First time in make in model proves fatal

This July 2010 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: Zenith CH 701. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Iowa Falls, Iowa. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The builder of the aircraft, 74, held a commercial certificate and an instrument rating. His last medical certificate was a second-class medical issued on March 8, 1991. At the time of the accident he was intending to exercise the privileges of a Sport Pilot and was not required to possess a medical certificate.

The pilot’s logbook indicated that as of March 1984 he had a total of 755 hours of flight time. He did not fly again until December 2009, when he began flying with a flight instructor with the intent of becoming a Sport Pilot. He accumulated 5.4 hours of instructional flight time, which included a flight review dated May 26, 2010, which took place in a Cessna 152.

According to the CFI, they spoke about the differences between that airplane and the Zenith 701 that the pilot had just built. The CFI stated the pilot did a lot of research and they discussed the 701’s “…supposed inability of the elevator to work at slow airspeed without the prop-wash when the RPMs are pulled back.” Because of this characteristic, they practiced stalls and landings using a higher than normal power setting.

The accident occurred on the first test flight following the completion of plane. The pilot performed high-speed taxi runs followed by a takeoff. The pilot’s flight instructor, who was at the airport watching, observed the airplane southwest of the airport in a spin, from which it recovered. The pilot then flew back to the airport, and entered the traffic pattern with the intent to land.

On final approach the plane appeared to be unstable. The pilot added power and performed a go-around. The airplane came around again for another approach and landing. The airplane appeared to be stable in the traffic pattern until it was on final approach. When the airplane was about 200 feet above the ground, the engine noise decreased and the nose immediately dropped along with the right wing. The airplane crashed short of the approach end of the runway.

A post-crash examination of the airplane and engine did not reveal any mechanical failures or malfunctions. In addition, the pilot did not mention any problems with the airplane during his radio calls.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed while on final approach, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of experience in the model of airplane.

For more information: NTSB Identification: CEN10LA401



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  1. says

    Why would you build or fly an aircraft that could not be controlled in an reduced power or unpowered glide? Why would the FAA even license such an aircraft?

    Reducing requirements should not happen past the point of safety.

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