Thursday, December 10, 2020

Collision During Takeoff: Bellanca 7ECA Citabria, N2987Z; Accident occurred February 27, 2020 in Athens, Henderson County, Texas


Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Irving, Texas

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Athens, TX 
Accident Number: CEN20CA104
Date & Time: 02/27/2020, 1700 CST
Registration: N2987Z
Aircraft: Champion 7ECA
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision during takeoff/land
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


The pilot in the rear seat reported that the flight was conducted to familiarize the student pilot, who was in the front seat, with the private airstrip and surrounding obstacles. The airplane touched down "a little" long and bounced. The student aborted the landing and initiated a "max performance" climb. The pilot reported that he had briefed the student about the obstacles near the departure end of the runway but that he was unable to see the obstacles from the rear seat during climbout. The airplane impacted two trees, the right wing struck a utility pole, and the airplane then impacted the ground in a nose-down attitude. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the engine mount, fuselage, and both wings. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The rear seat pilot and the student pilot's failure to see and avoid trees during initial climb following an aborted landing.


Personnel issues Incorrect action performance - Pilot
Personnel issues Incorrect action performance - Student/instructed pilot
Personnel issues Monitoring environment - Pilot
Personnel issues Monitoring environment - Instructor/check pilot
Environmental issues Tree(s) - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight

Landing-flare/touchdown Abnormal runway contact
Approach-VFR go-around Collision during takeoff/land (Defining event)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport
Age: 45, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Rear
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/25/2019
Occupational Pilot:Yes 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 05/13/2019
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 7917 hours (Total, all aircraft), 154 hours (Total, this make and model), 5649 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 58 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 31 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Student Pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 21, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s):None 
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/08/2019
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 22 hours (Total, all aircraft), 22 hours (Total, this make and model), 22 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 8 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Champion
Registration: N2987Z
Model/Series: 7ECA No Series
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1978
Amateur Built:No 
Airworthiness Certificate:Normal 
Serial Number: 1246-78
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 11/16/2019, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1650 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 5882 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C91 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-320-A2B
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 150 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KF44, 444 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 15 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2255 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 182°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 30.26 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 13°C / -5°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Athens, TX (PVT)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Athens, TX (PVT)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1645 CST
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Dirt
Airport Elevation: 444 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 02
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 1150 ft / 100 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Go Around; Traffic Pattern

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 None
Latitude, Longitude: 32.420000, -95.820000 (est)


  1. "once touchdown occurs, go around was no option" says it all ....
    1246-78/N2987Z has returned, and changed ownership!

  2. Dad; "my son is a naturally gifted aviator"...yeah, it looks like it.

  3. I surmise that a go around was no option once the touch down happens due to the very obstacles they hit. That said, proud papa should have listened to himself and not his son's instructor who apparently never flew with the student into this private strip. Both father and son were lucky to walk away from this.

    One thing I found rather interesting is that the son is 21 and only now getting into flying with a professional airline career pilot father. In my experience growing up around airline and military pilots, the offspring either want to learn as soon as they could or show no interest. By high school we aviation family children were either learning to fly between 16-18 if we didn't already have a license by 17 (got mine at 19) or not interested whatsoever (the vast majority). I just wonder if the father coerced the son in any way to do something he may not have had 100% passion to take on. Just because you are allegedly gifted with coordination does not mean you can actually be a skilled pilot. Flying requires an equal 50/50 part of skill and good judgement. The son clearly lacked the second half here.

    1. GA flying just for the pleasure is $$ prohibitive to most, and my understanding not common in the ranks of "professional airline career pilot." My take is/was aspiring pilots are/were in it now for a future as a "professional airline career pilot."

    2. My take is you don’t need to justify to anyone why you fly for pleasure.

  4. Let’s see if I got this right: a student pilot with 22 hrs going into a 1100’ strip with obstacles...I don’t care how experienced daddy is...this was just plain dumb and an accident waiting to happen; or in this case did happen.