This May 2007 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: Zenith Zodiac 601 XL.
Location: Canadian, Texas.
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot, who held a Sport Pilot certificate, had logged 176 hours. A relative said that the pilot commuted to work by air. There was no record of the pilot obtaining a preflight weather briefing or filing a flight plan prior to the accident flight. At the time of the accident there were thunderstorms in the vicinity of the airport. Several witnesses reported seeing the airplane take off in heavy rain and poor visibility. There were no known voice communications from the pilot.
The airplane crashed within three miles of the departure airport. The wing spars and elevator rear attachment points revealed signatures consistent with overload stresses. Examination of the two seatbelt assemblies revealed that they were not buckled at the time of the accident and the canopy’s locking mechanism was found in the unlocked position.
A toxicological exam of the pilot revealed positive results for an antidepressant medication and diphenhydramine, an antihistamine with sedative effects. Investigators determined that the aircraft broke up in flight.
Probable cause: The pilot’s improper pre-flight planning and decision to depart into deteriorating weather conditions, which resulted in a loss of control and subsequent in-flight break up.
For more information: NTSB.gov/ntsb/brief2.asp?ev_id=20070509X00539&ntsbno=DFW07LA102&akey=1.