This August 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: Cessna 185. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 5 Minor. Location: Newfane, N.Y. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The plane was being used to transport skydivers. The pilot, who had logged 3,985 hours, including 559 in C-185s, made seven or eight uneventful flights prior to the accident. A jump instructor was on board the accident flight, with a student and a videographer, and two additional experienced jumpers.
The flight took off from a 2,875-foot turf runway. The airplane accelerated normally, but during rotation, the jump door, which was on the right side of the airplane, opened. The door was hinged so that it moved upward. The pilot was not concerned with the door, which would not have critically impacted the airplane’s performance. However, one of the experienced parachutists attempted to secure the door and in the process he was partially outside of the airplane. The pilot yelled at the parachutist to stop and became distracted, which resulted in the airplane veering left toward trees while flying at a low airspeed. The airplane crashed into tree, coming to rest on its back with the roof of the cabin and empennage separated
Examination of the airplane did not reveal any mechanical malfunctions and the pilot reported that the airplane performed as expected, without any mechanical issues. One of the occupants noted that the jump door was checked prior to takeoff and appeared to be secured. The jump door separated during the accident and was found in the latched position. The jump door and surrounding structure were distorted due to impact damage.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control due to his diverted attention, which resulted in a collision with trees during the initial climb after takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the passenger’s attempt to secure the jump door after it opened during takeoff.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: ERA10LA389