During a local flight, the pilot and passenger, who held a student pilot certificate, were searching a lake for a submerged boat.
The passenger stated that while maneuvering at a low altitude, the pilot banked the Kitfox IV about 45° to 60° at an airspeed of about 50 miles per hour.
During the turn, the airplane stalled, entered a spin, and hit the water in the lake near De Smet, S.D. The pilot died in the crash and the passenger was seriously injured.
A post-accident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any evidence of a mechanical malfunction or failure that would have precluded normal operation.
Data from a GPS unit recovered from the airplane indicated that it was about 250′ above ground level at a ground speed of about 34 knots when it stalled.
Based on the passenger’s statements and the GPS data, it is likely the pilot failed to maintain adequate airspeed and exceeded the airplane’s critical angle-of-attack while maneuvering, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall/spin from which he had insufficient altitude to recover.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed and his exceedance of the airplane’s critical angle-of-attack during a steep turn at a low altitude, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall/spin at too low of an altitude to recover.
NTSB Identification: CEN16FA209
This June 2016 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.