Inadvertent spin kills 1

Aircraft: RV-6A. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: West Jordan, Utah. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The accident happened at the end of a four-hour flight. The pilot, who had an estimated 810 hours in the RV-6A, transmitted his intentions to join the traffic pattern at the airport. A short time later, an indiscernible distress transmission was made over the frequency and the RV-6A was seen spiraling to the ground.

GPS data recovered from the airplane revealed that it was traveling at an appropriate airspeed for entry into the downwind leg of the traffic pattern with a sufficient margin above the stall speed to maintain flight. It then made an abrupt left turn, resulting in a spiral dive, which progressed into a spin without sufficient altitude to recover.

The post-accident examination revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

The pilot’s abrupt maneuver during the approach was consistent with an avoidance maneuver. The maneuver, which was calculated to be a 65° angle of bank to the left, most likely placed the airplane into an accelerated stall condition, which developed into a spin. In addition, the airplane was loaded toward its aft center of gravity limit, which could have increased its pitch sensitivity, thereby exacerbating the turn. A successful recovery from an unintentional stall-spin at pattern altitude is extremely unlikely.

Radar data revealed that the airplane passed through a cluster of primary targets (with no altitude information) at the time of the accident. Such primary targets could potentially be radar system anomalies, thermal air currents, or bird reflections. According to a bird mitigation specialist, large birds, or flocks of smaller birds, are often present at that time of year, and such birds typically fly circling patterns in thermal air currents at traffic pattern altitudes.

Probable cause: The pilot’s execution of an abrupt maneuver, likely to avoid birds, which resulted in a stall and spin.

NTSB Identification: WPR11FA450

This September 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.


  1. Vaughn S. Price says

    Brian has it right. So does Jack D. and Mooney 9242V Plus A little more spin instruction such as spinning out of a steep bank, over the top and under the bottom would keep more pilots aware of dangers in the traffic pattern

  2. Que Roberts says

    While I can appreciate the uproar over medicals I cannot see how it pertains to this article. I agree that training, training, training is the key to being a great pilot. Just look at the skill level of the military pilots and the benefit of training is evident. With that said… I don’t want to be a combat VFR pilot. I feel that continued training is the pilot’s responsibility and I feel that seeking advanced training is a Pilots responsibility and in no way do I want the FAA making asinine rules in knee jerk reactions. One more point to make; who is to say that that pilot was doing anything less than training. It is entirely possible that he was out flying that day as a means of gaining greater mastery of his flying skills. I myself will seek advanced training with my focus being on spin recovery. BUT! I will do that when I can afford too and do not want the FAA mandating something that will not save you if you should spin while in the pattern… Serious what we need is intelligent oversight and no more of the meddlesome mindless oversight that we are currently experiencing.
    Que Roberts-

  3. Phil Jacobsma says

    I don’t recall any training in abrupt collision avoidance maneuvers from my flying lessons. I suppose aerobatic training might have helped this pilot recover, but I suspect if the FAA required all student pilots to get aerobatic training people would object to this as overreach and an unnecessary expense. It strikes me that this accident had more to do with bad luck than anything the FAA should or should not do.

  4. says

    Touchy-feely, feel good, warm fuzzy protected in your mothers arms policy is all the Gov. is interested in because it apeals to the lowest base of voters that have as of late become relavent. See what can happen in the blink of an eye?

  5. Mooney 9242V says

    How many fatalities must we experience before the FAA looks at the data and reaches the totally self-evident conclusion that flight training, not medical certification for private pilots, will save lives. In addition, the elimination of the FAA’s medical certification foolishness, which is a disincentive to the purchase of new planes and equipment, will stimulate the GA industry and frankly, will improve the safety of the GA industry.

    The real question, can we getthe FAA to begin to interpret the facts and move away from its useless feel good policy.

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