Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Light-Sport Safety Record

Tracking 2009 incidents

A low-wing LSA made an emergency landing at Casa Grande Municipal Airport in Casa Grande, Ariz., after the cockpit canopy popped opened in flight. The pilot wasn’t injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The airplane had taken off from Casa Grande a few minutes earlier.

The pilot told a Safety Board investigator that during the initial climb, about 500 feet above the ground, the canopy popped open. The canopy is hinged in front of the cockpit and rotates upward when open. The pilot said he tried to keep the canopy closed with his free hand, but the canopy continued to rise higher and higher. The pilot turned back to the airport and made an off-runway landing next to the airport windsock. The left wing struck a tree and was partially pulled off the fuselage.

The Safety Board noted that the airplane’s Pilot Operating Handbook contained a before-takeoff checklist. Step #4 stated, “Cockpit canopy—closed.” There was no wording requiring the pilot to be sure the canopy was latched or locked. The POH’s emergency procedures section didn’t include a procedure for the pilot to follow if the canopy became unlatched during flight.

There was no discussion in the POH about the airplane’s flight characteristics with an unlatched canopy. The Safety Board noted that S-LSA have to meet ASTM International Standard F2245-07, which doesn’t specify requirements for canopy security or the use of any type of latched/unlatched indicator in the cockpit. There’s no guidance indicating that the manufacturer should include information in the POH about canopy security before flight and in flight. A manufacturer’s representative stated that the airplane is fully controllable if the canopy becomes unlatched in flight, and that the canopy will remain slightly open with the airflow keeping it down.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s failure to ensure that the canopy was latched prior to takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the inadequate guidance in the POH regarding canopy procedures.

Another low-wing LSA was substantially damaged following a loss of control shortly after landing during a touch-and-go at the Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke, Texas. The private pilot and passenger weren’t injured.

The pilot was on his fifth touch-and-go. As he applied full power, the airplane began to swerve toward the left side of the runway. He applied right rudder pedal that resulted in a swerve back to the right. The airplane then ran off the right side of the runway, and the landing gear collapsed. The airplane came to rest in grass alongside the runway in an upright position. The pilot and passenger got out unassisted. Wind was variable at three knots around the time of the accident. The pilot reported having only about two hours in the aircraft.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s failure to maintain directional control of the airplane during the landing roll. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of flight experience in the make and model of airplane.


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