NTSB Identification: NYC02LA120.
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Accident occurred Thursday, June 20, 2002 in Limerick, ME
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/25/2003
Aircraft: Smith Kitfox Classic IV, registration: N3023J
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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

After performing a "routine" inspection, the floatplane was taxied from the shoreline, to the center of the lake, where it departed. The pilot observed that something was wrong with the floats as soon as the floatplane lifted off the water. He felt a slight drag, as well as noise emitting from the floats. About 500 feet above the lake, the pilot elected to return for a landing. As the floatplane was about to touchdown, the noise from the floats increased. Observing that a landing could not be accomplished, and a collision with homes was approaching, the pilot aborted the landing. While setting up for a second approach to the lake, both float coverings separated from the forward section of the float shells. The floatplane then entered into a dive, and the pilot reduced power. The floatplane impacted the water nose first, and came to rest with the tail section protruding upward. The pilot egressed from the main cabin, and swam to the shore. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the floats were fabric covered, and had a hard plastic cover that zipped onto the bottom of each float. Both of the zippers were found partially unzipped. The manufacturer of the floats issued a Product Bulletin on November 20, 1998, which addressed a defect with the zippers installed on the floats. If any defects were observed with the zippers, the entire zipper would have to be replaced as a set. The manufacture also provided, free of charge, a kit that would provide a secondary means of keeping the hull cap attached to the float in the event of a zipper failure. The bulletin further stated, "This is a mandatory, permanent, modification that must be carried out before further flight." No maintenance logbooks for the airplane were recovered; however, the pilot stated that the previous owner of the floatplane had not complied with the manufacture's Product Bulletin, nor did he.

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

The pilot's failure to perform a modification required by the manufacturer, which resulted in a failure of the float covering.

Full narrative available

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