NTSB Identification: ERA12FA395
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, June 15, 2012 in Westminster, MD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/05/2013
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 special-light sport airplane was designed with the ability to fold both wings back to facilitate storage and transportation. In addition, both wings and the horizontal stabilizer were removable. The pilot, who was also a mechanic, disassembled the airplane for storage during the winter. He subsequently reassembled it and completed a condition inspection. He then flew the airplane to an airport where a ballistic parachute system was installed. The pilot then flew the airplane to another airport and, the next day, departed on the accident flight with the intention of delivering the airplane to its owner.

About 20 minutes after takeoff, the airplane experienced a disconnected elevator, and the pilot attempted to fly to a nearby airport. The airplane was about 50 feet above the ground when it entered a sudden steep pitch downward and impacted the ground about 60 feet before the runway.

The airplane's flight controls were actuated by a series of push-pull rods. The respective push-pull rods for the left and right ailerons and elevator controls featured a "quick-fastener" to disconnect and reconnect the respective flight control. Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the elevator quick-fastener was disconnected. Additional examination of the quick-fastener revealed that it contained some corrosion; however, it did not experience any failures and was capable of functioning as designed. In addition, the ballistic parachute system parachute was not activated, and the activation handle, which was mounted on the center console, was found secured with a padlock. The key for the padlock was found on a key ring with the ignition key, which remained inserted in the ignition switch.

The preflight checklist located in the pilot operating handbook required a check of the quick-fasteners and the ballistic parachute activation handle before every flight. Associated placards were also present in the cockpit. The pilot had at least three opportunities to identify an improperly secured elevator quick-fastener since he assembled the airplane; at least two of those opportunities occurred after the installation of the ballistic recovery parachute system. While it could not be determined if the pilot would have used the airplane's ballistic recovery parachute system, his failure to remove the padlock from the activation handle precluded the option of deploying the system during the accident flight.

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

The pilot's inadequate preflight inspection, which failed to ensure that the elevator quick-fastener was properly secured, resulting in an inflight elevator control disconnect and subsequent loss of control during the ensuing emergency landing. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to remove the padlock from the airplane's ballistic recovery system parachute activation handle.

Full narrative available

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