The pilot was conducting a practice flight in the Kitfox for a short takeoff and landing (STOL) competition.
The intended flight profile was a timed course consisting of multiple takeoffs and landings on several turf runways at the airport in Ozark, Arkansas, to demonstrate the STOL capabilities of the airplane and the pilot flying.
The pilot intentionally flew the airplane at a low altitude throughout the flight. The flight path was in a river valley with tall ridges on either side of the river and there was a known risk of encountering downdrafts while flying the course.
While performing a turn toward one of the airstrips, and less than 100 feet above the ground, the pilot reported encountering a downdraft and descended rapidly.
In response, he increased the engine throttle from near idle to maximum power.
The pilot told investigators the engine “stumbled” briefly because of the rapidly increased throttle, so he leveled the wings and lowered the airplane’s pitch to increase airspeed.
As the airplane approached an open area for landing, the left main landing gear hit a tree, and the airplane then hit the ground.
The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and the right wing.
The weather conditions at the time of the accident included clear skies with light surface winds from the south.
Probable Cause: The pilot’s inability to maintain altitude after the airplane encountered a downdraft while he intentionally flew at a low altitude during a practice for a short takeoff and landing flight competition.
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This September 2021 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.