The private pilot was departing in the Golden Circle Air T-Bird experimental light-sport airplane.
Onboard video footage from a wingtip-mounted camera provided a view of the cockpit. The pilot could be seen with his left hand on the control yoke, but his right hand, which was near the engine throttle, was obscured.
The airplane took off and completed the upwind leg of the traffic pattern, and the pilot initiated a right turn toward the crosswind leg.
The sound of the engine was smooth and continuous throughout the takeoff and climb. As the airplane entered the turn, a reduction in power was heard, but the engine sound remained smooth and continuous.
At the moment of power reduction and the initiation of the turn, he simultaneously applied left aileron, right rudder, and back pressure on the yoke. As the airplane rolled right and nosed down into a spin, the engine could be heard accelerating.
The “Remove Before Flight” flag on the locking pin for the airframe parachute deployment handle was observed in the camera’s field of view, as the pilot struggled with one hand and then two hands to remove the pin during the descent.
Eventually, he freed the pin and actuated the deployment handle as the nose of the airplane entered the tops of the trees near Lenoir, N.C. The pilot was seriously injured in the crash.
The airframe parachute was free from its canister, but was not fully deployed due to the airplane’s low altitude at the time of deployment.
The video footage of the pilot simultaneously reducing engine power, increasing the airplane’s pitch attitude, and applying opposite aileron and rudder controls is consistent with a cross-controlled aerodynamic stall and subsequent spin.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed and a coordinated turn in the traffic pattern, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and entering an aerodynamic stall and spin. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to remove the airframe parachute activation handle locking pin before flight.
NTSB Identification: ERA16LA067
This December 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.