NTSB: SkyCatcher Chute Failed to Jettison

James E. Swickard james_swickard@aviationweek.com

On the same day Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack J. Pelton reaffirmed the company's commitment to the SkyCatcher program, despite the loss of its second and only remaining CE162 in flight testing, the NTSB posted details of the March 19 final flight of the two-seat trainer. The first aircraft was lost in flight testing last year.

Here's the verbatim NTSB preliminary account of the recent incident, which provided an opportunity for a full measure of professional commitment by the unnamed pilot.

"On March 19, 2009, at 0950 central daylight time, a Cessna Aircraft Company E162 model SkyCatcher, experimental airplane, N162CE, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near El Dorado, Kansas, following a loss of control during a test flight. The airline transport [rated] pilot was not injured. The flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. The local flight originated at Cessna Aircraft Field Airport (CEA), Wichita, Kansas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

The pilot departed CEA about 0900 to conduct spin testing. During a planned test condition the airplane entered a rapid and disorienting spin. The pilot applied spin recovery controls and the airplane continued to spin without apparent response, so the pilot deployed the airplane's Ballistic Recovery System (BRS) parachute. The BRS had been specifically modified to allow the chute to be jettisoned by the pilot if altitude and conditions allowed. After BRS deployment and the airplane became stabilized in the parachute, the pilot attempted to jettison the chute several times. Each jettison attempt was unsuccessful. The pilot then opened the airplane door to bail out and utilize a personal parachute, but realized he was too low to ensure a successful bailout and elected to stay with the airplane. The pilot shut down the engine prior to landing.

The airplane landed upright in an open field, breaking off the nose gear and splaying the main landing gear partially. The pilot got out of the airplane and attempted to disengage and collapse the BRS chute, but surface winds inflated the parachute and drug the airplane. The airplane traveled about .6 miles before getting caught in a fence and flipping over.

Examination of the airplane revealed the right wing bent upward, left and right ailerons damaged, and the horizontal stabilizer bent. Flight control cable continuity was verified from the cockpit controls to each aileron, elevator and rudder control surfaces."

Pelton said, "We test all our aircraft well beyond the limits of what is expected in normal operation. By the time a Cessna aircraft enters service we have the highest degree of confidence in the design, flight characteristics, manufacture and quality of the aircraft," adding that company collected a lot of data on the SkyCatcher's crashworthiness as well as on the operation of the BRS airframe parachute as a result of the two incidents. The BRS is offered as an option on the SkyCatcher.

Photo: Cessna

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