Accident highlights dangers of low-level maneuveringAccident highlights dangers of low-level maneuvering


Buzzing, showboating, showing off. Whatever we call it, when a pilot exhibits bad judgment and flies recklessly, the public perception of general aviation takes a hit. More importantly, people routinely get hurt or die as a result of such behavior.

On December 20, 2003, the pilot of a Mooney M20E and his passenger were killed when their airplane crashed into the ice on Hanscom Lake near Webster, Wisconsin.

On the day of the accident, the pilot's son drove the pilot and his passenger to Voyager Village Airstrip where he watched his father preflight and start the Mooney. The son then returned to their cabin on the lake and saw the Mooney fly over in the direction of the lake at 200 to 300 feet agl. Other witnesses saw the airplane fly between 60 and 100 feet above the lake, then it "went straight up into the air about 200 feet, made a hairpin turn, and came straight down, hitting the ice nose first." The cockpit broke through the ice on impact and submerged. Rescuers were not able to save the pilot or passenger.

The pilot was described as a risk-taker and an aggressive pilot who "put the airplane in situations where there really was no out." The pilot's son said that it was not uncommon for the pilot to perform "crop duster turns," which he described as a steep 70-degree angle climb followed by a turn. The pilot would try to maintain at least 80 mph during the maneuver. The pilot had been flying for 14 years and performing this maneuver for about 10 years.

The pilot held a single-engine land private pilot certificate with an instrument rating. He had logged about 1,300 hours total time and completed a flight review eight months before the accident.

The NTSB determined the cause of this accident was the pilot's decision to conduct a low-altitude flight maneuver without sufficient altitude to maintain clearance from the terrain.

In 2005, 33.1 percent of all fatal pilot-related accidents were a result of maneuvering flight. Because maneuvering flight has a broad definition, some of these accidents occurred during legitimate activities such as turns in the traffic pattern. But, some are also the result of pilots exercising poor judgment.

This pilot died as a result of trying to exceed his personal capabilities and those of his aircraft. To learn more about the hazards associated with maneuvering flight, and how to avoid them, read the AOPA Air Safety Institute's Maneuvering Flight—Hazardous to Your Health Safety Advisor .

Accident reports can be found in ASF's accident database.

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Posted Thursday, November 02, 2006 12:21:14 PM