Sunday, August 15, 2021

Landing Area Overshoot: Team Rocket F1 Rocket, N88XK; accident occurred August 18, 2020 at Finleyville Airpark (G05), Washington County, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

N-88XK Medical Aviation LLC

Location: Finleyville, Pennsylvania
Accident Number: ERA20CA291
Date & Time: August 18, 2020, 13:10 Local
Registration: N88XK
Aircraft: TEAM ROCKET F1 Rocket
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Landing area overshoot
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The owner of the airplane had recently purchased it, and a pilot had ferried the tailwheel-equipped, tandem seat airplane across the country and delivered it to him the day before the accident. The purpose of the accident flight was for the ferry pilot to familiarize the owner with the airplane’s avionics. For the accident flight, the owner was seated in the front seat, while the ferry pilot (who did not hold a flight instructor certificate) was seated the rear. The airplane’s rear seat was equipped with a limited set of flight controls that included a control stick, rudder pedals, and throttle. The rear seat was not equipped to control the airplane’s brakes.

The pilots departed and flew to a nearby airport with a 4,000-ft-long runway, where the owner flew an approach to landing that terminated in a go-around. The ferry pilot then demonstrated a touch-and-go landing. On the third approach attempt the owner was unable to extend the airplane’s flaps, so they aborted the approach to troubleshoot the problem. The pilots were ultimately unable to extend the flaps and elected to return to the owner’s home airport and land on the 2,500-ft-long runway there. When the ferry pilot initially attempted to land the airplane, it bounced during both attempts and he aborted the landings. The owner described that during the final landing attempt, the ferry pilot approached the runway at a “slightly faster speed” and that the airplane “landed long.” The airplane continued down the runway with its tail in the air. The ferry pilot, being unable to see the runway due to his vision being obstructed by his position in the rear seat, did not realize that the airplane was approaching the end of the runway until the owner called out to him. The owner stated that he began applying the airplane’s brakes with about 400 feet of the runway remaining. The airplane subsequently overran the departure end of the runway. During the excursion both main landing gear collapsed, and the forward portion of the fuselage and engine mount area were substantially damaged.

Following the accident, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector responded to the accident site and during his examination of the wreckage he turned on the master switch and extended the airplane’s flaps. The flaps extended normally.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's misjudgment of the airplane’s speed and altitude during the landing approach, and his failure to attain the proper touchdown point during landing, which resulted in a runway overrun. Contributing to the accident were his access to a limited set of flight controls, his obstructed vision due to his seating position, and the pilot’s decision to return to the relatively constrained runway following a perceived anomaly of the airplane’s flaps.


Aircraft Airspeed - Not attained/maintained
Aircraft Altitude - Not attained/maintained
Aircraft Landing flare - Not attained/maintained
Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Pilot
Aircraft Brake - Not installed/available
Personnel issues Visual function - Pilot
Aircraft TE flap control system - Not used/operated

Factual Information

History of Flight

Landing-landing roll Landing area overshoot (Defining event)
Landing-landing roll Runway excursion

Pilot-rated passenger Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 50,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None Restraint Used: 5-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: August 5, 2019
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: October 15, 2019
Flight Time: 639 hours (Total, all aircraft), 9 hours (Total, this make and model), 205 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline transport; Commercial 
Age: 59,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Rear
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: 5-point
Instrument Rating(s): None 
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 2 With waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: August 15, 2020
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: August 15, 2020
Flight Time: 3420 hours (Total, all aircraft), 11.5 hours (Total, this make and model), 20.3 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 1.5 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: TEAM ROCKET
Registration: N88XK
Model/Series: F1 Rocket
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2018 
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental (Special)
Serial Number: 128
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: December 9, 2019 Annual 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2000 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 60 Hrs at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C91 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: D4A5
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 285 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: KAGC,1273 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 13:10 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 33°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 6000 ft AGL
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 8500 ft AGL
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 5 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 300° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 12°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Finleyville, PA 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Finleyville, PA
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 1236 ft msl
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 32 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2497 ft / 50 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full stop;Traffic pattern

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 40.247776,-80.013336(est)


  1. Could of been worse..but probably should have never happened...who's on the hook for that now?

  2. Never mind the reason the flaps couldn’t extend; it’s rather upsetting that a pair of Comm/ATP pilots made the decision to return to this short, narrow runway and not land at Allegheny County (KAGC) or Pittsburgh International (KPIT), 8 and 18 nm away respectively, where their SHORTEST runway would have been 6500 x 150 and could have parked for free. In any case, I’m glad they walked away. Sad that they bent metal.

    It’s not true that any landing you walked away from is a good one…

  3. Similar F1s sell for north of $180,000. I hope this one was insured. The pilot is on the hook, back seater was technically a passenger, co pilot.
    Selecting a 2500 foot runway to do a no flaps landing in this airplane? maybe not the best decision. Of course, no in flight checklist trouble shoot was an issue. Master switch may have been off.
    In any case, they both walked with only a bruised ego. That’s what counts. It is a shame this pilot lost his beautiful airplane after maybe a couple hours flight.

  4. No flaps landing on a 2,500 ft RWY in an unfamiliar airplane.
    Can't make up that stuff.

    I always compare the estimated price of an expensive outcome against my initially preferred and easier (well, often that is just an euphemism for more convenient) one to come to a conclusion. I see that latter one as the price for an "ad hoc insurance".
    Not just for flying, also driving etc.

  5. This is why when you deliver a plane you leave it with the owner. That's it. Obviously the ferry pilot was too nice to oblige to the owner's request to show him around. And now he is risking his certificates since he performed the role of CFI without being one and on top of it liability from the insurer.

  6. I would say with certainty that a 2500' runway is plenty. These overshoot's are almost always carrying too much speed at touch down. Fly the numbers and follow the POH and you'll be fine.

    1. But that is exactly the problem - an unfamiliar airplane where the POH and numbers may not be as present and ingrained yet as they should.
      In the comments here on KR about the CL-65 crash at KTRK some professional(!) pilots appear using Vref+ their own additions for various reasons and others warning against that. This is of course a very different class of aircraft but in physics it doesn't really matter who and if one is imprecise - kinetic energy still increases with the square of the speed...

      And with "Rocket" and "F1" in its name what are the chances that this is a slick plane and even a few extra knots won't bleed off very fast?

    2. I own/fly a Rocket and yes 2500ft is plenty indeed, even without flaps. Always a bit tricky to land though with the bouncy gear and being light on the tail. My guess is that the ferry pilot was trying to fly it on at a higher speed, trying to avoid a bounce, touching down too late too fast, leaving the tail up. Can't really brake with tail up as the nose tips over quickly. Poor pilot in the front. Avoidable accident raises insurance premiums for all.. Aircraft does look fixable though, new prop, engine frame / gear rebuild and engine tear down due prop strike.