While standing there running my motor, I reflected on the number of
hand injuries and how easily they happen. And how quickly. The thought
made me rehearse what I'd do if the power came on unexpectedly.
I've been told of four recent incidents that are not yet on the database
but deserve to be shared so that we can all learn. Please contribute to
the database, thought I'd share.
This is the most insidious report I've ever heard. A pilot had his
motor apart in the garage without its cage on. He needed to get to
something and pulled the starter just enough to move the propeller out of
the way. It fired up, going immediately to over half power, lunging
forward and hitting him in the arm, mangling his arm. He was lucky in
being extremely close to
emergency medical services that could get him stabilized and to a
hospital post haste.
He was just moving the propeller to work on something and it roared
You just never expect that. Sometimes you stand out in the field and
have to pull it a bunch of times to start. Then, in the garage, you just want to move the prop and it jumps
to life. Go figure.
An easy solution is pulling the spark plug before moving the prop at
all. But too often it's easy to act without taking the extra time. I've moved the prop
just like this. Hopefully I'll think twice about it now.
A pilot was launching in nil wind. The wing came up and he got running
so fast that he fell, ending up with his hands forward. The paramotor
rode up his back such that the cage top impacted the ground and wound up
slicing two of his fingertips off. They were unable to be reattached.
The solution to this is making sure you are running, feeling some lift
from the wing and fully under control before committing to launch.
That's much easier said than done, of course, since it takes quite a bit
of practice to get to that point of ability. Many pilots, especially in
their early hours, tend to just throttle up and hope for the best.
Obviously killing the motor immediately is important but this accident
shows that doing so may not be either possible or be done quick enough.
The machine had a rigid two-hoop frame so don't think the problem is
limited to flexible cage machines. Certainly more prop clearance is good
but it's not a panacea.
Just recently I was at a high elevation site
with my Blackhawk 172 in nil wind and thought of this accident. My
inflation and run turned out to be slightly downwind so, after getting
the wing up, I was running very fast with little lift from the wing--a
perfect scenario for falling. So I backed off the power to prevent
overrunning my legs, accelerating slowly until I felt lift from the wing
then I powered up enough to lift off.
3. Reaching Back
An experienced pilot was reaching back to turn on his strobe and mis-judged
the distance, hitting the prop. Damage through his glove was relatively
superficial but still required a hospital visit and stitches.
done this same reach before. Be careful!
Starting In A Hurry
OK, this is so common it's regrettably quickly
dismissed. But quickly is the problem. I sympathize here since I
sometimes get out my machine for some forgotten accessory. A phone, a
lens, music, a radio or whatever. That careful preflight is now behind
me and isn't likely repeated. Rather I go back to start the machine,
thinking all is well.
Not so fast.
Did I do a carb check?
The victim of this mishap had
a machine where pulling on the throttle stem caused some RPM increase.
He had gotten in the machine, started it, realized he forgot something,
shut off the motor, went to get his gadget and came back to restart.
When he pulled the cord it went suddendly to half power and caught him
off guard. He had time, though, to carefully put one hand up on the cage
to hold it back while he reached down to hit the kill switch. After
shutting down the motor with some relief he noticed blood running onto
his pants. Looking up revealed a horrible site: his hand was essentially
cut in half. The prop didn't hit his hand in the usual way, rather it
caught on something that motor moved into, like his truck's tailgate,
and caused it to shatter. One exploding projectile got his hand.
acknowledges that he was lucky it wasn't his neck.
Here is another accident example.
We continue to
get these reports and the results are terrible. It's obviously an area
that needs our attention. My observation of paramotor-related hospital
visits is that this is the single greatest cause of serious injuries in
It would obviously be extremely helpful if manufacturers
would build netting/cage structures that are able to keep an open human
palm from reaching the prop at full rated thrust. It is possible! See "A
As always, please contribute incidents reports to the USPPA
database so we can learn from each other's mishaps in order to avoid