What happened

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.

Safety message

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.