Is there a problem with the tow plane Rudder Waggle Signal?

There have been two accidents where the new rudder waggle signal played a role.

The glider dive brakes opened on tow. The tow pilot tried to make a radio call. In both cases the radio of the glider was turned off, turned down, or on a different frequency. In both cases, the tow pilot did not know the signal and called to people on the ground for a description of the new signal.

When the signal was given the glider pilot misunderstood the new signal, thought it was a towplane emergency, and released. In both cases, the glider pilot did not recognize the dive brakes were open and in both cases the glider crashed.

Is there a problem with the new rudder waggle signal?

The signal has been around for ten years now and has been adopted by several countries. In the USA, some flight training organizations adopted the signal ten years ago.

The new signal has been discussed on the pages of Soaring magazine and CFI clinics conducted by myself and the SSA for the entire time.

This means there have been more than 40 clinics, several articles in Soaring, presentations at the SSA Convention, and other efforts to get the message to the pilots.

During a meeting of glider pilots in the club involved with one of the accidents, I specifically addressed the new rudder waggle signal and then again with the club CFIs in a separate meeting.

For ten years, CFIs and glider pilots have been told that this new signal can be a life saver, but everyone needs to know and understand the signal and the procedures in case the dive brakes open on tow.

The signal means there is something wrong with your glider. . . check your dive brakes first.

Rudder Waggle Weekend Suggestion

To be sure everyone is aware and trained for this new signal, a special "Rudder Waggle Weekend" needs to be conducted so all glider pilots and tow pilots can give and receive the new signal.

I have never heard of a single glider club or commercial operation having a "Rudder Waggle Weekend."

The problem is kind of like the guy sitting on top of his roof top after a flood. He refuses the help of a canoe, a rowboat, a motorboat and finally a helicopter, declaring "God will save me." He drowns and meets God at the pearly gates where he asks why God did not save him?

God replies, "What do you mean? I sent a canoe, a rowboat, a power boat and a helicopter!"

The problem is not the new signal. The problem, is the people. Glider pilots have made no effort to learn the new, life saving signal. The problem is the same at the other end of the rope. Tow pilots have made no effort to learn the new signal. The rudder waggle signal is a simple, life saving procedure that could eliminate some glider fatalities overnight.

Oh, by the way, during 1996, I had at least four people call me to thank me for the new rudder waggle signal that saved them from a serious accident.

The new signal works!

The Rudder Waggle Signal