This October 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.
Location: Chesapeake, Va.
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The purpose of the flight was to test the speed brake installed in the amateur-built airplane. The pilot had purchased the airplane some months earlier. According to the girlfriend of the pilot, the pilot had tried the speed brake on his first flight in the airplane and it scared him. After the pilot had accumulated 70 hours in the plane, he told his girlfriend he was going to try the speed brake again. Witnesses described watching the airplane taxi from its hangar and then listening to the pilot announce the takeoff, crosswind, and downwind legs of the traffic pattern over the Unicom frequency. Seconds later, the witnesses heard a cry for help.
Other witnesses were traveling southbound along a divided highway, adjacent to the airport, in their car. They noticed the airplane flying erratically, at low altitude, as it paralleled their course on the the highway. The airplane then crossed the road in front of their vehicle at low altitude, and circled back towards them before hitting the ground. The impact scattered debris across all four lanes of the road. The witnesses’ vehicle drove through and over wreckage and their vehicle was struck by flying debris.
Examination of the wreckage and its components revealed no evidence of preimpact anomalies. The builder of the airplane had 1,500 hours of flight experience in it before he sold it. He stated that he never had problems with the speed brake. According to the airplane’s designer the deployment of the speed brake initiates a low-intensity rumbling vibration, but does not affect the handling characteristics of the airplane. The speed brake creates only direct drag, due to its position on the belly of the airplane, and does not affect the airflow over any of the lifting or control surfaces.
Probable cause: A loss of control in flight for undetermined reasons.
For more information: NTSB.gov