Banner towing mishap destroys Bellanca, injures pilot

These July 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: Bellanca 8GCBC.

Location: Manorville, N.Y.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, employed as a banner tower, came in low to pick up the 30×100 banner. He was able to capture the banner, but then the aircraft had trouble climbing. The company owner, who witnessed the pickup, contacted the pilot over the radio to warn him that the airplane was too slow and appeared to be mushing toward the ground in a nose high attitude. The owner instructed the pilot to jettison the banner. The pilot replied that he was OK and continued to try to climb.

The airplane continued toward the ground in a nose-high attitude. The pilot released the banner just as the aircraft stalled and descended into trees.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to obtain the proper airspeed and his delayed remedial action to jettison the banner.

Aircraft: Cessna 185.

Location: Eveleth, Minn.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land with a five-knot tailwind on a 1,800-foot grass runway. The runway was in the process of being mowed.

The mower was on the first quarter of the runway, so the pilot aimed to touch down beyond it. The airplane touched down more than half way down the runway and the pilot could not stop before running out of runway. The plane hit a ditch.

Probable cause: The pilot’s misjudgment of speed and landing distance, resulting in an overrun of the runway.

Aircraft: Piper Seneca.

Location: Montauk, N.Y.

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed

What reportedly happened: Shortly after takeoff at night, the airplane hit a pond less than a mile east of the airport. A fuel slick was observed on the water, and records indicated the plane was adequately fueled for the takeoff.

Examination of the airframe did not reveal any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions. The flaps were found in the full 40° extended position. The POH for this airplane indicated the flaps should be at 25° for takeoff.

Subsequent examination of both engines did not reveal any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions. The pilot had total flight experience of approximately 900 hours, of which about 100 were at night and 475 were in the accident airplane.

Probable cause: A loss of control during climb for undetermined reasons.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: McAllen, Texas.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: According to witnesses on the ground, the accident aircraft was on final approach to runway 13 when the pilot, without advising the tower, performed a 360° left turn before proceeding to the runway. The winds at the time of the accident were 150° at 15 knots with gusts to 21 knots. The aircraft touched down about 1,000 feet down the runway on the right main landing gear, bounced once, and began a slow climbing turn to the right. The airplane reached an altitude of 50 feet agl, then descended into the top of a tree just outside of the airport perimeter fence. The aircraft nose-dived into the ground and burst into flames.

No mechanical anomalies were revealed during an examination of the airplane.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to recover from a bounced landing, which resulted in a loss of control.

Aircraft: Cessna 185.

Location: Angel Fire, N.M.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the instructor pilot, the pilot receiving instruction was at the controls when they entered the traffic pattern and set up for a touch-and-go landing on runway 17.

The landing was uneventful, and the pilot slowed the airplane down to approximately 10 to 15 knots.

When the pilot added power for takeoff, the airplane swerved to the left and the left main landing gear departed the left side of the runway. The pilot applied rudder and aileron control to recover and the airplane veered to the right, departing the right side of the runway.

The instructor took over control of the aircraft, but was not quick enough to keep the airplane from doing a ground loop.

The aircraft struck a ditch between the runway and taxiway.

Probable cause: The instructor’s inadequate supervision, which resulted in the pilot’s loss of directional control and the subsequent impact with the ditch.

Aircraft: Buccaneer II.

Location: Pell City, Ala.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, the aircraft was in cruise flight at 1,500 feet agl when the engine began to lose power.

Attempts to restore power were unsuccessful and the engine quit altogether. The pilot maneuvered for a forced landing in an open field that ran up hill. The ground was uneven and the rough terrain broke the left main landing gear.

Examination of the airplane revealed that the throttle cable had broken. Further examination of the throttle cable by the NTSB Materials Laboratory revealed the cable had failed due to fatigue.

Probable cause: The failure of the throttle cable due to fatigue resulting in a loss of engine power.

Aircraft: Cessna T210.

Location: Aspen, Colo.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot reported the takeoff was normal, but when he tried to retract the landing gear, it did not move. The pilot elected to terminate the flight and return to the airport for landing.

Concerned about the gear malfunction, the pilot attempted to land as soft as possible. On touchdown, the airplane’s right main landing gear collapsed, causing substantial damage to the right horizontal stabilizer and elevator. The airplane spun around 180° before coming to a stop on the runway.

An examination of the landing gear system uncovered a loose wire in the landing gear handle, which sent a false indication to the right main gear actuator switch, causing the system to unlock the gear, but not initiate landing gear retraction. Before the accident flight, the pilot had maintenance performed on the landing gear.

Probable cause: The failure of the landing gear actuator switch. Factors relating to the accident were the false landing gear indication, the precautionary landing, and the improper maintenance adjustment performed on the landing gear switch prior to the accident flight.

Aircraft: Cirrus SR-20.

Location: Fish Haven, Idaho.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to fly over the landing strip approximately 100 feet above ground to determine the condition of the surface. He reduced power and extended full flaps to slow down the aircraft. When the aircraft was over the approach end of the airstrip, he applied full power and selected 50% flap retraction and pitched up with a slight left turn.

Everything seemed fine for about five seconds, then the pilot felt the aircraft starting to sink. He realized the flaps had retracted all the way. He turned left to avoid heading directly into rising terrain. The aircraft collided with terrain about 600 feet from the airstrip.

After the accident, it was noted that the flaps were fully retracted and that the flap control switch was in the full up position.

The pilot told investigators that on several occasions, while on the ground, the flaps had retracted from 100% to 0 when the flap setting was selected to 50%.

A review of the maintenance records did not indicate that the aircraft was inspected regarding these reports. Maintenance records did indicate that a service bulletin had been accomplished at the previous annual inspection to alleviate the problem of radio transmissions inducing voltage into the flap motor proximity switches that caused the flaps to stop, continue past their selected position or reverse. The pilot said he did not make a radio transmission at the time, but might have accidentally pressed the push-to-talk switch when he meant to press the altitude hold to cancel. Both are located on the control stick.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance while maneuvering. Rising terrain, an inadvertent raising of the flaps for unknown reasons, and low altitude also were factors.

Aircraft: Cessna 175

Location: Wesington Springs, S.D.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land at a private airstrip. He told investigators he landed two thirds of the way down the runway instead of on the first third as he had planned. Because he lacked sufficient stopping distance, he initiated a go around by adding power and pitching up.

On the initial climb the airplane’s tires struck a barbed wire fence at the departure end of the runway. The airplane went into the brush, then caught fire.

Probable cause: The pilot not obtaining/maintaining clearance from the barbed wire fence during the go-around.

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