September 25, 2008
By Alton K. Marsh
The crash of the Cessna SkyCatcher prototype on Sept. 18 during flight-testing will result in only small modifications where appropriate, a Cessna Aircraft Company spokeswoman said.
The aircraft will become Cessna’s entry into the light sport aircraft market.
A spokeswoman said the project engineer reports the aircraft entered a nose-down, normal spin. At the time the spin was entered, the test pilot had performed a power-on, cross-controlled “spin test.”
The maneuver began at 10,000 feet. The pilot at first tried to deploy the BRS ballistic airframe parachute. Witnesses reported hearing a “pop” and seeing sparks, which may have come from the rocket that is supposed to pull the parachute from its canister. The entire aircraft is then lowered to the ground. However, it appears the parachute deployed improperly, and a Cessna spokeswoman said she saw no parachute at the crash site. It may still have been in its canister.
The aircraft was totally destroyed. Now, the aircraft that was intended to be the first production aircraft will instead become the new test aircraft. Test equipment will be mounted so that test flights can continue.
The NTSB, which does not usually investigate flight-test accidents, has not only assigned an investigator, but has sent him to the Cessna factory from the NTSB office. It is part of a broader look at the new LSA category by the NTSB that started in October 2007 and will end in January 2009. The NTSB wants to better understand the industry and assess whether manufacturers are meeting agreed-upon industry standards.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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