Bird strike leads to an emergency landing in an alfalfa field

These March 2003 Accident Reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Kit Fox.

Location: Glendale, Ariz.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: During cruise flight the CFI and the pilot receiving instruction heard a loud “womp,” followed by part of the propeller separating from the aircraft and strong vibration that shook the airplane. The CFI took control of the aircraft and advised the local air traffic control tower that they would be making an emergency power-off landing in an alfalfa field. The aircraft touched down and, during the landing roll, hit a mound of dirt and nosed over. The post-landing investigation discovered the remains of a bird imbedded in what was left of the propeller.

Probable cause: The propeller’s separation in-flight as a result of a bird strike.

Aircraft: Beech Bonanza.

Location: Mount Airy, N.C.

Injuries: 5 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who held a commercial certificate and an instrument rating, obtained a weather briefing, filed an instrument flight plan and was cleared for takeoff. Visibility at the time of the accident was reported as two statute miles in drizzle, with an overcast layer at 500 feet. The winds were calm. The pilot’s flight experience consisted of 712 hours, 44 of which were in actual instrument meteorological conditions. The pilot had flown three hours in IMC within 90 days of the accident.

The airport manager said he heard the airplane take off, then a short time later he received a call from a resident near the airport who said the aircraft had crashed. The wreckage was found on a hill, in a near vertical nose-down attitude. The engine and forward cabin had penetrated the ground to a depth of about eight feet. No pre-crash mechanical issues were found during the investigation. Radio communications were normal and there was no indication of a problem on board.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain control of the aircraft due to spatial disorientation. A factor was low clouds.

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