On October 3, 2005, about 1505 eastern daylight time, a tailwheel-equipped Pilatus PC-6 airplane, N7895J, sustained substantial damage when it collided with the runway following a loss of control during takeoff initial climb from the DeLand Municipal Airport, DeLand, Florida. The airplane was being operated as a Title 14 CFR Part 91, skydiving flight when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by Skydive DeLand, Inc., DeLand. The airline transport certificated pilot and three passengers received serious injuries. Six additional passengers received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed.

The accident flight was the seventh jump/flight of the day. Witnesses on the ground stated the airplane departed runway 05 about mid-field, and climbed to about 50 to 100 feet. As the airplane started its climb, the pitch angle of the nose of the airplane increased until the airplane appeared to stall. It then descended and impacted the runway in a left wing, and nose low attitude. The airplane slid off the runway and pivoted about 180 degrees into the grass, adjacent to the runway.

Several Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors from the Orlando Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), Orlando, Florida, responded to the accident site and documented the accident scene and the airplane systems. The inspectors reported that flight control continuity was established. The airplane contained seat belts for all passengers, but the pilot's shoulder harness was not used, as it was folded and tie-wrapped near its upper attach point. According to the operator, the pilot had accrued about 43 hours in the accident airplane.

Aircraft Information

The airplane's horizontal stabilizer trim system is electrical. Dual motor actuators are installed with one end attached to the fuselage, and the other end attached to the horizontal stabilizer. Trim switches are located on the pilot's control column grips. An alternate trim control system, with an actuator control switch, was positioned on the lower instrument panel to the right of the throttle quadrant. The alternate trim system operates at half the speed of the main system. A guarded trim-interrupt switch was installed on the lower instrument panel to the right of the throttle quadrant, and will disable both trim systems.

The airplane is equipped with a stall warning light and warning tone. An electric trim indicator gauge, and a trim warning light were installed in the upper left portion of the instrument panel. The FAA reported that the warning light should illuminate if "full-up" trim was set, and the engine was producing over 80 percent power. A placard stating, "Set Correct Trim for Takeoff," was installed on the lower instrument panel in front of the pilot position.

The airplane's flight manual contains a "Before Takeoff" warning, which states, in part: "Warning - An extreme out-of-trim stabilizer can, in combination with loading, flaps position and power influence, result in an uncontrollable aircraft after the aircraft leaves the ground." In addition, a caution states, in part: "Caution - Failure to set correct trim settings will result in large control forces and/or unrequested pitching/yawing." Pilot actions listed in the "Before Takeoff" checklist include stabilizer trim settings, which state, in part: "Stabilizer - If trim warning system installed, check no light or sound; For mid c.g. [center of gravity], Green Mark (0); For Forward/Aft c.g., Green Arc (2 degrees nose up/2 degrees nose down."

FAA inspectors at the accident scene noted that the stabilizer appeared to be in a nose-up trim position. According to the airplane maintenance manual, the trim position is measured from the top longeron of the fuselage, to the bottom spar of the stabilizer. Neutral trim has a measurement of 2.13 inches. Full up-trim has a measurement of 4.22 inches. The inspector's measurement of the stabilizer trim was 3.31 inches, nose-up trim. The inspectors reported that their measurement of the trim position equated to a 56.5 percent nose-up trim condition. The inspectors also reported that when other pilots that had flown the accident airplane were interviewed, they commented that the airplane is "very difficult, if not impossible to control if a takeoff was initiated with full up-trim."

The FAA inspectors reported that the airplane was estimated to have an aft center of gravity with an estimated takeoff weight of 5,659 pounds. The airplane's maximum takeoff weight was 6,173 pounds.

In 2000, the manufacturer issued Service Bulletin (SB) 180, that called for installation of a Pilatus trim warning system. The warning system utilizes a visual and audio warning, and installation of a warning placard on the glare shield, which states, "Warning: Set Correct Trim Before Take Off." The service bulletin had not been complied with.

Following the pilot's recovery from the accident, the pilot was interview by an FAA inspector.

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