Showing off kills two

Aircraft: Beech Mentor. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Williston, Fla. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, a CFI, took off from a turf runway surrounded by trees. Witnesses said the airplane became airborne within a couple of hundred feet, ballooned up, then leveled off just above the runway and accelerated. When the airplane passed abeam the witnesses, the airplane’s smoke system was active and the airplane’s wings were rocking up and down.

When the airplane reached the end of the runway, it pitched to an altitude of about 200 feet AGL, yawed and rolled left, then pitched nose down. The nose oscillated up and down before the plane hit the ground.

Investigators noted that at the time of the accident, once an airplane was beyond the tree line, it would have been subjected to a 30° crosswind of 10 to 16 knots.

Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any pre-impact malfunctions of the airplane or engine.

However, examination of the tungsten filaments from the light bulbs in the stall warning indicator lights revealed that they were stretched and distorted, indicating they were likely illuminated during impact.

According to investigators, the pilot was described as knowing airplane energy management very well, however, they speculated that on the day of the accident, he may have been surprised after he cleared the top of the trees surrounding the airport and encountered the 30° crosswind and wind gusting from 10 to 16 knots. This would have affected the airplane’s flight path and resulted in a loss of energy, possibly resulting in the loss of control and stall.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed in changing wind conditions during a steep climb after takeoff, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s ostentatious display close to the ground.

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA062

This November 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. Duane says

    Sorry – I don’t buy the crosswind being any significant factor in this accident, even though NTSB investigators have a long history of blaming crosswinds for “loss of energy leading to stall” accidents. They simply don’t understand flying and aeronautical performance.

    A 10 to 16 knot crosswind at 30 degrees is only a 5-8 knot crosswind component. That’s next to negligible even for very light aircraft. And in a flying aircraft at an altitude well above ground effect it will have no effect but to make for some lateral drift and a yaw into the wind, and will not by itself cause a significant loss of airspeed and a stall. A sudden and large wind reversal on the order of 180 degrees might make a temporary impact on the airspeed of a flying aircraft, but one easily corrected by putting the nose down for the few seconds it takes to build back the airspeed necessary to keep flying.

    None of us were there so we (and NTSB) don’t know precisely what happened in this accident. But it does sound from the witness descriptions as if the pilot essentially put himself into a classic full power stall and spin – after wasting some energy on his wing-wagging in ground effect, then by abruptly climbing at a high angle of attack and losing airspeed to below the stall speed. The rollover indicates a likely entry into a spin from lack of coordinated rudder.

    Recovery from a properly coordinated full power stall is very easy to do in most light aircraft. But a spin is deadly at low altitude. He was reported to be at 200 feet AGL when the aircraft stalled, which plenty of altitude to recover from if he lowered the nose promptly and kept the ball centered.

    We know one thing: the wind didn’t kill these two unfortunate people – more than likely the pilot did.

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