The two private pilots were making a local flight in the Luscombe 8, which was equipped with dual flight controls. Both pilots were qualified to fly the airplane, and it could not be determined which pilot was manipulating the flight controls at the time of the accident.
Following a flight of about 30 minutes, witnesses observed the airplane make a full stop landing, taxi back, and take off to the east. The engine sounded normal during the takeoff and initial climb.
One witness then observed the airplane shaking, then tipping left and right, followed by an abrupt turn to the left. The nose of the airplane dropped, and the airplane descended rapidly to ground impact. The wreckage was found in a wooded area in East Windsor, Connecticut, about 1/2 mile northeast of the airport in an inverted, nose-low attitude. Both pilots died in the crash.
An examination of the wreckage did not reveal evidence of any preexisting mechanical malfunctions or anomalies.
Although the right fuel tank selector handle was installed backwards, the fuel valve was in the correct position for fuel to feed normally.
Toxicology testing of the left-seat pilot revealed the presence of diphenhydramine, however the level detected was too low to quantify and was unlikely to be impairing.
Although the exact amount of fuel on board at the time of the accident could not be determined, estimates of the airplane’s gross weight indicated that the airplane was between 54 pounds and 156 pounds over maximum gross weight.
Based on the witness observation that the wings were rocking before the airplane abruptly turned left and then descended, it is likely that the pilot failed to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering aggressively, which resulted in exceedance of the critical angle of attack and an aerodynamic stall.
Probable cause: The flying pilot’s excessive maneuvering of the airplane at a slow airspeed, which resulted in exceedance of the critical angle of attack and an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilots’ operation of the airplane over its maximum allowable gross weight.
NTSB Identification: ERA17FA156
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.