NTSB Identification: ATL96FA051.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, February 20, 1996 in IMMOKALEE, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/04/1996
Aircraft: Sukhoi SU-31, registration: N31MX
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot was conducting a practice aerobatic flight, with two aerobatic pilots critiquing him from the ground. About ten minutes into the flight, the pilot initiated a pull toward the vertical with about 360 km/hr and 7 Gs, according to witnesses. This would have been well within the maximum airspeed and load specifications of 450 km/hr and 10 Gs, respectively. The right wing of the airplane separated during the pull up. The airplane entered a right roll and an uncontrolled descent, then it collided with the ground about 1 mile north of the airport. According to witnesses, the engine was developing power until impact, and the pilot did not announce any malfunctions or problems, prior to the wing failure. A postcrash ground fire consumed the fuselage. The unburned right wing was found about 3/4 mile east of the main wreckage. Testing of the wing spar was performed by the NTSB and MAK (Russian Investigative Authorities). Both agencies found numerous voids in the composite spar caps. The investigation revealed evidence that the curing process for the wing spar did not provide adequate vacuum pressure. There was evidence that during the curing process, the fibers separated from each other, which resulted in voids in the final composite material.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

the manufacturer's improper composite curing process, which resulted in wing spar voids and subsequent failure of the wing during aerobatic flight.

Full narrative available

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