The student pilot departed with the intent to perform touch-and-go takeoffs and landings in the Czech Aircraft Works SportCruiser.
After takeoff, he realized that the canopy was not latched. He struggled to maintain airplane control in the pattern, but he was able to land normally at the airport in Salisbury, N.C.
The student then checked the latch handle, and believed he had secured the canopy correctly. He took off and flew one pattern, but just before landing, the canopy opened and obstructed his view of the runway.
The airplane landed hard and bounced, and the pilot aborted the landing.
He flew a third pattern and made an approach over the runway centerline, “slightly above stall airspeed.” The airplane landed hard on the runway, and the right main landing gear (MLG) and the nose landing gear separated from the airplane. The airplane skidded to a stop on the runway.
The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right MLG attachment points and the right-wing spar.
The student pilot asserted that the canopy latch was down during the takeoffs but was not seated correctly. For the latch to seat correctly, “the canopy itself needed to be pushed up so that gravity seated the canopy.”
The airplane was equipped with a full-width clear canopy, hinged in the front and tipped forward for entry to the cockpit. The manually operated canopy was supposed to be closed by the pilot by reaching above their head and grabbing the handle identified by the manufacturer’s illustrated parts catalogue as SF0730N.
Photographs provided by FAA aviation safety inspectors showed the handle was not installed on the canopy.
The canopy security latches consisted of two metal claw-type latches that were mechanically moved forward to secure the canopy to the fuselage. The canopy latches were moved forward to the secure position when the pilot lowered the canopy “T” handle. The “T” handle was affixed to the baggage compartment front wall in the cockpit between the left and right seats just above the arm rest and just below the pilot headset audio input jacks.
The student pilot’s headset control unit was about 4″ long by 1″ in diameter. Photographs taken shortly after the accident and provided by FAA inspectors revealed that the control unit was lodged underneath the “T” handle.
Probable cause: The physical interference of the student pilot’s headset control unit with the canopy, which prevented the canopy latches from seating properly and resulted in the canopy opening in flight and the subsequent hard landing.
NTSB Identification: GAA17CA465
This August 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.