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June 02, 2020

Leave the unlatched canopy alone

In a comment at Brickmuppet's blog, I brought up a morbidly funny case of someone getting ejected from a PiperSport aka SportCruiser. The NTSB speculated that he wanted an item from the hat rack, unbuckled his main belt, reached for it, and before he fastened the belt back, something in his harness snagged the canopy latch. As the canopy popped open, he applied a nose-down control input and got thrown out of the airplane, landing 1/3 of a mile from the main wreckage.

Seems like the Czechs cannot make a foolproof enough latch. However, someone else crashed a SportCruizer because the canopy was or became unlatched, then he unbuckled in order to reach the handle and re-latch it. This is a big no-no. Many people died under similar circumstances, in various types of airplanes. In one particularly gruesome case, in 1988 a woman crashed a Bonanza into a Phoenix backyard where a family was having a barbecue, killing a 10-year-old girl and 2 adults on the ground.

I had a door pop on me 3 times.

First time, I likely forgot to close it properly in an Arrow, so the upper latch didn't grab. I violated one of cardinal rules by taking off without having the landing assured — the cross-wind was too strong. I ended flying to another airport that had a runway better aligned with the wind. The draft inside was as strong as everyone was saying.

Second time, I am pretty sure the door was closed, but it popped open on takeoff somehow. It was during a checkout in a Skyhawk at a large commercial airport with long runways. I aborted the take-off and stopped. The check-out instructor agreed with me.

Third time, vibration made a handle to turn in my Carlson and the door popped open when I slipped for landing. The hinges were on top, so it made a tremendous slam against a wing, and I was certain it tore through the fabric. But no damage was found. I later modified the latch's claw for a more positive engagement.

Honestly I cannot see why people would try to close the door in flight. It's just a dumb way to die.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 11:35 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 370 words, total size 2 kb.

1 Had a Cessna 150 door open on takeoff once. Although it was pretty easy to push it out a little and let the wind slam it shut.

Posted by: Mauser at June 11, 2020 07:00 PM (Ix1l6)

2 The fact that some pilots are successful closing doors may in fact add to the hazard.
BTW, remember John Denver? It's just amazing how easy it was to make LongEZ to depart controlled flight, considering that it's a stall-resistant canard design.
Although, I'm sure there was no chance for you to get thrown out of a C150 while trying to close the door, at least. You need a canopy for that. The best you can do is to smash into a family having a barbecue.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at June 12, 2020 09:49 AM (LZ7Bg)

3 IIRC Denver's crash was also precipitated by the builder using an odd setup for his fuel tank switch that located it over the pilot's shoulder.
In my case I didn't mess with the door until I was stable and established, and yeah, in a 150 it's pretty much a non-event anyway, except for the noise.
Now the time the seat track let loose, yeah, THAT was an aborted take off.

Posted by: Mauser at June 14, 2020 02:38 AM (Ix1l6)

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