Lack of experience leads to rough landing

Aircraft: Zenith CH-701. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: Puyallup, Wash. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had logged more than 5,580 hours, but only seven in a Zenith. The purpose of the flight was to familiarize himself with the newly-built airplane.

At the time of the accident, the pilot had logged just four hours in the accident airplane.

He made two uneventful landings on a paved runway, then circled above the airport before attempting a third landing onto a grassy area parallel to the paved runway. He made the approach at an airspeed of 32 to 35 mph with the flaps fully retracted.

About 10 feet above the grass, he felt that the airplane was a little high and fast, so he reduced power and pitched the nose up to slow the airplane. The nose suddenly dropped. The nosewheel dug into the ground and the airplane flipped over on to its back.

The pilot reported no mechanical malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operations.

During a telephone conversation, a Zenith Aircraft Corp. representative reported that due to the airplane being a homebuilt airplane, exact stall speeds cannot be determined by the manufacturer. Generally, the approach speed for the Zenith CH-701 is between 45-50 mph, with the stalling speed of about 35 mph with the flaps retracted, he noted.

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

NTSB Identification: WPR11LA234

This May 2011 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.

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