March 25, 2009
By Alton K. Marsh
A preliminary report by the NTSB indicates the SkyCatcher was spinning out of control prior to a March 19 accident near El Dorado, Kan.
The light sport aircraft was the first and only test model to receive a larger tail area in an effort to correct a spin problem seen prior to a crash in September 2008. It was 50 minutes into a spin-test flight when the two-seat aircraft entered a “…rapid and disorienting spin,” the report indicates. The information is from the test pilot who was uninjured.
The pilot applied anti-spin control inputs but the aircraft was unresponsive, so he deployed the BRS airframe recovery parachute. Once the aircraft was stabilized beneath the parachute, the pilot attempted to jettison the chute and fly to an airport. The jettison mechanism designed especially for the test aircraft refused to jettison, so the pilot opened the door and prepared to use his personal parachute but realized he was then too low for a safe deployment. He elected to ride the aircraft to the ground.
The aircraft landed upright, partially splaying the main gear and breaking off the nosewheel as it came to a stop. The BRS airframe parachute was still inflated. The pilot got out and attempted to deflate the airframe parachute but a gust of wind carried the aircraft a half-mile where it was caught in a fence and flipped over.
Cessna Aircraft Company officials said they are fully committed to the SkyCatcher program despite the two incidents experienced during the flight test program. “The need for a modern, cost-effective two-seat trainer aircraft has never been greater, and we believe we are well positioned to meet that need,” said Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack J. Pelton. “The SkyCatcher program is an important part of our strategy,” he added.
Examination of the airplane revealed the right wing bent upward, damage to the left and right ailerons, and a bent horizontal stabilizer. Flight-control-cable continuity was verified from the cockpit controls to each aileron, to the elevator, and to rudder-control surfaces.
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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