On June 13, 2020, a Van’s RV-8 was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Mandan, North Dakota. The private pilot died in the crash.
One witness had a meeting with the pilot and others just before the accident. The witness walked over to the airplane after the meeting and noticed that the aft cockpit seatbelt was strapped around the control stick. The pilot said that this was done to hold the airplane’s flight controls while parked with windy conditions present.
The witness reminded the pilot to remove the belt from around the rear seat controls before departure. The witness walked away from the parking area on the ramp and saw the pilot turn around while in the cockpit, but could not see what he was doing. The witness noticed that the airplane’s elevator was up as the airplane departed.
The airplane became airborne quickly, flew straight up, rolled left, and then went straight down before hitting the ground, where it caught on fire. The witness observed that the elevator was in an up position at the accident site and slowly lowered as the fire continued.
Another witness stated that it was very “windy” and he noticed that the wind swung the airplane around during its taxi for departure.
The pilot continued a 360° turn on the ramp and then taxied the airplane to the runway for departure. The witness noticed that the airplane’s elevator was up during this time and it stayed up throughout the takeoff. Upon lifting off the runway, the airplane “immediately” went straight up to about 50 feet above the ground, entered a left bank, then entered a nose-down, vertical descent to impact.
The witnesses tried to pull the pilot out, but the airplane was engulfed in flames.
Probable Cause: The pilot’s failure to remove the seat belt used as a flight control lock from the aft cockpit control stick before takeoff, which resulted in a loss of control during takeoff and collision with terrain.
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This June 2020 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.