NTSB Identification: ERA10LA221
On April 11, 2010, about 1500 eastern daylight time, a special light sport Czech Air Works Sportcruiser, N417VR, was destroyed following an uncontrolled descent and collision with terrain after takeoff from Sky Acres Airport (44N), Millbrook, New York. The certificated sport pilot/owner was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to several witnesses, the airplane's engine sounded good during the takeoff roll and throughout the flight, but at liftoff, the wings were rocking and the airplane was not gaining altitude. They said that almost immediately, the airplane banked really hard left back toward the airport, and disappeared from view. The sounds of impact were heard, and a fire ensued at ground contact. Some of the witnesses stated that they saw something fall off of, or from the airplane during the turn.
One of the witnesses was an off-duty firefighter who responded to the scene immediately on foot. He said the airplane was on fire, but the pilot was some distance from the airplane. As the firefighter got to the scene, the pilot told him that he crawled out. The pilot also told him that he tried to hold the canopy shut and fly the plane at the same time and did not lock the canopy.
Examination of the airplane by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspectors revealed that the airplane was completely consumed by fire. Only a small portion of the tail section, and a melted engine block were identified.
According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured and registered in 2009. The maintenance records were not recovered. Therefore, the airplane's total time and maintenance history could not be determined.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, single-engine sea, and instrument airplane. The pilot's most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued November 3, 2002. He reported 1,076 total hours of flight experience on that date. The pilot's logbook was not recovered, and his total flight experience could not be determined.
As a result of previous Safety Board investigations (WPR09LA075 and WPR10LA276) it was learned that 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.
These accidents demonstrated that, without guidance from the manufacturer, the pilots attempted to hold the canopy closed and fly the airplane simultaneously, which resulted in distractions while trying to control the airplane. As a result of these 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.