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Aerobatics warning to pilots

An aerobatics accident involving a Chipmunk aircraft shows why pilots must only attempt manoeuvres for which they are endorsed.  

de Havilland Canada DHC-1 T Mk 10 Chipmunk aircraft, registered VH-UPD

On the morning of 29 June 2014, the pilot of a de Havilland Canada DHC-1 T Mk 10 Chipmunk aircraft, registered VH-UPD, was taking a passenger for a brief, private flight over Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, New South Wales.

According to pilot and passenger reports, after conducting a series of aerobatic manoeuvres, the pilot climbed to about 3,800 ft and accelerated to about 85 kt. The pilot then made a short dive to build up speed to about 120 kt before commencing a loop.

The spin recovery methods taught by the flying school were inconsistent across instructors and training material, and were not always appropriate for the Chipmunk aircraft...

At the top of the loop, the aircraft stalled while inverted, most likely as the result of excessive elevator input. The aircraft rolled and entered an upright spin, which became flatter as it developed. Later, the pilot reported that attempts to recover were unsuccessful. The spin continued until the aircraft impacted terrain. The pilot and passenger sustained serious injuries and the aircraft was seriously damaged. There was no fire.

The pilot reported undertaking training to conduct loops, but there was no record of an endorsement and the instructor did not recall approving the pilot to conduct loops. As a result, at the time of the accident, the pilot likely did not possess the necessary skills and judgement to conduct the manoeuvre safely and consistently.

The pilot probably did not apply and maintain the spin recovery control inputs appropriate for a fully-developed spin in a Chipmunk aircraft. Furthermore, the pilot was taught a spin recovery method that was not effective for recovering from such spins in the aircraft.

In addition, the accident aircraft’s flight manual had not been approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and did not include advice on spin recovery. The mandatory, Civil Aviation Safety Authority-approved flight manual contained spin recovery advice.

Safety message

Pilots and instructors, particularly those intending to conduct or teach aerobatic manoeuvres, should be familiar with any special handling requirements for a particular aircraft type as well as recovery from both incipient and developed spins. Furthermore, they should ensure that they hold the appropriate aerobatic endorsement before attempting a manoeuvre.

DHC-1 Chipmunk, registered VH-UPD, in 2009DHC-1 Chipmunk, VH-UPD in 2009. Source: Recreational Pilots
Source: Recreational Pilots


Read the ATSB's full investigation report AO-2014-114


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Last update 04 February 2016