The accident flight was the Piper PA-12’s first flight after undergoing restoration over the course of two years.
Although the mechanic who had worked on the airplane with the pilot wanted the pilot to do a high-speed taxi test before flight, the pilot wanted to “hurry up” and test fly the airplane as he had a friend visiting and wanted to take him flying in the airplane.
During the takeoff, witnesses observed the airplane pitch up into a nose-high attitude just after liftoff, stall, and descend in a nose-down attitude to hit the ground at the airport in Sanford, Florida. The pilot died in the crash.
Examination of the wreckage revealed crush damage to the nose and the leading edges of the wings that was consistent with a nearly vertical nose-down flight path at the time of impact.
Further examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane’s elevator control cables were misrigged, such that they were attached to the incorrect (opposite) locations on the upper and lower ends of the elevator control horn, resulting in a reversal of elevator control inputs. If the pilot had checked the elevator for correct motion during the preflight inspection and before takeoff check, he likely would have discovered that it was misrigged, and the accident would have been avoided.
Probable cause: The incorrect rigging of the elevator control cables, which resulted in a reversal of elevator control inputs applied by the pilot during the takeoff, an excessive nose-high pitch, and subsequent aerodynamic stall after takeoff. Also causal was the inadequate postmaintenance inspection and the pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection and before takeoff check, which failed to detect the misrigging.
NTSB Identification: ERA17FA148
This April 2017 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.