Remarkably, the two pilots and three passengers on a NetJets Hawker 800XP and the pilot of a Schleicher sailplane escaped with their lives when the two aircraft collided at about 16,000 feet in VMC on August 28 near Smith, Nev. After the collision the pilot of the glider, 58-year-old Akihiro Hirao, bailed out and alighted safely, while the badly damaged jet made an emergency gear-up landing at Carson City Airport.
Damage to the Hawker was extensive, including a missing nosecone, parts of the glider embedded in the fuselage near the cockpit, structural damage that prevented the landing gear from being lowered, a failed right engine and an instrument panel on the left side that “exploded,” injuring the pilot in her face.
NetJets declined our request to interview the crew or to provide their names, but according to the NTSB, as the captain looked outside she noted something out of the corner of her eye to the left. As she looked to the left, she noted a glider filling the windshield. She moved the control yoke down and to the right in an attempt to avoid the glider, but to no avail.
The glider was equipped with a transponder, but it was not turned on. Hirao said he did not turn on the transponder because he intended to stay in the local glider area and because he wanted to preserve his battery power for radio use. Since the glider’s transponder was not operating, the Hawker’s TCAS would have received no threat alert and the glider would probably have been invisible to ATC radar.