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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA17FA148
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, April 08, 2017 in Sanford, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/09/2018
Aircraft: PIPER PA 12, registration: N3280M
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The accident flight was the airplane's first flight after undergoing restoration over the course of 2 years. Although the mechanic who had worked on the airplane with the pilot wanted the pilot to do a high-speed taxi test before flight, the pilot wanted to "hurry up" and test fly the airplane as he had a friend visiting and wanted to take him flying in the airplane.

During the takeoff, witnesses observed the airplane pitch up into a nose-high attitude just after liftoff, stall, and descend in a nose-down attitude to ground impact. Examination of the wreckage revealed crush damage to the nose and the leading edges of the wings that was consistent with a nearly vertical nose-down flight path at the time of impact. Further examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane's elevator control cables were misrigged, such that they were attached to the incorrect (opposite) locations on the upper and lower ends of the elevator control horn, resulting in a reversal of elevator control inputs. If the pilot had checked the elevator for correct motion during the preflight inspection and before takeoff check, he likely would have discovered that it was misrigged, and the accident would have been avoided.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The incorrect rigging of the elevator control cables, which resulted in a reversal of elevator control inputs applied by the pilot during the takeoff, an excessive nose-high pitch, and subsequent aerodynamic stall after takeoff. Also causal was the inadequate postmaintenance inspection and the pilot's inadequate preflight inspection and before takeoff check, which failed to detect the misrigging.