On May 20, 2022, a Cessna 140 crashed at the MayDay STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) event taking place that weekend in Wayne, Nebraska. No one on the ground was injured. Sadly, pilot Tom Dafoe, the only occupant in the aircraft, died in the accident. Winds were too strong on that day to run the STOL Drag competition, a test of speed and precision measured by time and combined takeoff and landing distance. Dafoe and other pilots decided to fly a traditional STOL Demonstration where pilots fly a typical box pattern keeping the takeoff and landing distance as short as possible.
It appeared Dafoe’s Cessna 140 made an S-turn for spacing behind a Zenith 701 to compensate for the Cessna’s faster speed leading to a stall/spin accident. This accident should remind us to have a Plan B in mind when closely spaced behind a slower moving aircraft—like breaking off and performing a go-around. STOL events are fun and exciting bringing people together into aviation and we want to ensure we can continue to enjoy these events. This unfortunate accident provides lessons to help all pilots protect against a stall/spin accident.
In Early Analysis: N76075, the AOPA Air Safety Institute 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 the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Essential Aerodynamics: Stalls, Spins, and Safety online course to learn more about factors that might have contributed to this accident.