NTSB Identification: WPR11FA450
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, September 15, 2011 in West Jordan, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/15/2013
Aircraft: CONE JAMES A RV-6A, registration: N641JC
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.

While approaching the airport at the conclusion of a 4-hour flight, the pilot announced his intention over the common traffic frequency to join the traffic pattern. A short time later, an undiscernible distress transmission was made over the frequency. A few seconds later, the airplane was observed spiraling to the ground. Global positioning system data recovered from the airplane revealed that it was traveling at an appropriate airspeed for entry into the downwind leg of the traffic pattern with a sufficient margin above the stall speed to maintain flight. It then made an abrupt left turn, resulting in a spiral dive, which progressed into a spin. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

No evidence of a bird-strike was found, and review of radar data did not reveal the presence of other aircraft in the vicinity just prior to the accident. However, radar data did reveal that the airplane passed through a cluster of primary targets (with no altitude information) at the time of the accident. Such primary targets could potentially be radar system anomalies, thermal air currents, or bird reflections. According to a bird mitigation specialist, large birds, or flocks of smaller birds, are often present at that time of year, and such birds typically fly circling patterns in thermal air currents at traffic pattern altitudes.

The pilot’s abrupt maneuver during the approach was consistent with an avoidance maneuver. The maneuver, which was calculated to be a 65-degree angle of bank to the left, most likely placed the airplane into an accelerated stall condition, which developed into a spin. The airplane was loaded toward its aft center of gravity limit, which could have increased its pitch sensitivity, thereby exacerbating the turn. A successful recovery from an unintentional stall-spin at pattern altitude is extremely unlikely.

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

The pilot’s execution of an abrupt maneuver, likely to avoid birds, which resulted in a stall and spin.

Full narrative available

Index for Sep2011 | Index of months