On 18 September 2013, the pilot of an amateur-built Lancair Legacy aircraft, registered VH-ALP, was taking off from runway 32 at Geraldton Airport, Western Australia. Late in the take-off roll the canopy came open – the pilot continued the take-off and manoeuvred at low level for a landing. During the approach the aircraft undershot the runway, touched down across a road then collided with the airport perimeter fence and caught fire. The aircraft was destroyed and the pilot sustained injuries that were later fatal.
What the ATSB found
The ATSB found that the pilot conducted the take-off with the canopy down but inadvertently unlatched. As the aircraft accelerated the aerodynamic loads on the canopy increased and resulted in it suddenly lifting up to a partially open position. The pilot did not reject the take-off and during the subsequent manoeuvring for landing, likely encountered control, performance and forward visibility difficulties associated with the open canopy. This adversely affected the pilot’s capacity to conduct a normal approach.
The ATSB advises owners, operators and pilots of aircraft with canopies to review the adequacy of their existing measures that are intended to ensure canopies are securely latched before flight (such as pre-take-off checks and warning systems), and the actions in case of inadvertent canopy opening during take-off.
Where possible in abnormal situations, pilots should take time to assess the nature of the abnormality to rectify the situation or mitigate the effects.
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Although this investigation report highlights a low incidence of accidents and incidents involving insecure canopies in Lancair Legacy aircraft, the potential consequences of such occurrences have generated discussion among Lancair Legacy owners, builders and pilots. In particular, the ATSB is aware of a discussion paper, available on the United States Lancair Owners & Builders Organization website at www.lancairowners.com, which examines a number of canopy-related accidents and incidents in this type, and reviews the pilot actions in each case in response.
As highlighted in its investigation report, the ATSB reiterates the importance of owners, operators and pilots of aircraft with canopies reviewing the adequacy of their existing measures that are intended to ensure canopies are securely latched before flight (such as pre-take-off checks and warning systems), and the actions in case of inadvertent canopy opening during take-off. In this respect, and without endorsing any particular recovery procedure, the above Lancair discussion paper could be expected to enhance that review.
|Date:||18 September 2013||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Time:||1550 WST||Investigation level:||Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|State:||Western Australia||Occurrence type:||Collision with terrain|
|Release date:||15 May 2014||Occurrence category:||Accident|
|Report status:||Final||Highest injury level:||Fatal|
|Aircraft manufacturer||Amateur Built Aircraft|
|Type of operation||Business|
|Damage to aircraft||Destroyed|