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Early Analysis: Flight Training Accident at Santa Monica, CA

UPDATE: The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report (WPR22FA338) regarding the investigation into the Santa Monica Training Flight accident with a CSA PiperSport (N126WK).

On September 8, 2022, a PiperSport crashed at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO) in Santa Monica, California. The accident caused the airplane to catch fire. No one on the ground was injured. Sadly, the certificated flight instructor and the student pilot died in the accident.

The flight had departed the Santa Monica Municipal Airport on what appears to have been a 30-minute discovery flight along the coastline before returning to SMO.

The PiperSport was on a two-mile final approach to Runway 21 when about 40 seconds into the approach a Beechcraft King Air began its takeoff roll. The tower then confirmed that the pilot of the PiperSport had the King Air in sight, issued a wake turbulence caution, and cleared the PiperSport for the option. Seconds later, as the aircraft was landing, its nose pitched up aggressively and the airplane spiraled into the ground.

In Early Analysis: N126WK, the AOPA Air Safety Institute (ASI) makes a preliminary assessment of the accident, addressing notable portions of the tragic flight and highlighting areas the NTSB will likely investigate to determine a probable cause.

Take AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Essential Aerodynamics: Stalls, Spins, and Safety online course and review the Takeoffs and Landings Safety Center to learn more about factors that might have contributed to this accident.