The pilot and passenger departed on a flight near Galveston, Texas, in a North American P51D, a vintage warbird.
After departure, radar tracked the flight along a bay in a southwestern direction.
A witness reported that he heard the airplane overhead heading south and then saw it slowly turn north and appear to descend at a high rate of speed before it hit the water.
The airplane was largely fragmented upon impact and both the passenger and pilot were killed.
The flight was recorded by an onboard video recording system. A review of the video revealed that, a few minutes into the flight, the pilot asked the passenger if he’d like to fly the airplane. The passenger replied he was not a pilot, but he’d like to try it.
The video showed that, with the passenger at the controls, the airplane steeply banked right to about 90°, and the nose dropped; the pilot explained that back pressure was needed on the stick during turns to prevent the loss of lift.
The conversation continued as the airplane was rolling to wings level and as the pilot was encouraging the passenger to pull back on the stick. During this time, the video showed the airplane descending toward the water. Neither the pilot nor passenger acknowledged the impending collision.
It is likely that the pilot’s focused attention on instructing the passenger contributed to his lack of recognition of the impending collision. It could not be determined if the water’s smooth surface contributed to the pilot’s loss of situational awareness.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s loss of situational awareness while instructing the passenger, which resulted in the controlled flight of the airplane into the water.
NTSB Identification: CEN14LA015
This October 2013 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.