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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA15LA130
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, February 13, 2015 in Sebastian, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/05/2016
Aircraft: ROBERTSON JAMES F VELOCITY STD/RG E, registration: N112TH
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.

The pilot had recently purchased the experimental, amateur-built airplane. He received 3.6 hours of familiarization training in another airplane by the same manufacturer during the 2 days before the accident while maintenance and inspections were performed on his airplane. Once the work was completed, the pilot departed on the accident flight. Witnesses reported that, immediately after rotation, they observed the right cabin door open. The airplane briefly maintained the runway heading and then began a “slow, lingering” left turn. One witness described the engine sound as increasing and decreasing between idle and full power. The airplane rolled left, then wings level, then left again before it descended to the ground. The airplane impacted trees near the airport perimeter; the right wing separated, and the fuselage was substantially damaged. Immediately after the accident, the pilot reported that he was taking off and that “the door blew open.” The pilot subsequently reported that the airplane “pitched up violently” on takeoff and would not respond to nose-down pitch trim.
Examination of the airplane revealed flight control continuity from the cockpit area to the flight control surfaces. The latch mechanism on the right cabin door was found intact and fully functional. The pitch trim was found in a nearly full nose-up setting, and, when activated, the pitch trim motor ran through its full range at its normal rate. The pilot reported that there were no mechanical deficiencies with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot’s loss of airplane control after takeoff, which resulted in collision with terrain. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to properly secure the cabin door and trim the airplane for takeoff, which resulted in the cabin door opening and the nose pitching up suddenly at liftoff.