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Fri, Nov 11, 2011

Pilot Error Probable Cause In 2010 CH 701 Accident

Cites Lack Of Experience In The Model As A Contributing Factor

The NTSB has released a probable cause report for an accident which fatally injured a 74-year-old pilot who had only recently returned to flying after a 25 years out of the cockpit. The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane ratings. His last medical certificate was a second-class medical issued on March 8, 1991.

CH 701 File Photo

The pilot’s logbook indicated that as of March 1984, the pilot had accumulated a total of 755 hours of flight time. He did not fly again until December 2009, when he began flying with a flight instructor. He then accumulated 5.4 hours of instructional flight time which included a flight review dated May 26, 2010.

The pilot’s flight instructor stated the pilot stopped flying a number of years ago and she was giving him recurrent training in preparation for a flight review so he could exercise sport pilot privileges. She stated they flew a Cessna 152 and they spoke about the differences between that airplane and the Zenith 701 that the pilot had just built. She stated the pilot did a lot of research and they discussed the 701’s “…supposed inability of the elevator to work at slow airspeed without the propwash when the RPMs are pulled back.” She stated that because of this characteristic, they practiced stalls and landings using a higher than normal power setting.

The Zenith factory was contacted and there was no record that the pilot had flown in a CH701 when he visited the factory. No evidence was found to indicate the pilot had ever flown a Zenith CH701 aircraft prior to the accident.

According to the probable cause report, the accident occurred on the first test flight following the completion of the amateur-built airplane. The pilot performed high-speed taxi runs followed by a takeoff. The pilot’s flight instructor, who was at the airport watching, observed the airplane southwest of the airport in a spin, from which it recovered. The pilot then flew back to the airport, entered the traffic pattern, and made a radio call that he was going to land. On final approach the airplane appeared to be unstable. The pilot added power and performed a go-around. The airplane came around again for another approach and landing.

The airplane appeared to be stable in the traffic pattern until it was on final approach, when it appeared to be unstable as if it were in slow flight. When the airplane was about 200 feet above the ground, the engine noise decreased and the nose immediately dropped along with the right wing. The airplane then impacted terrain short of the approach end of the runway. A postcrash examination of the airplane and engine did not reveal any mechanical failures or malfunctions, nor did the pilot mention any problems with the airplane during his radio calls.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed while on final approach, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's lack of experience in the model of airplane.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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