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On March 19, 2009, at 0950 central daylight time, a Cessna Aircraft Company E162 model Skycatcher, experimental airplane, N162CE, was substantially damaged following a Ballistic Recovery System deployment and landing during a test flight near El Dorado, Kansas. The airline transport pilot was not injured. The flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. The local test flight originated at Cessna Aircraft Field Airport (CEA), Wichita, Kansas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
The pilot departed CEA about 0900 to conduct spin testing in the pre-production experimental airplane. The purpose of the flight was to accomplish spins in various flap and power configurations with a center of gravity in an aft limit condition. During a planned test condition the airplane was placed into a left spin. The pilot initiated spin recovery procedures, but the airplane continued to spin without apparent response. The pilot described the spin as "uncontrollable." After the third revolution the pilot deployed the airplane's Ballistic Recovery System (BRS) parachute. The BRS had been specifically modified to allow the chute to be jettisoned by the pilot if altitude and conditions allowed. After BRS deployment the airplane became stabilized in the parachute, but continued to spin under the chute. The pilot attempted to jettison the chute several times, but each jettison attempt was unsuccessful. The pilot then opened the airplane door to bailout and use a personal parachute, but realized he was too low to ensure a successful bailout and elected to stay with the airplane. The pilot shut down the engine prior to landing.
The pilot, age 50, held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and airplane multi-engine land and a Flight Instructor certificate for airplane single and multi-engine and instrument airplane. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate was issued on June 2, 2008, with limitations “Must wear corrective lenses.”
An examination of the pilot's logbook indicated a total flight time of 5,500 hours; of which 220 hours were in the accident airplane. He logged 36 total hours in the previous 90 days, 11 hours in the previous 30 days, and one hour in the previous 24 hours. His last noted biannual flight review was completed December 13, 2007.
The Cessna Aircraft Company E162 experimental light sport airplane, serial number E16200001, was a high wing, metal covered airplane, with a fixed tricycle landing gear, and was configured for two occupants. The airplane was powered by a direct drive, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, air-cooled, four-cylinder engine. The engine was a Teledyne Continental E-0200DX1CS, serial number 916058, rated at 100 horsepower at 2,750 RPM, and was driving a two-bladed Sensenich fixed pitch propeller.
Weather at Colonel James Jabara Airport (AAO), Wichita, Kansas, at 0954 was reported temperature 48 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 28 degrees F, visibility 10 miles, and winds from 070 degrees at 14 knots, gusting to 23 knots.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane landed upright in an open field, breaking off the nose gear and partially splaying the main landing gear. The pilot exited the airplane and attempted to disengage and collapse the BRS chute, but surface winds inflated the parachute and drug the airplane. The airplane traveled about .6 miles before getting caught in a fence and flipping over.
Examination of the airplane revealed the right wing bent upward, left and right ailerons damaged, and the horizontal stabilizer bent. Flight control cable continuity was verified from the cockpit controls to each aileron, elevator and rudder control surfaces. One propeller blade was broken off at the midpoint with no leading edge marks. The second propeller blade showed no marks consistent with impact.
TEST AND RESEARCH
The airplane was equipped with a non-production, factory modified BRS chute. The modified BRS chute was designed to allow the pilot to deploy the BRS chute if conditions warranted, and then jettison the chute and recover the airplane to flight if altitude and conditions permitted.
The modified BRS recovery chute consisted of a canopy attached to the airplane via four nylon straps connected to attach points at four points on the roof of the fuselage, at approximately the four corners of the cockpit. The four connector strap ends were sewn together into a single-point and contained a disconnect mechanism at the single-point end of the attachment strap. The attachment straps then connected to the recovery chute risers via the disconnect mechanism.
The BRS disconnect mechanism and riser attachment consisted of a metal ring sewn into the single-point attachment strap. The metal ring was designed to be inserted into a metal D-ring sewn into the recovery chute riser attachment strap. The metal ring would then be folded back towards the single-point attachment strap and held in place by a metal pin and nylon loop mechanism. A nylon cord was run from the metal pin, along the rear left attachment strap, and then into the cockpit and terminated with a metal release handle. To activate the disconnect mechanism after BRS chute deployment, the pilot would pull the release handle. This action would pull the metal pin from its loop attachment and result in the metal ring pulling through the metal riser D-ring and release the BRS chute.
The BRS system was removed from the airplane and examined by BRS personnel and investigators at their facilities. Examination of the attachment straps indicated fraying and stretching consistent with the four attachment straps twisting together after deployment. When the attachment straps were twisted together, the release cord could not be pulled along the attachment strap.
As a result of this accident Cessna Aircraft Company made design changes to the airplane’s elevator, aileron, and rudder systems to improve the airplane’s spin characteristics.