February 2006 accident reports

These February 2006 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: Zodiac 601XL.

Location: Oakdale, Calif.

Injuries : 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had logged 350 hours but had not held a medical certificate since 1988. He recently purchased the airplane and intended to fly it under Light Sport Aircraft rules. A CFI, who had logged 17,900 hours, accompanied the pilot on the accident flight.

Witnesses to the accident stated that as the aircraft entered the airport traffic pattern the wings appeared to vibrate, then collapsed against the side of the fuselage. The aircraft spun into the ground and burst into flames.

The post-crash investigation detected that the leading edge wing skins for both wings had separated from the wing spars and ribs for about 6 feet from the wing tip inboard, and the rivet holes were misshapen. Both wings and the associated main spars showed deformation about the longitudinal, lateral and vertical axes of the wing with multiple “S” bends and twists in the main spars. The fire damage precluded a definitive determination of the sequence of failures within the wing structures.

Probable cause: The structural failure of the wings for undetermined reasons.

Aircraft: Cirrus S22.

Location: Wagner, S.D.

Injuries: Substantial.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: At the pilot’s most recent biennial flight review on May 10, 2005, he reported that he had logged 804 hours total flight time, of which 166 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane. The pilot, who had an instrument rating, reported that he had accumulated five hours of actual instrument flight time and 38 hours of simulated instrument flight.

The pilot told investigators that he had programmed the flight into the aircraft’s GPS using the “direct to” function. Shortly after takeoff he activated the autopilot and switched the radio frequency. The frequency was buzzing, which distracted the pilot. He then contacted center and was told to climb to 7,000 feet, then noticed that the autopilot had the aircraft in a left turn. This was not what the aircraft had been cleared to do, so the pilot took over the controls to try to climb to the required altitude. In doing so he misread the vertical speed indicator and slowed the aircraft so much that it entered a stall and then a spin. Cirrus aircraft are not certificated for spins. The prescribed recovery from a spin is the activation of the parachute, so the pilot pulled the handle and deployed the chute. The aircraft floated safely to the ground.

Probable cause: The pilot not maintaining airplane control and the inadvertent stall encountered during the climb.

Aircraft: Piper Chieftain.

Location: Burlington, N.C.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land. In an effort to increase the spacing between his airplane and the aircraft ahead of him, the pilot extended his downwind leg. After turning final he made several s-turns while waiting for the other airplane to get off the runway.

Once the other airplane cleared the runway the pilot attempted to execute a short-field landing. The aircraft touched down short of the pavement and the main landing gear sheared off.

Probable cause: The pilot’s misjudgment of altitude and distance, which resulted in an undershoot of the runway and subsequent impact with the runway collapsing the main landing gear.

Aircraft: Cessna 152.

Location: Augusta, Maine.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was practicing takeoffs and landings. During the landing flare, he elected to abort the landing because the winds had shifted to a quartering tailwind. He increased engine power and retracted the flaps. As the airplane approached the departure end of the runway, he determined that the airplane did not have a sufficient climb rate to clear obstacles so he decided to land on the remaining runway. During the second landing attempt, the airplane hit the runway on the nose landing gear, which collapsed, and resulted in substantial damage to the airframe.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper flare, which resulted in a hard landing.

Aircraft: RV-4.

Location: Wichita, Kan.

Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Substantial

What reportedly happened: The pilot said that he did his run-up check and took the runway for takeoff. The airplane rotated, took off and was approximately 80 feet above the ground when the canopy opened. The airplane yawed 45° to the right. The pilot lowered the airplane’s nose, applied full left rudder, and reduced the engine power to idle. The pilot said he then switched hands on the control stick and with his right hand, reached up and pulled the canopy closed.

The airplane was approximately 20 feet above the ground when it stalled and pancaked onto the runway.

An examination of the airplane canopy latching mechanism and other airplane systems revealed no anomalies.

Both the pilot and the passenger sustained serious injuries. The passenger died a few days later.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preparation prior to takeoff, and his failure to maintain control of the airplane, resulting in a stall and subsequent crash. Factors contributing to the accident were the unsecured canopy latch and the pilot’s diverted attention.

Aircraft: Ercoupe 415-C

Location: Arlington, Wash.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, earlier in the afternoon he and his passenger flew to another airport for lunch. He experienced difficulty restarting the plane for the return trip. The pilot added that he did not recall checking the engine oil pressure after restarting the engine. After takeoff he “noticed that the oil pressure indicated zero.” He reduced power and maneuvered the airplane for an emergency landing on the runway. During the turn to final, the airplane was too low to reach the runway in a power off glide so the pilot attempted to add power, but couldn’t do it in time to prevent the left wing from hitting the ground.

According to the pilot, about six months before the accident, there were several incidents where the oil pressure failed to come up after short flights. After mechanics replaced the oil pressure relief valve, this had not been a problem.

The reason for the loss of oil pressure on the accident flight was not determined.

Probable cause: The pilot’s excessive descent rate and his delay in taking action to reduce the descent rate, which resulted in an in-flight collision with the runway during an emergency landing. Contributing factors were the total loss of engine oil pressure and the pilot’s failure to check the oil pressure after engine start, which could have resulted in detection of the oil pressure problem prior to takeoff.

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