This August 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: Cessna 170. Injuries: 1 Serious. Location: Anchorage, Alaska. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: Witnesses reported that shortly after the airplane took off, the right engine access cowling opened. The airplane began a steep left turn back to the airport. The airplane’s bank angle increased and it crashed nose-down into tundra-covered terrain. The private pilot said he could not specifically recall latching the cowling after preflighting the airplane, adding he should have gained more altitude before attempting to return to the airport.
Given a lack of mechanical deficiencies with the airplane’s engine or flight controls, in conjunction with the witness and the pilot’s statement, it is likely the pilot failed to properly latch the engine access cowling before takeoff, then failed to adequately maintain control of the airplane while returning to the airport after the cowling opened.
Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to make an abrupt and steep low altitude turn just after takeoff, while attempting to return to his departure airport, resulting in an aerodynamic stall and loss of aircraft control. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to ensure that the airplane’s engine access cowling was properly latched before takeoff.
For more information: NTSB.gov NTSB Identification: ANC09LA088