This December 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: Diamond DA-20C1. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Alamo Lake State Park, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The 18-year-old pilot obtained his private pilot certificate a month before the accident. He earned his certificate in 90 days through a Part 141 professional pilot program. By the accident date, his total flight time was about 94 hours. Total pilot-in-command time was about 52 hours, and his total pilot-in-command time in the accident model of airplane was about 34 hours.
In the school’s “Training Course Outline” booklet, under the “Safety Procedures and Practices” section, the following rule is published: “Spins will only be practiced when an instructor is on board.” The accident pilot’s instructor had provided his student with spin awareness training, including actual spins. This training was repeated on more occasions than listed in the FAA-approved training curriculum.
Pursuant to the flight school’s curriculum, the pilot filed a round robin flight plan for a solo instructional cross-country flight principally intended to further his expertise in navigation. Airwork was not supposed to be performed. After takeoff, he did not open his flight plan, which included a cruising en route altitude of 6,500 feet MSL. However, he climbed to 14,000 feet. At the halfway point he landed and refueled, then departed for the return flight. On the way back he climbed to about 9,400 feet. After flying about 30 minutes, the pilot reversed course and began performing air work between 6,700 and 7,300 feet MSL. Two witnesses in a boat observed the airplane in a spinning descent. One of the witnesses said the airplane completed eight turns before disappearing behind a hill. Radar showed the airplane descending at 6,000 feet per minute before it disappeared from radar.
An examination of the airframe and engine revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The reason that the pilot failed to recover from the spin was not determined.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control during the performance of a maneuver and his failure to recover from the subsequent aerodynamic stall and spin.
For more information: NTSB.gov