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Cyclist who took short cut across runway risked being “cut in half” by glider cable

Rider in New Zealand crossed airfield just as aircraft was being winch launched

A cyclist who took a short cut across a runway at an airfield in New Zealand risked being “cut in half” by a winch tow cable being used to send a glider airborne.

The incident took place at Alexandra Airport reports the Otago Daily Times, which said that the incident had officially been recorded as a “near miss” due to the risk of death or serious injury.

Describing the incident, Central Otago Flying Club president Greg Foster said: “We were launching the club two-seater glider and [a] mountain biker rode straight across the runway at speed.”

At that point, the glider was in the air – this YouTube video shows the winch launch process – and the winch driver noticed the rider in his peripheral vision and managed to apply the brakes just as the glider pilot released the cable.

“If the biker was only a few seconds later he would have been cut in half by the equivalent of a buzz saw,” Mr Foster said.

“Or, if the cable had hooked under the bike he would have been flipped 50 or more metres into the air.”

He added that the cyclist was “very close to being dead.”

There have been a number of incursions on the runway, including from cyclists, and Mr Foster said: “Don’t cross the runways, please use the cycle tracks that skirt around the ends of the airport.”

Joe Sherriff, president of Mountain Bikers of Alexandra agreed that cyclists should “stick to the trails.

“The track is well marked and signposted – don’t go near the runway or operational areas,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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