Piper vs. Bambi

This October 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: None. Location: Titutsville, Fla. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The purpose of the flight was for the student pilot to perform a night cross-country under the supervision of a CFI. After completing a full stop landing at the destination airport, they taxied back to the runway for more practice flying in the traffic pattern. While on the takeoff roll, as the student pilot began to rotate the airplane airborne, the CFI observed an animal directly in front of the airplane on the centerline.

He took authority of the flight controls in an attempt to not hit the animal as the airplane began the initial climb. He heard a “bang” as the airplane passed over what was later identified as a deer. The CFI then noticed the left rudder pedal was looser than normal and no brake pressure was observed in the left toe brake.

After a few low passes and confirmation from the control tower personnel that the left landing gear was not in the normal position, the CFI decided to land the airplane. During landing rollout, the left wing hit the ground and the airplane came to rest on the runway. The post-accident examination by an FAA inspector revealed that the left landing gear had separated, resulting in substantial damage to the left wing spar.

Probable cause: An inadvertent collision with a deer during a night takeoff.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: ERA11CA027

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