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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA10LA221
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 11, 2010 in Millbrook, NY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/20/2011
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to several witnesses, the airplane's engine sounded good during the takeoff roll, but at liftoff the wings were rocking and the airplane was not gaining altitude. They said that almost immediately, the airplane banked hard left back toward the airport, and disappeared from view. The sounds of impact were heard, and a fire ensued at ground contact that completely consumed the airplane. Some of the witnesses stated that they saw something fall off of or from the airplane during the turn. A firefighter who responded immediately to the scene said the pilot told him that he tried to hold the canopy shut and fly the airplane at the same time and did not lock the canopy.

Postaccident flight testing and information gathered from previous investigations (WPR09LA075 and WPR10LA276) revealed that an unlocked canopy remained slightly ajar in flight. Without being latched, the hinged canopy would rest in the fully closed position. After takeoff, the unlatched canopy lifted from the frame rail. Flight testing revealed that the relative airflow held the canopy in a lowered, slightly-open position, and that the airplane remained fully controllable. Following these three investigations, the manufacturer added a pre-takeoff canopy closed-and-locked check to the checklist, and a canopy unlocked in-flight procedure to the Pilot Operating Handbook.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control after takeoff while he was distracted by trying to hold shut the unlocked cockpit canopy. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to lock the canopy prior to takeoff, and the inadequate guidance in the Pilot Operating Handbook regarding canopy locking procedures.