This January 2009 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: Czech Aircraft Works Sport Cruiser. Injuries: None. Location: Casa Grande, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot followed the manufacturer’s before-takeoff checklist, but failed to ensure that the canopy, which is hinged in the front of the cockpit, was latched. The airplane was about 500 feet above ground when the canopy opened. The pilot tried to keep the canopy closed with his hand but the canopy continued to rise, so he turned back toward the airport but ended up making an off-field landing.
Inspection of the canopy latch mechanism revealed no mechanical problems. When the airplane is static, the canopy will remain in the closed position with the canopy lever in the unlatched position. The manufacturer does not provide a “canopy unlatched” warning device, and the Pilot Operating Handbook does not include a checklist step to check that the canopy is latched, instead, step four of the before takeoff checklist states “Cockpit canopy – closed,”
The emergency procedures section of the POH does not include a procedure for the pilot to follow if the canopy becomes unlatched during flight. In addition, there is no discussion in the POH about the airplane’s flight characteristics with an unlatched canopy.
Probable cause: The failure to ensure that the canopy was latched prior to takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the inadequate guidance in the Pilot Operating Handbook regarding canopy procedures.
For more information: NTSB.gov