The private pilot/owner had recently completed the experimental, amateur-built Free Bird Classic and was conducting the first test flight near Kylertown, Pennsylvania.
He completed two circuits around his private airstrip before witnesses saw the airplane approaching to land.
While on final approach about 50-100 feet above the ground, the plane suddenly descended and hit terrain, killing the pilot.
Of the three witnesses who saw the accident, two said the airplane nosed over to ground contact, and one stated that the left wing dropped before the airplane nosed over.
Two other individuals heard the engine “rev up” before impact but did not observe the accident.
The airplane hit terrain short of the runway in a nearly vertical, nose-down attitude and sustained extensive damage to the engine, fuselage, wings, and empennage. The tail of the airplane was twisted and bent forward over the fuselage, and there did not appear to be any forward momentum of the airplane at impact, consistent with an aerodynamic stall/spin.
The witness accounts of the airplane’s nose or wing dropping were also consistent with entry into a stall/spin.
Given that the accident flight was the pilot’s first flight in the airplane, he was likely unfamiliar with its flight characteristics, and, during the approach for landing, he allowed the airspeed to decay. The airplane subsequently exceeded its critical angle of attack and entered an aerodynamic stall/spin.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain sufficient airspeed during approach for landing, which resulted in an inadvertent aerodynamic stall/spin. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of flight experience in the accident airplane make and model.
NTSB Identification: ERA16LA010
This October 2015 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.