CFI walks into propeller

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: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Beverly, Mass. Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The flight instructor and the private pilot receiving instrument instruction in the Piper were in the run-up area with the engine running when they noticed that the pilots of another airplane, a PiperSport, ahead of them were having difficulty latching the canopy. The flight center had recently purchased the PiperSport and they were having problems with the canopy latching all of the time.

When the student and CFI in the Cherokee pulled up parallel to the Piper Sport in the run-up area, the flight instructor in the PiperSport was making motions that the canopy would not latch. The private pilot’s flight instructor then exclaimed “I can’t believe this stupid plane” and “Go around these guys.” The flight instructor then stated “My flight controls,” and maneuvered so that they were behind and to the right of the PiperSport.

A little while later, the flight instructor who appeared frustrated waiting for the PiperSport pilots stated “I am going to help these clowns out” and got out of the airplane. The Cherokee was equipped with a walkway which led aft from the cockpit and was used to enter and exit the airplane. The cabin door was hinged at the front, and was equipped with a door holder that would hold the door in an open position, blocking an occupant from going forward, instead of aft, down the walkway. Additionally, the door was equipped with a secondary door stop mounted on the upper surface of the right wing almost directly in line with the lower outer edge of the door.

The private pilot remaining in the Cherokee said just as he glanced down at his checklist he heard a ‘thud’. He looked out of the windscreen and saw the flight instructor’s sunglasses lying on the ground and knew something had happened. He then shut down the airplane and called the tower.

Examination of the secondary stop revealed that it exhibited compression buckling and was bent forward and to the right from its usual mounted position, indicating the flight instructor may have tripped on the stop, causing it to buckle. However, interviews with the flight school operator revealed the flight instructor would often jump off the front of the airplane wing to put on propeller locks when securing them for the night, indicating that he would sometimes not use the walkway for exiting the airplane.

Probable cause: The flight instructor’s decision to exit the airplane on the taxiway with the engine still operating, and his failure to avoid the rotating propeller.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: ERA10LA446

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