Big pilot, small cockpit a bad combo

Aircraft: Christian Eagle II. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Seward, Neb. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The flight instructor, who had 9,700 hours, was seated in the front seat giving instruction for an airplane check-out to the private pilot in the rear seat of the biplane, who had logged about 1,700 hours. The engine lost power on takeoff and the airplane crashed in a field.

The post-crash examination did not uncover any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation, however the mixture control lever, which was located below and to the left of the rear-seated pilot’s left knee, was pulled out about 2 inches.

There was no mixture control lever in the front seat. The lever should have been full forward during takeoff. The propeller control was situated directly below the mixture control and found in the full forward position. The propeller control lever is usually adjusted by the pilot after takeoff.

Although the mixture and propeller control levers were color-coded, it’s possible that the 6-foot, 5-inch private pilot’s left knee blocked his view of the controls due to his size and the small cockpit. The mixture control knob was slightly larger than the propeller control knob, but both were similar in shape.

Investigators determined that it was possible that the pilot thought he was adjusting the propeller control rather than the mixture control on takeoff and inadvertently shut off fuel to the engine.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadvertent pulling of the mixture control lever on takeoff, which shut down the engine.

NTSB Identification: CEN11FA616

This September 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it isintended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. says

    “The airplane came to rest upright in a cornfield on a measured heading of 320 degrees, approximately 1,865 feet from the departure end of runway 34, and 475 feet east of the runway’s extended centerline. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the firewall, fuselage, all four wings, and the empennage.” Sure sounds like an engine failure on take-off and attempted landing in a corn field. Corn is NOT forgiving but may well have been the only choice that soon after take-off. The resulting tumbling wreck was not unlikely in such a field. The “control, check free and clear”, must include free and clear of personnel as well.

  2. Joseph says

    I’m 6’2″ and don’t fit in a lot of smaller planes. The first thing I do is make sure I can see the controls, instruments, and can fully move all the controls. Though I’m taller in the Torso so my problem is usually head room. For some reason my gut says there is more to the chain of events than meets-the-eye as most people have the mantra if you do something and the engine stops reverse what you just did (or atleast stop and think about it), if it doesn’t fire back up go to the engine out checklist.

  3. Vaughn S. Price says

    No excuse for this accident, when I was 18 years old taking off at night in a Vultee BT-13 I pulled the mixture instead of the Prop. It got very quiet, I shoved mixtur prop and throttle full forward , woke up and continued my flight.

    It ain’t the trouble you get into, It’s how you go about getting out of the trouble!!
    If you are not continiously expecting the engine to quit You in fools paradise

  4. Dave Hill says

    Where did they crash? There is no mention of emergency landing site options. What was estimated impact speed? No attempt to land? This summary begs for more questions to be answered.

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