This April 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: Curtiss Wright P-40N. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Mastic Beach, N.Y. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: According to the pilot’ s son, he and his father were an air show team and the purpose of the flight was to practice aerobatics in their World War II-era fighter. The father, who had logged more than 2,300 hours, was flying the airplane while the son stood on the beach with a handheld radio to act as a safety guide.
The son stated that all communications with the airplane were normal up until it entered a half Cuban eight. The son estimated the P-40 had an airspeed of approximately 250 to 260 mph when it entered the maneuver, but slowed to 100 to 120 mph. The P-40 entered a spin at an altitude too low to recover and hit the ocean.
A former Army fighter pilot witness described a similar sequence of events and stated that he thought the pilot was attempting an Immelman turn and added, “I knew he was in trouble when he didn’t complete the Immelman turn and went off on one wing. The plane made four to five revolutions and augured into the ocean.” A third and fourth witness provided similar accounts. The wreckage was not recovered from the ocean.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed while performing aerobatics at low altitude.
For more information: NTSB.gov