Fatal Accidents, 1995

September, 1995

Where:Imlaystown, New Jersey, USA
When: September 1995
What:Buccaneer II (two-place) with Rotax 532 engine and modified airfoil (not the factory configuration).
How: There was only one witness to the accident itself and essentially all he heard was the sound of the engine quitting right after the aircraft took off and then the sound of an impact at the far end of the airstrip which was out of view. The aircraft was found crumpled nose down into the ground, the pilot dead of a ruptured aorta. No shoulder harness was installed in the aircraft, only a lapbelt which was fastened by poprivets to the frame. Since there was no actual eyewitness to the crash itself, speculation abounds as to what did cause the impact with the ground. FAA investigators at the scene determained that the engine was stopped at impact, suggesting that the pilot attempted to return to to airstrip, exceeded the critical angle of attack in too tight a turn at low altitude in the glide, stalled and spun in, thus causing the pilots death on impact. As the Buccaneer II is an amphibian, the blunt boat hull may have also contributed to the stall by the drag it created.
Injuries: Fatal. Pilot died of a ruptured aorta (major blood vessel that circulates blood between the heart, lungs, and rest of the body) indicating a very hard impact. It is unlikely a shoulder harness would have made much difference.
Experience and Training of Pilot:Weedhopper course to solo, some dual time in type involved in accident. The pilot had minimal flight training and was in fact afraid to stall the aircraft at altitude and therefore was totally unfamiliar with the stall charactaristics of this particular machine.
Notes:There were several warning signs before this accident occurred:

If a more experienced pilot says a plane is not handling well - it probably isn't. After installation of the 532 engine the plane was tail heavy. Experienced pilots had flown the aircraft and didn't like the way the plane handled.

Modifying a plane by putting a different airfoil and engine on it is a risk - this makes you a test pilot. Are you ready for that?

The pilot had very little experience. We all start with little experience, but it cannot be emphasized enough that training is the most important factor in flight safety. Certainly, given the the modifications to the plane you have to ask if this particular pilot was qualified to fly this particular plane.

The pilot was afraid to stall the plane at any altitude. This indicates that the pilot's training was inadequate. Alright, none of us liked stalls when we were just starting out, but you have to be able to do them and recover properly - to prevent just this sort of accident.

The pilot was totally unfamillar with the stall characteristic of the airplane. Another sign of inadequate training. If he had had proper dual instruction in this type of aircraft he should have been introduced to the stall characteristics of this airplane. By not being exposed to this, he was put in a position where, when the plane started to stall, he might have been completely unaware of that fact and delayed taking corrective action.

The primary cause of this type of fatalityt is the inability of the pilot to recognize the impending stall and then to compound matters, failing to take the necessary corrective action to avoid the stall in the first place. It is possible to survive an engine out at take-off with either no injuries or minor injuries, but a stall/spin at that low an altitude is almost always fatal. The key to avoiding a spin is to avoid a stall - no stall means no spin. The key to avoiding a stall is to know when you are getting close to a stall and taking action before a stall occrs.

As all ADEQUATELY trained pilots know, if your engine quits on take-off this is what you do:
1) Lower the nose to maintain airspeed
You must not stall low to the ground! It will hurt you badly when you hit!
2) Land straight ahead - DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RETURN TO THE RUNWAY!!! You will not make it if you attempt to turn. This is basic aerodynamics. If you do not understand why this impossible you should not be flying airplanes.

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