Bad preflight blamed in fatal crash

These 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: North American T-28.

Location: Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: Several witnesses, who saw the plane take off, saw a piece of the plane break away just seconds after take off. The plane rolled to the left and pitched down and crashed. Several pieces of Plexiglas, as well as parts of the left side of the engine cowl assembly, were found near the departure end of the runway. A gash was noted in the vertical stabilizer from the leading edge aft to the main spar. The rear canopy Plexiglas was fractured with orange paint transfer near the fracture surface. The left side of the engine cowling was mostly orange in color, and the aft upper section of the cowling was missing.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to verify security of the left engine cowling and its subsequent separation in-flight and collision with the vertical stabilizer, resulting in the loss of aircraft control.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee Six.

Location: Leominster, Mass.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land in instrument meteorological conditions. The 409-hour pilot had flown seven hours in the preceding six months. Of that time, 1.7 hours were in simulated instrument conditions and .7 was in actual instrument conditions. His most recent night flight was about 20 months before the accident.

Visibility at the airport was reported as three statute miles in mist with an overcast layer at 700 feet agl. The elevation of the airport is 563 feet msl. The pilot requested and was cleared for the GPS approach. No further transmissions were received from the pilot. A review of the approach plate for the assigned GPS approach showed the final approach fix is five miles from the airport with an inbound course of 324°. The minimums for the straight in approach are one statute mile of visibility and a minimum decision altitude of approximately 960 feet msl. Although no procedure turn was required for the approach, review of radar data revealed that after the airplane crossed the final approach fix, it turned right, away from the final approach course, and headed northbound for several seconds. The airplane then made a left turn and proceeded inbound towards the airport on a 300° heading. The last radar return showed the airplane a mile southeast of the airport at an altitude of 1,000 msl. The wreckage was found in a wooded area less than two miles from the runway and a half-mile to the right of the extended centerline. The wreckage was destroyed by fire.

The airplane was equipped with a Garmin GPS 400 unit and an autopilot. There were no documents recovered to confirm if the GPS unit was coupled to the autopilot. Because of the fire it could not be determined if the pilot was hand flying the approach or used the autopilot.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to follow instrument flight procedures resulting in a collision with trees.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Benton, Ark.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The 38-hour student pilot was practicing touch and goes. He was using 40° of flaps during the final approach. The aircraft drifted to the left so the pilot decided to do a go-around. He added power and pitched up, but the aircraft would not climb. The airplane stalled and collided with trees. Subsequently, the pilot realized he had forgotten to retract the flaps during the go-around and that his airspeed had gotten too slow.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to retract the flaps and maintain airspeed, resulting in an inadvertent stall during a go-around.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Kutztown, Penn.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The accident airplane was towing a student glider pilot for a local flight. The tow pilot, who had approximately 650 hours total time, had recently been signed off to do aerotows. The student glider pilot had approximately 50 hours. Shortly after takeoff, the glider pilot noticed that the towrope had some slack in it, and that the tow plane did not appear to be climbing. The glider pilot made slight control adjustments to tighten the tow rope. The towrope went slack again at 200-300 feet above the ground. The airplane began to descend below the glider. The glider pilot released from the tow plane, and turned back to the airport. During the turn, he saw the airplane drop its left wing slightly, and then begin a turn to the right. The airplane hit trees, then burst into flames.

According to the owner of the airplane, the tow pilot had performed approximately 70 tows during the past year, most with a certificated instructor on board. During a previous training flight, the airplane began to descend when the accident pilot failed to realize that the throttle had vibrated back to a lower power setting when he took his hand off it, according to the owner of the tow operation.

Probable cause: The tow plane pilot’s failure to maintain a climb while towing a glider for undetermined reasons, which resulted in the early release of the glider and the tow plane’s subsequent impact with trees.

Aircraft: Grover J3 Kitten.

Location: Mohawk, Tenn.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The owner of the aircraft had applied for a medical certificate but there was no record of him receiving one. On the application the owner indicated he had 13 hours of experience. There was also no record of the pilot undergoing flight training, although a friend of the pilot stated that the pilot had flown approximately 100 hours in the non-registered accident airplane. The pilot knew the right wing of the aircraft had broken ribs before taking off. According to witnesses he was performing aerobatics, specifically hammerhead stalls, when the trailing edge skin separated from the backside of the wing. The pilot reduced power. The right wing of the airplane dropped down and the nose pitched down sharply. The airplane hit the ground nose first. Examination of the wreckage revealed the wing fabric was glued and not stitched. The wing fabric had separated 3 feet outboard from the wing root. All ribs in the right wing were broken. No anomalies were noted with the flight controls. The engine was removed and weighed. After the accident it was noted that the aircraft was outfitted with a Volkswagen engine. The engine assembly weighed 90 pounds. The aircraft empty weight authorized by 14 CFR Part 103.1 is 254 pounds. The empty weight of the accident airplane was calculated to be 278 pounds.

Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to perform aerobatic flight in an airplane with known deficiencies, resulting in the in-flight separation of the airframe and the collision with the ground.—

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Lake Wales, Fla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting a soft field take off from a wet turf runway that had a lake at the departure end. The pilot did not extend the flaps to the 25° setting as outlined in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the recommended procedure for a soft field take off. He selected a point half way down the runway as his abort point and advanced the throttle. The airplane was not accelerating sufficiently. The pilot lowered the nose to gain additional speed then noticed the airplane had passed the abort point. He started to abort the take off, then determined the remaining runway inadequate for stopping and advanced the throttle to full power to avoid the lake. The airplane became airborne but did not gain enough altitude to avoid hitting the water.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to follow recommended procedures for a soft field take off, plus the delay in aborting the take off, resulting in an overrun of the runway and subsequent impact with water.

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