Aviation Accident Summaries

Aviation Accident Summary ERA21FA318

Ocklawaha, FL, USA

Aircraft #1




The pilot and pilot-rated passenger departed on a local flight and were performing aerobatic maneuvers over a lake. Flight track data indicated that the pilot performed at least three loops; the data ended as the airplane was climbing and beginning a descent. Witnesses report seeing the airplane in a spiral as it entered the lake. Recorded video of the accident showed the airplane in an inverted flat spin, which was followed by a nose-down spin to water contact. The engine was heard continuously operating throughout the video until water impact. Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of a preaccident malfunction or failure that would have prevented normal operation. Overall, the flight track data, witness observations, and video indicated that the pilot lost control of the airplane while he was likely attempting another aerobatic maneuver. Furthermore, a pilot who flew with the accident pilot when he first purchased the airplane (1 year before the accident) offered to provide flight training to the accident pilot, but the pilot declined, stating that the training was too expensive and that he knew how to fly an airplane. Because the pilot’s logbook was not found, the investigation was unable to determine the pilot’s total flight experience in the airplane make and model and whether that played a role in the accident.

Factual Information

HISTORY OF FLIGHT On August 9, 2021, about 1656 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Pitts Model 12, N112JH, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Ocklawaha, Florida. The pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.   The pilot was conducting a local aerobatic flight. According to flight track data, the airplane completed three loops and then entered a climb and descent, at which point the data ended. Multiple witnesses reported seeing the airplane “spiraling” toward the water, but none reported seeing the airplane before that point. One witness recorded cell phone video of the airplane that showed the airplane in an inverted flat spin, which was followed by a nose-down spin and contact with the lake. The video also recorded the sound of the engine operating continuously until the airplane impacted the water. The pilot and passenger were wearing parachutes, and the pilot was observed jumping from the airplane at a low altitude. The video did not capture the pilot’s parachute deploying before water contact, but witnesses stated that the parachute was open and floating in the water. Furthermore, the sound of the engine was continuous until the airplane impacted the water. Multiple witness reported seeing the airplane spiraling towards the water, but none reported seeing the airplane prior to that. PILOT INFORMATION The pilot’s personal logbook was not located. According to a ferry pilot, the pilot bought the airplane about 1 year before the accident, and he hired the ferry pilot to help him move the airplane to his home airport at that time. The ferry pilot provided a statement that detailed the time that he and the accident pilot spent in the airplane. The ferry pilot stated that the accident pilot was “all over with the rudder during the takeoff.” They performed two landings at the destination airport before completing the flight. The ferry pilot offered to provide flight instruction, but the accident pilot declined and said, “I know how to fly an airplane and you are too expensive.” The ferry pilot thought that the accident flight was the first time that the pilot had flown the airplane with a passenger. WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed that the wood and fabric wings were destroyed by the impact with the water. The fuselage remained intact and was impact damaged. The rudder and elevator remained attached to the fuselage. The left elevator was displaced 90° down. Flight control continuity was established from the rudder and elevator to the control stick in the cockpit. The throttle control was full forward, and the propeller control was mid-range. About 6 ft of the upper wing was impact damaged but remained attached by cables, the aileron remained attached to the wing, and the control rod was fractured. Other wing pieces were found floating in the large debris field in the water.   The engine was impact damaged but remained attached to the airframe by cables and wires. The front spark plugs in the radial engine were fractured; the rear spark plugs were removed and showed normal wear signatures. Several push rods were impact separated. The rear accessory case was impact damaged, and several components were separated. The propeller remained attached to the engine, but all three propeller blades were separated at the hub. The engine rotated smoothly by hand at the propeller flange, and continuity was established throughout the engine. The postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control while performing aerobatic maneuvers, which resulted in an inverted flat spin from which he was unable to recover.


Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database

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