This February 2008 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: RV-4. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Elkin, N.C. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The commercial pilot had at least 2,050 hours of experience. Earlier in the day prior to the accident, the pilot performed what was described by witnesses as a poorly executed aileron roll at a low altitude. The pilot was not wearing a parachute as required for aerobatic flight, and was below the 1,500 feet AGL requirement for executing aerobatic maneuvers.
The accident pilot and the pilots of two other airplanes departed from runway 07. After takeoff, the accident pilot turned downwind, base, and final for runway 07, and performed a low pass, flying over the runway at an estimated altitude of 8 feet above ground level. Witnesses reported that when the flight was near the departure end of runway 07, the airplane was observed to pitch up and roll to the left while continuing to climb. One pilot-rated witness reported that at the top of the climb at about 250 to 300 feet AGL, the airplane appeared to perform a “split S” type maneuver, and then descended in a nose-low attitude. The witness reported that before losing sight of the airplane due to obstructions, the airplane was flying nearly perpendicular to the runway and began a rapid nose-up pitch change. The witness then observed a fireball. The post-accident investigation did not uncover any mechanical anomalies with the aircraft.
Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to attempt an aerobatic maneuver in close proximity to the ground.
For more information: NTSB.gov