Takeoff in thunderstorm kills two

These June 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: Citabria.

Location: Dover, Tenn.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed

What reportedly happened: Several people watched the airplane take off during a thunderstorm. One witness told investigators the airplane used most of the runway to lift off, then entered what he described as “a wall of water.”

Another witnesses stated that the airplane barely cleared the trees at the departure end of the runway. The airplane was not equipped with an artificial horizon instrument.

When the airplane failed to arrive at its destination, a search was initiated. A few days later a portion of the left main landing gear strut and tire was located in the river a few hundred yards from the departure airport.

This led to a more extensive search and within a few weeks the rest of the airplane was located in the water. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of airframe, engine, or component malfunction.

Probable cause: The continued VFR flight into adverse weather conditions, including instrument meteorological conditions and turbulence in thunderstorms, which resulted in a loss of control in flight and subsequent collision with terrain.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Anoka, Minn.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: A 30-hour student pilot was practicing touch and goes. The student allowed the airplane to touch down to the left of the centerline and was unable to stop it from continuing to the left. The airplane went off the runway and struck a runway sign. The nose wheel collapsed.

Probable cause: The failure to attain the proper touchdown point, and failure to maintain directional control. Contributing factors were the pilot’s lack of experience and the runway sign.

Aircraft: Piper Navajo.

Location: Augusta, Ga.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: A witness on the ground stated the airplane used half of the 8,000-foot runway to get into the air, then appeared to have trouble climbing.

During the climb out, the pilot radioed the tower that he had lost power in one engine, and he was going to return to the airport for landing. The controller watched the aircraft continue straight out from the runway. He said it did not appear to be climbing.

Witnesses on the ground stated the airplane sounded like the engine was backfiring and sputtering.

One witness said the nose of the aircraft pitched up suddenly, then pitched down.

The airplane crashed in a swamp. The wreckage burst into flames. Examination of recovered components revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunction.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed while maneuvering on initial takeoff climb, resulting in an inadvertent stall, loss of control, and subsequent in-flight collision with trees and a swamp.

A factor in the accident was a reported loss of engine power for undetermined reasons.

Aircraft: Ercoupe.

Location: Atwood, Ill.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land at an unfamiliar airport in the daytime. He lost sight of the runway while flying in the traffic pattern. Confused, he mistook a road near the airport for the runway. The pilot realized his error when the airplane struck telephone wires crossing the road. The airplane touched down, hit a road sign and spun on the ground, coming to rest in a cornfield next to the road.

Probable cause: The selection of an unsuitable landing area and the improper decision to continue the approach without the airport and runway clearly in sight.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Atchison, Kan.

Injuries: 2 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land on runway 16. The winds were reported as variable and gusting from 12 to 18 knots. As she turned base for landing, the pilot noted that the winds had shifted and now favored landing on runway 34. However, she continued her approach to runway 16. The airplane touched down on runway 16. The pilot said because of the tail wind the airplane was going too fast on the roll out. The airplane ran off the end of the runway and impacted an embankment.

Probable cause: The decision to land with a tailwind and an overrun of the runway.

Aircraft: Aviat A-1.

Location: Tyringham, Mass.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: A witness on the ground told investigators he saw the airplane approaching the airport, then heard a crash. The airplane crashed 300 yards beyond the airstrip in a nose down attitude and burst into flames. An autopsy was performed on the pilot. Investigators determined he had suffered a heart attack in flight. Subsequent investigation revealed the pilot had a history of coronary heart disease, but did not disclose this on his FAA medical application.

Probable cause: The pilot’s incapacitation due to a heart attack, which resulted in a loss of aircraft control.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Overton, Nev.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot and CFI were practicing a simulated emergency landing over an unimproved field. The instructor pilot allowed the airplane to descend to 200 feet above the ground, then told the student to recover. The student added full power and retracted all the flaps before a positive rate of climb was established. Recommended procedure is to add full power and then retract the flaps incrementally. The sudden removal of the flaps caused the aircraft to sink. The student raised the nose and the airspeed decayed, exacerbating the sink rate. The Cessna landed hard.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to maintain an adequate airspeed and his decision to raise the flaps all at once during a go-around, which led to an inadvertent stall/mush. The flight instructor’s inadequate supervision of the flight was also a factor.

Aircraft: Cessna Cardinal.

Location: Woodland, Wash.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting a short field takeoff. The airplane’s acceleration was normal, however, shortly after liftoff the airplane settled back on to the runway.

The pilot continued the takeoff and the airplane became airborne a second time, then yawed to the left and began to settle back to the ground approximately 100 feet to the left of the runway pavement.

When the airplane contacted soft terrain, the right main landing gear and nose gear collapsed.

Probable cause: The pilot’s premature liftoff and failure to maintain/obtain airspeed and directional control during takeoff.

Aircraft: Cessna P206.

Location: Gooding, Idaho.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot inadvertently took off with a tow bar still attached to the airplane’s nose gear. He returned to the airport for landing. During the landing the airplane touched down and bounced back into the air. When it touched down a second time, the nose gear collapsed, resulting in substantial damage to the fuselage.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper flare and inadequate preflight preparation in not removing the tow bar before the flight.

Aircraft: Aviat A-1B.

Location: Okobojo, S.D.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land a float-equipped aircraft on a lake. When it touched down, the pilot heard a loud noise from the left front of the airplane. As the airplane slowed, it began to lean to the left. The leaning continued until the left wing tip was in the water by the time the aircraft came to a stop. An examination of the landing gear revealed that the left strut had failed.

Probable cause: Failure of the float strut during a water landing.

Aircraft: Beech F-35.

Location: Middlesboro, Ky.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed

What reportedly happened:

The pilot was utilizing VFR flight following in marginal VFR conditions. Approximately eight miles south of the destination airport he advised air traffic control that he had the airport in sight through the clouds. The controller terminated flight following and instructed the pilot to switch to the airport Unicom frequency for advisories. No further radio transmissions were received from the airplane. Review of radar data revealed the aircraft, flying at an altitude of 5,500 feet, continued approximately eight miles past the airport. It then reversed course in a descending right turn. There were no further radar returns received from the airplane. The wreckage was found scattered over the ground, indicating that the airplane experienced an in-flight breakup. Data extracted from a hand-held GPS found in the wreckage revealed that when the airplane began the turn its airspeed was 142 knots. During the turn, the airspeed increased dramatically. The last GPS data point recorded showed airspeed of 211 knots. The never exceed speed for the aircraft was 173 knots.

Probable cause: The improper decision to descend into clouds, and exceeding the maximum speed and design stress limits of the airplane, which resulted in an in-flight breakup and subsequent collision with terrain.

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