The pilot was providing airplane rides to family and friends who had assembled at a dry lakebed near El Mirage, Calif., in his American Aviation AA-1A.
He completed two uneventful flights and then departed for a third flight from the lakebed.
According to witnesses, he had planned to perform a low pass over the group, and he did so just after takeoff, passing within about 50 feet directly overhead.
The entire accident sequence was captured on video. The airplane dipped its right wing as it passed over the camera position and, after the pass, continued in a climbing right turn, which progressed rapidly to almost 90° of bank.
The excessive bank angle resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and experiencing an accelerated stall at an altitude too low for recovery.
The airplane then entered the initial stages of a spin before striking the ground in an almost vertical attitude. Both people aboard were killed.
Although the reason for the aggressive turn could not be determined, the pilot’s overflight of the group while maneuvering at low altitude is consistent with an intentionally-performed ostentatious display.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s loss of airplane control while intentionally maneuvering close to the ground, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack in a steep bank and entering an accelerated stall.
NTSB Identification: WPR14FA239
This June 2014 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.