The flight instructor reported that, while abeam the intended touchdown point at the airport in Wickenburg, Arizona, he reduced power to idle for the student pilot to perform a simulated engine failure approach.
The student pilot maneuvered for the runway and added full flaps (40°), decreasing airspeed to about 62 to 68 knots. The instructor asked the student if he believed he would be able to make the runway given his airspeed, and the student pilot retracted the flaps to 0° and then back to 25°.
The Piper PA-28 began to sink, the flight instructor added full flaps to “regain some lift,” and he instructed the student pilot to recover. The student pilot put both hands on the yoke and pitched up. The flight instructor said, “my controls,” applied full power, and attempted to lower the nose, but the student pilot froze and continued to pitch up.
The flight instructor repeated the exchange of flight controls command, the student pilot released control of the yoke and retracted the flaps to 0°.
The flight instructor put the flaps back to 25° and pitched the nose down in an attempt to recover. The airplane hit the top of a tree, the flight instructor reduced power and landed short of the runway. The nose landing gear collapsed.
The airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings and empennage.
The FAA inspector reported that, after conducting interviews, it was revealed that the flight instructor took control of the airplane “well below 500′ from the ground.”
He added there may have been a communication barrier between the flight instructor and the student pilot. He reported that the student pilot paused for 20 to 30 seconds to comprehend each question before answering.
Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to relinquish flight controls and premature flap reduction during approach to land.
NTSB Identification: GAA18CA234
This April 2018 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.