

We encourage pilots to report safety-related information to help us build a rich database, so that we can all learn from emerging trends and safety hotspots.

What is an Incident?

An incident means any occurrence (excluding an accident) which affects, or could affect the safe operation of the PG/HG/PPG. Common examples of incidents:

  • Violating airspace restrictions
  • Landing in a tree
  • Landing in the sea
  • Landing on your head
  • Forgetting to wear your helmet
  • Colliding with another pilot (including model aircraft and drones)
  • Forgetting to clip into your harness
  • Being pulled off your feet and dragged across take-off
  • Getting caught in a “cloud suck” situation
  • Multiple collapses in rotor with a lucky landing
  • Accidental reserve deployment
  • Getting caught in a dust-devil
  • Slope landing in endangered vegetation (as is the case on Signal Hill).

None of these examples may have resulted in any form of injury, or damage to property, but they are “teachable moments” – opportunities for reflecting on what went wrong, how to learn from these and prevent future occurrences from contributing to a serious accident.

What is an Accident?

An accident is any event which results in injury, loss of life, damage to the glider, or damage to someone else’s property.

That’s it. If you (or passenger) require some form of medical assistance (even just having a medic clean out the wound) then you are required to report your accident. Some examples of accidents:

  • PPG pilot attempts to launch, but another wing is sucked into the propellor, resulting in significant but repairable damage to the wing.
  • A tandem pilot stumbles on take-off, and while the pilot is unharmed, the passenger requires a medic to clean and bandage the wound.
  • A PG pilot is blown over-the-back in strong wind and is shredded by rocks, requiring a visit to casualty.
  • A pilot stumbles on take-off, and snaps a tendon.
  • A pilot suffers multiple collapses and pendulums into the mountain-side, requiring a helicopter casevac to the nearest hospital.
  • A student is unexpectedly launched by a dust-devil, dragged through the car-park, bouncing across a few bonnets and windscreens. The student is unharmed, but leaves behind some conversation-worthy dents.

What do we do with the information?

The SAHPA Safety Manager analyses the data and publishes these trends for all SAHPA members to learn from. In case you missed it: the following safety-related articles were published in 2021:

The Safety Manager is currently evaluating the data for 2021 and will soon be publishing these findings and observations.

There are a number of benefits to this approach:

  • Identifying emerging trends and taking preventative actions to avoid more serious accidents (ie. uninformed foreign pilots repeatedly injuring themselves at a particular site)
  • Identifying the root causes of accidents
  • Identifying new or emerging risks (ie. a new tree growing right below launch)
  • Identifying attitude or behaviour which contributes to an unsafe culture (ie. someone prone to blaming others can be coached to take responsibility)

How you can help

It is your responsibility (and legal obligation, as required by the Civil Aviation Authority) to report your incident or accident within 7 days.

If you witnessed an accident, your insight and observations may also provide a valuable external perspective, especially if you are an instructor or safety officer.

Instructors, please teach your students to report incidents and accidents while still on their training. This will help normalise and reinforce the culture of sharing experiences. (Currently our data shows that nothing ever happens to students, which seems highly improbable…)

Lastly, SAHPA has made it easy for you to Report an Incident or Accident. It should take you no longer than 3-5 minutes to complete. Please, do the right thing and help us foster a culture where we document all teachable moments to help make the sport safer for everyone.


The SAHPA Office
office@sahpa.co.za