A two-seat light sport plane crashes near the runway while a 13-knot wind is blowing. The 90-year-old pilot is killed. Who is to blame? Jasmine, the right-seat Labradoodle, according to the NTSB report. The probable cause:
The pilot’s decision to fly with his large dog in the two-seat, light sport airplane, and the dog’s likely contact with the flight controls during landing, which resulted in the pilot’s loss of airplane control and a subsequent aerodynamic stall when the airplane exceeded its critical angle of attack.
Without a cockpit video recorder, how exactly do we know this?
A witness, who was piloting another airplane in the traffic pattern, reported that, while he was on the downwind leg, he saw the accident airplane on final approach to the runway.
Based on available ground track and engine data, the airplane crossed the runway 27 threshold at a calculated airspeed of 48 knots. About 3 seconds later, the airplane turned right away from the runway heading, and the engine speed increased to takeoff power.
Given the ground track and engine data, it is likely that the dog contacted the aileron and/or stabilator controls during landing, which resulted in the pilot’s loss of airplane control and a subsequent aerodynamic stall at a low altitude when the airplane exceeded its critical angle of attack.
Does it make sense to blame Jasmine? She was manipulating the flight controls? Maybe. But wouldn’t a Labradoodle be more likely to push nose-down rather than grab the yoke with her teeth and pull nose-up? And the Labradoodle was also responsible for initiating a go-around by adding full throttle?
(Separately, as is typical with car accidents that kill humans, the supposedly inferior canine more or less walked away:
After the accident, the witness saw the pilot’s dog, who had been onboard the airplane, running out of the cornfield where the airplane had crashed. First responders were able to catch the dog, who was treated for minor injuries by a local veterinarian.
- 2015 crash of same type of aircraft during go-around (no non-humans on board)
- “Trim Use on Go-Around” (Flying): “The possibility for a stall increases during a go-around when a great deal of nose-up elevator trim is dialed in and full power is suddenly applied. With the elevator trim set for approach attitude, the nose-up pitching moment can be very pronounced, leading to trouble in a hurry if you aren’t on top of things.”
- tutorial on the risks and how to train to avoid them (“Landing Accident Is Safer Than A Go Around Accident”)
- Flying Magazine article citing go-around accidents (“The stats also showed that one in 10 of the go-around efforts resulted in a potentially hazardous outcome”)
- French NSTB-equivalent looks at airliner accidents during go-arounds, including stalls (by a crew of two professional pilots in every case; only Captain Sully was able to fly an Airbus solo!)
- TBM stalled and crashed during a go-around