NTSB Identification: CHI97LA234.
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Accident occurred Saturday, August 02, 1997 in ALMA, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/07/1998
Aircraft: Rutan DEFIANT, registration: N20SR
Injuries: 2 Minor,1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported the aircraft climbed out normally until it reached 500 feet above ground level and then the canopy opened. The pilot loosened his shoulder harness in order to pull down the canopy. One of the passengers tried to hold the canopy closed while the pilot flew the airplane, but was unable to keep it closed. The canopy came open again and the pilot chose to execute an emergency landing into an old clearing which was surrounded by forest. During impact, the pilot was knocked unconscious, and one of the two passengers received minor injuries. The two passengers pulled the pilot from the airplane. He reported that he had not ensured that the canopy was properly latched, and the safety latch was not fully engaged when he had departed. The safety latch used on the airplane was not the safely latched specified by the designer of the airplane. The pilot reported he made four mistakes; they were: 'not fixing the headrest thinking that it was only a piece of loose foam, omitting the checklist for the final flight, omitting checking the latch, and when I changed Burt's [Rutan] safety latch system not coming up with a design that was better.'

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

the pilot did not perform an adequate preflight check and he did not perform the takeoff checklist. Factors included the pilot's inadequate design of the safety latch and the canopy inadvertently deploying.

Full narrative available

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