Thursday, November 22, 2018

Zenith Zodiac CH 650, N419PE: Accident occurred December 30, 2014 at St. Lucie County International Airport (KFPR), Fort Pierce, Florida

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Miami, Florida

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms


https://registry.faa.gov/N419PE


Location: Fort Pierce, FL
Accident Number: ERA15LA087
Date & Time: 12/30/2014, 1320 EST
Registration: N419PE
Aircraft: MDS FYING LLC ZENITH ZODIAC CH 650
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On December 30, 2014, about 1320 eastern standard time, an experimental amateur-built Zenith Zodiac CH 650, N419PE, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while on approach to landing to St. Lucie County International Airport (FPR), Fort Pierce, Florida. The private pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 and originated at 1200.

After conducting a preflight inspection the pilot stated that he closed the canopy and pushed both locking handles forward until they stopped. After conducting a runup check of the engine, he verified that both of the latches remained closed, then departed on the accident flight. On return to the departure airport he entered the traffic pattern with the intention of performing several touch-and-go landings. After setting the flaps to 10° and trimming the airplane, the pilot turned onto final approach to runway 28, at an airspeed of 75 knots. At a height of about 50 ft, the cockpit canopy opened, and the airplane suddenly pitched nose down. The pilot responded by "pulling on the stick" and increasing engine power, but found the elevator control to be ineffective. He also noted that the canopy had opened about 3 inches. The airplane subsequently impacted the ground in a nose down attitude.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors examined the airplane following the accident and found that the forward portion of the fuselage had been substantially damaged during the impact.

According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on July 2, 2013. The pilot reported 767 total hours of flight experience, of which 2 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane. His most recent flight review was dated November 7, 2013.

The single-engine, two-seat, kit-built, low-wing, airplane was issued a special airworthiness certificate on August 15, 2014. It was powered by a Lycoming YIO-233-B2A, 115-horsepower engine, equipped with a Sensenich 2 blade propeller assembly. The most recent condition inspection was completed on August 29, 2014. At the time of the accident, the airframe total time was 14 hours.

Examination of plans and photographs of an exemplar airframe provided by the airframe kit manufacturer revealed that the airplane's canopy latch system (figure 1) consisted of a middle canopy lock tube located behind the two cockpit seats that extended to the fuselage on both sides. A locking handle (black lever located at shoulder level) extended between the seats, which would lock the canopy when rotated to the locked position. The middle canopy lock tube was attached by linkage to a canopy latch assembly located on the outboard aft cockpit where the canopy met the airframe near the back of the cockpit. The latch assembly would rotate forward over a bolt positioned on the canopy frame to lock it into place. The canopy could be latched and locked from the outside by means of a handle located on the left side of the fuselage just below and aft of the canopy.

Postaccident examination of the accident airplane revealed that in addition to the above described mechanism, the latch assemblies on both the left and right side of the cockpit had been fitted with red handles (figure 1 inset). Examination of the kit manufacturer's plans revealed that this handle was not a part of the original latching mechanism design.


Figure 1
Exemplar canopy latch system (foreground, courtesy of airframe kit manufacturer) and one of two red handles fitted to accident airplane's canopy latches (top left inset).

Postaccident functional testing of the accident airplane's canopy revealed that the when closing the canopy, the edge repeatedly caught on the frame of the cabin in several locations, preventing it from seating correctly in the closed position. To ensure the canopy was fully closed and not catching on the frame, it had to be pulled outward towards the wing and manipulated into the closed position. From inside the cockpit, it was difficult to close the canopy fully without assistance from the outside, since it would catch on the frame. The canopy could not be latched using the locking lever (black handle) from inside the cockpit. When operating the latch by the red handle, no audible or tactile feedback (e.g., a "click") was provided when the latch was engaged. When both latches were pushed to their respective forward-most positions, it appeared that their respective bolts had not fully seated into their recesses. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 60, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/02/2013
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 11/07/2013
Flight Time: 767 hours (Total, all aircraft), 2 hours (Total, this make and model), 745 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 4 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 



Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: MDS FLYING LLC
Registration: N419PE
Model/Series: ZENITH ZODIAC CH 650
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 65-10008
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 08/29/2014, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1320 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 14 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 14 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: YIO-233-B2A
Registered Owner: MDS Flying LLC
Rated Power: 115 hp
Operator: MDS Flying LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KFPR, 26 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1353 EST
Direction from Accident Site: 281°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 3400 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Light and Variable /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: Variable
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.11 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 28°C / 18°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Fort Pierce, FL (FPR)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Fort Pierce, FL (FPR)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 1200 EST
Type of Airspace: Class D

Airport Information

Airport: ST LUCIE COUNTY INTL (FPR)
Runway Surface Type: N/A
Airport Elevation: 23 ft
Runway Surface Condition:
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Traffic Pattern

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  27.497222, -80.372500 (est)

NTSB Identification: ERA15LA087
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, December 30, 2014 in Fort Pierce, FL
Aircraft: MDS FYING LLC ZENITH ZODIAC CH 650, registration: N419PE
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 30, 2014, about 1320 eastern standard time, an experimental amateur-built Zenith Zodiac CH 650, N419PE, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while on approach to landing to St. Lucie County International Airport (FPR), Fort Pierce, Florida. The private pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

Following an uneventful local flight, the pilot returned to the departure airport and entered the traffic pattern with the intention of performing several touch-and-go landings. After setting the flaps to the 10-degree position and trimming the airplane, the pilot eventually turned the airplane onto final approach to runway 28, at an airspeed of 75 knots. At a height of about 50 feet, the cockpit canopy opened, and the airplane suddenly pitched nose down. The pilot responded by "pulling on the stick" and increasing engine power, but found the elevator control to be ineffective. He also noted that the canopy had opened about 3 inches. The airplane subsequently impacted the ground in a nose down attitude.

Federal Aviation Administration inspectors examined the airplane following the accident and found that the forward portion of the fuselage and the firewall had been substantially damaged during the impact. A detailed examination of the canopy latching mechanism was scheduled for a later date.

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