This November 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Location: Ranger, Texas. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The accident happened while on a instructional cross-country flight in visual meteorological conditions. The purpose of the flight was to allow the left seat student to acquire experience flying the airplane and to allow the back seat passenger, who was also a student pilot, to listen to radio transmissions. The CFI, who was known at the flight school for performing aerobatics in the school’s aircraft, had logged 595 hours.
Before the flight, the instructor of the back seat student and the accident flight instructor had lunch. The accident flight instructor was asked not to “do any funny stuff” with the back seat student on board. The instructor of the back seat student told investigators she made the request because she didn’t want him to learn any bad habits.
The instructor further reported that she had heard, before the accident, that the accident flight instructor had done a barrel roll in one of the flight school’s airplanes. In addition, another flight student reported that the accident flight instructor had demonstrated rolls and spins to him during flight lessons. Prior to the accident the back seat passenger had sent an e-mail to friends in which he referenced the accident instructor as a “megalomanic instructor” and commented on how he did aerobatics during lessons although they were not supposed to.
Although there were no eye witnesses to the event, two people reported hearing a bang then observing pieces of the aircraft falling to the ground. Based on the wreckage, investigators determined that the airplane experienced an in-flight breakup during an aerobatic maneuver. Five maneuvers of interest were identified in the radar data. They consisted of dives and abrupt pull ups. During the last maneuver the airplane’s airspeed exceeded 134 knots calibrated airspeed. According to the airplane’s type certificate data sheet, the airplane’s maximum maneuvering speed was 116 knots.
No pre-impact mechanical deficiencies with the airplane were noted, and all fracture surfaces were consistent with overload separations.
Probable cause: The intentional performance of aerobatic maneuvers that exceeded the design limits of the airplane structure.
For more information: NTSB.gov