Reasonable to blame right-seat Labradoodle for the go-around accident?

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.



8 thoughts on “Reasonable to blame right-seat Labradoodle for the go-around accident?

  1. Man, that’s sad. I feel badly for the pilot, his family and everyone concerned, including the poor pooch and the people who had to catch the dog. 90 years old and flying a light sport airplane (or any airplane for that matter) with a big dog in the passenger seat strikes me as a pretty dangerous thing to do, though. I’m sure the pilot didn’t see it that way, but I’ve had worries with an older relative driving with a rambunctious Golden in a minivan! I used to tell them (the dog has since passed away): “Don’t drive with the dog in the front seat. It’s really not fair to either of you.”

    The autopsy didn’t show anything abnormal or illegal, and it may not be illegal to fly with a pet in the passenger seat, but that’s definitely a cautionary tale.

    I didn’t see the dog’s breed or name in the NTSB report so you must have learned them elsewhere. One idea: if it was a Labrador, particularly a Golden, you know very well how attuned they can be to the emotional state of the human that belongs to them, i.e., you’re stressed out and anxious, they know it and get squirrely. Maybe the pooch was picking up on the pilot’s anxiety during the landing and and started moving around. In other words, maybe the pilot was telegraphing an unusual level of distress to the dog. They’re very sensitive and lots of things can get them going.

    I can’t blame the dog for the crash, though. As hard as it is to say, Jasmine was along for the ride and the pilot was taking a risk – one that he had “routinely” taken before, and you know the kind of normalization of deviance that can lead to, homemade rudder-pedal blocker notwithstanding.

  2. It’s rumoured that for safety reasons, the next generation of Airbuses will have a dog and a pilot in the cockpit. The pilot’s job will be to feed the dog, and the dog’s job will be to bite the pilot if he tries to touch the controls.

  3. You did not quote this:

    Additional Information
    The pilot’s son also confirmed that his father had fabricated the plywood device to prevent the right-seat passenger (or his dog) from inadvertently contacting the rudder pedals during flight.

    Given the calculated airspeeds and the indication of a go-around with a sharp turn away it seems to this non-flier that the NTSB conclusion is ridiculously unlikely to be correct; it was pilot error – insufficient airspeed.. Presumably such conclusions are important in relation to any insurance claim.

  4. A prediction re evidence-based accident investigation, NTSB-style:

    Given the NTSB’s conclusion that “The dog done it.” (sic) I now predict that I will live long enough (and I am only 86 now) to read an NTSB accident report that cites “witchcraft” as a contributing factor.

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