Strong wind sends two planes aloft

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The yellow planes are not gliders, they are powered tow planes. The white planes are gliders.

I am thinking the yellow ones had people in them piloting the.


I’m pretty sure the planes taking off are the powered tow planes (it says so in the captions). The big white ones are the gliders.


Yeah, just a typo. Should say glider tow planes rather than glider two planes.


At the start of the video it says the location is KAFF – the US Air Force Academy airfield.


Looks like you’re right- I’m pretty sure there were people in the yellow tow planes. Maybe they had to take off, given the other nasty options?


I think those are Piper Cubs, or at least a similar design. And they can take off and land in rather incredibly short distances. Wind plays a factor, of course, but I have seen them take off almost by just jumping up into the sky. They use them a lot in Alaska.

Here is an example:


Pixar’s already using this youtube video to make a movie about a pair of sentient airplanes who just want to be free to soar the skies. In the first 10 minutes, a microburst kills their mentor figure and hurls the two of them in opposite directions, and then next 90 minutes are them trying to reunite. One of them befriends a wise-cracking, sardonic pigeon that suffers from a crippling fear of heights voiced by Eugene Mirman.


This event occurred at the US Air Force Academy some time ago, apparently April 23, 2014, according to this Reddit thread. This is the most informative comment from that thread:

I’m very curious as to how you got this video, i was under the impression it never left the airfield.

This happened in April 2014, this past year. The weather is absolute crap here, especially for soaring. Well… we get good weather sometimes. Anyway, it’s not uncommon for those TG-16A’s to go up with a 25 knot gust… But i digress.

The cadets were pushing in because winds were out of limits and the weather was getting worse… and BAM! Microburst.

This microburst hit right next to the airfield. The tower spotted it early, gave a verbal warning “look out…” and cadets are trained to do the following: grab a wing (glider) and turn broadside into the wind and put the spoilers out. The tows were not so easy… nor lucky. Their takeoff speed is about 50 knots, and none of them were powered up when they lifted off the ground, to give you an idea of how bad the wind was. Their only maneuver is to face into the wind and pray they dont actually take off. The tows that took off left for COS airport… it took another 30 minutes of holding gliders before the tower let the cadets start moving the gliders.

As for taking off… 55 kt gusts are the highest the Academy has had in a long time. Considering there were a half-dozen other aircraft within 100 ft of the tows, along with people (i.e. cadets around/in the gliders) if he was moving too far from his position in the queue, the safest action is to get some altitude and try and leave the microburst. Or at the very least put some altitude and distance in between himself and the cadets and aircraft. You saw how slow the tows in the air were moving relative to the ground… those were HARSH winds.

At about 0:20, you can see a cadet hanging onto the wing of a glider on the bottom of a screen. This wind was scary. I don’t know if anyone was up at the time, but full tempo ops can be up to 5 tows and 8 gliders… on a standard afternoon training day 3 tows and 4 or 5 gliders is normal. It looks like they were already pushing the gliders to the hangar…


IANAATC, but 55 knots doesn’t seem like much. Did somebody forget to tie something? Why don’t small planes go jaunting off all the time?

I don’t think the winds are making the yellow ones fly. I do think they are making them take off weird.

The yellow ones should be MUCH heavier than the white ones because they have engines in them, and they have smaller wing spans. You can see with one of the white ones they are trying to weigh them down.

I am thinking with the storm coming or what ever the pilots figured they would be better up in the sky vs on the ground. If they are on the ground and in the open, I know storms can tear them up and tip them over if not properly strapped to the ground.

55 knots is 63 mph, or 102 kph, so that’s pretty significant. Also, it looks like they were preparing to tow the gliders into the sky, so they weren’t tied down. What strikes me as weird is that none of the gliders moved.

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55 knots is a lot of wind, it’s at the top end of 10 (Storm) on the Beaufort Scale. On land, those conditions are described as:

Trees are broken off or uprooted, structural damage likely.

and at sea it looks like this:


I’ve lived in this area for close to 20 years now and can confirm the weather patterns around the Air Force Academy is notoriously fickle.

The area has a known micro-climate that creates strong winds that swirl around the Palmer Divide to the north and creates weird wind patterns with strong gusts coming off the Rampart Range (that’s Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain that houses NORAD in the distance). These same winds create awesome glider conditions with lots of thermals.

I’ve seen blizzard conditions and total whiteout at my house then go 5 miles down the road and it’s sunny and clear skies.


The guy hanging on to the glider wing reminded me of the guy who was yanked aloft while holding on to a dirigible’s mooring rope. He fell to his death.

That’s funny, it doesn’t seem that bad when I drive that fast with the top down. Live and learn.

IIRC, when I was an air cadet flying dHC Chipmunks you couldn’t fly in speeds above 30kts because of things like this.


The car is designed so the airflow presses the car down and you have that windshield in the way.
Try driving where you have that for a crosswind and you have to turn to keep it from pushing your car into the other lane. Or in my much more often case as it doesn’t take that much wind ride the scooter leaned over as if I am going to turn just to keep straight.


Good eye. The Piper Cub will fly just fine without a pilot. Those things just want to be in the air. Hell, you can probably sneeze and get one up in the air.


It looks like the Pipers were already powering up, possibly to taxi somewhere safer. Light planes like that can take off at very low speeds; stall speed for a Cessna 150 is only 60 knots, and with the engine already turning over, if they got a sufficient headwind they could pop aloft. The pilots probably decided it was better to take control and get some airspace, rather than risk getting bounced off the tarmac, repeatedly.