Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Zenith Zodiac CH-601 XL, N354DM: Accident occurred August 29, 2020 at Punta Gorda Airport (KPGD), Charlotte County, Florida

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

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

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Tampa, Florida

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: PUNTA GORDA, Florida
Accident Number: ERA20CA303
Date & Time: August 29, 2020, 12:20 Local
Registration: N354DM
Aircraft: Zenith CH601
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Miscellaneous/other
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot was also the owner/builder of the experimental airplane. He reported that the accident flight was the second flight since he completed assembly of the airplane. During takeoff, about 20 ft above ground level, the cockpit canopy “flew” forward to the full up position. The airplane immediately entered a nose-down attitude and touched back down on the runway with the propeller striking the runway. The airplane then bounced, touched down again, and skidded off the left side of the runway. The nose landing gear collapsed and the airplane came to rest upright in a grass area off the left side of the runway. The forward portion of the airplane’s fuselage was substantially damaged.

The pilot further stated that the canopy latch for the airplane make and model was known to unlatch in flight, so he installed a secondary latch system when he assembled the airplane. The secondary latch system consisted of a latch and catch mechanism that could only be secured from inside the cockpit. He added that the latches had to align perfectly to work. The pilot further noted that the airframe kit manufacturer offered a modification to the canopy latching system, but the pilot had not installed it.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
An inadvertent opening of the airplane’s canopy on takeoff, which resulted in a loss of control and runway excursion.


Aircraft Passenger/crew doors - Not specified
Aircraft Pitch control - Attain/maintain not possible

Factual Information

History of Flight

Prior to flight Ground handling event
Takeoff Miscellaneous/other (Defining event)
Takeoff Loss of control in flight
Takeoff Abnormal runway contact
Takeoff Runway excursion
Takeoff Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private 
Age: 64,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: September 11, 2019
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: November 7, 2019
Flight Time: 262 hours (Total, all aircraft), 9 hours (Total, this make and model), 174 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 1 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Zenith
Registration: N354DM
Model/Series: CH601 XL
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2020
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental (Special)
Serial Number: 6092
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: August 1, 2020
Condition Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1320 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 1 Hrs
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 1 Hrs at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Honda
ELT: C126 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: Viking 130
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 130 Horsepower
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PGD,25 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 12:17 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 0°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 2700 ft AGL 
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 5 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.04 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 32°C / 25°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: PUNTA GORDA, FL (PGD)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: PUNTA GORDA, FL (PGD) 
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 12:20 Local
Type of Airspace: Class D

Airport Information

Airport: Punta Gorda PGD
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 25 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 22 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 7193 ft / 150 ft 
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 26.918888,-81.990837(est)

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