On January 6, 2009, at 1600 mountain standard time, a Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) Sport Cruiser, N797BS, made an emergency off field landing after the cockpit canopy popped opened in flight at Casa Grande Municipal Airport, Casa Grande, Arizona. The sport pilot operated the special light sport airplane (S-LSA) under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91. The pilot was not injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight originated at Casa Grande a few minutes earlier.

The pilot reported to the Safety Board investigator that he performed the 'before flight' checklist before taking off. During the initial climb, about 500 feet above ground, the canopy popped open. The canopy is hinged in front of the cockpit and rotates upward when open. The pilot said he tried to keep the canopy closed with his free hand but the canopy continued to rise higher and higher. The pilot turned back to the airport and made an off field landing next to the airport windsock. The left wing struck a scrub tree, partially separating the wing from the fuselage, and broke the canopy glass.

On January 12, 2009, the Safety Board investigator-in-charge examined the airplane. About 90 percent of the canopy glass had been broken out at the time of the exam. The canopy is locked down using two latches, one on each side of the cockpit, which engages the canopy frame. Both latches are engaged using a single lever that is positioned between the cockpit seats on the aft cockpit bulkhead. The lever operates a torque tube that is behind the cockpit seats and extends across the cabin; at each end of the toque tube are push-pull rods that operate the latch hooks. The latch lever is positioned behind the pilot’s right elbow, and is not in direct view when looking forward or at the instrument panel. The latch mechanism exhibited no mechanical damage or misalignment. The canopy hooks aligned with the canopy frame latch slots. The canopy frame was lowered into the closed position and repeatedly latched and unlatched; no mechanical malfunction was encountered over the course of the attempts. It was noted that on the static airplane the canopy will stay in the lowered (closed) position even if the canopy latch is not engaged.

The following was noted regarding information included, and not included, in the airplane's "Pilot Operating Handbook" (POH), issued on 12/2007, as revision 2.0:

1. In step #4 of the 'before takeoff' checklist, the POH states 'Cockpit canopy – closed'. The POH does not include a step to check that the canopy is latched [or locked].
2. The emergency procedures section of the POH does not include a procedure for the pilot to follow if the canopy becomes unlatched during flight.
3. There is no discussion in the POH about the airplane's flight characteristics with an unlatched canopy.

Special Light Sport Airplanes are designed and constructed in accordance with ASTM International standard F2245-07. Standard F2245-07 does not specify requirements for canopy security, or the use of any type of latched/unlatched indicator in the cockpit. The ASTM standard also lists the required information that should be contained in the POH. There is no guidance in the standard indicating that the manufacturer should include information in the POH about canopy security before flight and in flight.

A representative of the manufacturer stated that the airplane is fully controllable if the canopy becomes unlatched in flight, and that the canopy will remain slightly open. The relative airflow over the canopy will keep it in a lowered position.

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