This November 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: Kitfox. Injuries: 2 Minor. Location: Boulder, Colo. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot had recently purchased the airplane and was attempting to ferry it back to his home airport. He sought the services of a CFI because he needed two hours of dual instruction to satisfy insurance requirements. The CFI stated that during the initial flight an oil smell materialized and they landed to investigate. The CFI then told the pilot he could fly later with him that day, adding that he thought the new owner needed much more than two hours of dual instruction required by the insurance company.
The pilot also held an aircraft mechanic rating. After the first flight, he cleaned the engine with solvent and said it was common for the propeller hub to be overserviced with oil, and the excess oil would leak out of the propeller seals. He reported that he drained the oil from the hub and added the correct quantity of oil. He then ran the engine for an extended period of time, and did not see any oil leaks.
The accident flight was the first flight after the maintenance, and the first solo flight for the new owner of the airplane.
The airplane had a controllable pitch propeller that was activated by push buttons on the control stick. The trim was also activated by push buttons located on the stick. The pilot stated that when he was taking off, the electrically operated propeller started to increase pitch. He tried to decrease the pitch, but each time he released the control-stick-mounted propeller button, the propeller pitch would increase. The prop went to a high pitch angle and the engine started to run rough. He attempted to turn back to the runway, but could not maintain control. The airplane went through a fence before coming to a stop, then caught fire.
The CFI who flew with the pilot told investigators that it was easy to confuse the buttons on the control stick. He added he had also experienced a loss of power in the airplane, which necessitated a landing, adding that he had to intervene in “all, except one of the landings and most of the takeoffs, performed by the accident pilot.”
Probable cause: A loss of engine thrust due to the pilot’s inadvertent activation of the propeller controls. Contributing to the accident were the non-standard propeller controls and the pilot’s lack of experience in the airplane.
For more information: NTSB.gov