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Dust devil led to fatal paraglider crash in Alberta: Report

Thursday, October 29th 2020, 10:13 am - The pilot had been participating in a 25-minute recreational flight.

PEXELS: Jahoo Clouseau - Paragliding. Link: https://www.pexels.com/photo/adventure-beach-dawn-daylight-382177/ File photo. Courtesy Jahoo Clouseau/PEXELS

On May 13, a dust devil formed and collided with an Alberta pilot using a powered paraglider near Edmonton and caused a fatal crash, according to a recent report from The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

The crash occurred in Gibbons.

In a news release, The TSB says it "conducted a limited-scope, fact-gathering investigation" into the incident.

The pilot was participating in a 25-minute recreational flight on a privately registered powered paraglider, the entirety of which was recorded on a camera attached to his helmet. As he approached a field to land, he performed a 'go-around' -- A standard aircraft maneuver that discontinues landing. It is often employed when a pilot deems the landing spot to be unsafe, the report says.

During the go-around the paraglider encountered a dust devil that caused it to strike the ground, resulting in a fatal injury.

The report cautions against operating aircraft when conditions are favourable for dust devils to form.

"Paraglider pilots need to be aware of the conditions that can be conducive to the formation of these phenomena, and avoid operating in these conditions where possible," the TSB says.

WHAT IS A DUST DEVIL?

A dust devil may resemble a tornado, but it forms under different circumstances.

While tornados typically form under rotating thunderstorms, dust devils develop when there are clear skies and warm temperatures. When cold air moves aloft move over the region but there is strong sunlight hitting the surface, it can cause rapid heating at the ground level, leading to a strong updraft that can pick up dust and rotate.

Dust devils aren't typically associated with significant property damage or injury, but the risk is always there. For that reason, they should be avoided whenever possible.

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