Aircraft: Ercoupe 415-C Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor. Location: Mulberry, Fla. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot did not have a valid medical certificate, which was required for the flight. He filled the airplane’s fuel tanks and flew about 45 minutes to another airport. He did not refuel.
The pilot agreed to fly a passenger, who was a student pilot, to another airport.
The passenger said he was not shown how to fasten and unfasten the seatbelt, and that the pilot did not perform a weight and balance calculation, preflight inspection or an engine run-up prior to takeoff.
The pilot taxied on to the grass runway, applied the brakes, and applied full power. He reported that the airplane accelerated, but not as fast as he thought it should have. He said that about the point when he was considering aborting the takeoff, the airplane became airborne.
It climbed to 400 feet, cleared powerlines, then began descending. The pilot maneuvered the airplane toward a clearing. The right wing hit trees and the plane hit the ground and caught fire.
The pilot exited the airplane. The passenger had difficulty unlatching his restraint because he was not familiar with it and was burned by the fire.
Based on all available data from the pilot, maintenance records, and airplane documents located in the wreckage, the airplane was near or at its maximum gross weight at the time of engine start.
Post-accident inspection of the right magneto revealed extensive heat damage, which precluded operational testing, therefore, no determination could be made as to whether there was pre-impact failure or malfunction of the right magneto.
Investigators determined that the poor acceleration during takeoff was most likely due to being near or at its maximum gross weight and operating from a grass runway.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to abort the takeoff after recognizing the airplane’s poor performance during the takeoff roll. Contributing to the passenger’s injuries was the pilot’s failure to provide a briefing on the use of the lap-belt, which delayed the passenger’s exit from the wreckage.
NTSB Identification: ERA12LA077
This November 2011 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.