General Aviation News regularly posts a synopsis of accident reports from the National Transportation Safety Board and a recent synopsis of a report dated November 2007 caught my attention. The incident involved a Piper Cherokee in Ranger Texas and resulted in 3 fatalities and a destroyed aircraft. According to the report, the accident occurred during an instructional cross-country flight in visual meteorological conditions with a CFI in the right seat, a student in the left seat and another student in the back seat who was there to listen to radio transmissions.
However, the report noted that the CFI in the right seat was known for performing aerobatics in the school’s aircraft and before the flight, the back seat student’s flight instructor specifically told him not to “do any funny stuff” with the back seat student on board as she did not want him to pick up any bad habits. Nevertheless, the back seat student’s instructor further reported that:
She had heard, before the accident, that the accident flight instructor had done a barrel roll in one of the flight school’s airplanes. In addition, another flight student reported that the accident flight instructor had demonstrated rolls and spins to him during flight lessons. Prior to the accident the back seat passenger had sent an e-mail to friends in which he referenced the accident instructor as a “megalomanic instructor” and commented on how he did aerobatics during lessons although they were not supposed to.
Although no one witnessed the accident, investigators determined that the aircraft experienced an in-flight breakup while doing an aerobatic maneuver. In fact:
Five maneuvers of interest were identified in the radar data. They consisted of dives and abrupt pull ups. During the last maneuver the airplane’s airspeed exceeded 134 knots calibrated airspeed. According to the airplane’s type certificate data sheet, the airplane’s maximum maneuvering speed was 116 knots.
No pre-impact mechanical deficiencies with the airplane were noted, and all fracture surfaces were consistent with overload separations.
Obviously there is no excuse for using an aircraft in a manner that it was never intended to be used for – especially by a CFI with student pilots on board. Moreover, one commenter noted that the FAA in the USA has a track record of flights there and hence “you should think twice before pulling something very lame as this instructor did.” Definitely another point worth noting!