Wexford pilot (73) lands plane one-handed after canopy opens

Air Accident unit notes pilot landed plane with left hand, while right hand held canopy

In order to land as quickly as possible the pilot climbed to 305 metres and completed a standard circuit for Runway 18. Photograph: Frank Miller

In order to land as quickly as possible the pilot climbed to 305 metres and completed a standard circuit for Runway 18. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

A 73-year-old pilot managed to land his plane one-handed after he was forced to hang onto the canopy covering the cockpit when it opened during a flight over Co Wexford.

A report from the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit found the man was uninjured but the plane was “substantially” damaged after it crash landed at the Irish Light Aviation Society Airfield at Taghmon, Co Wexford, on June 9th this year.

The report noted the pilot’s evidence that he had carried out pre-flight checks, including a “canopy locked check” before a normal take-off shortly before midday, in good flying conditions.

But when passing 91 metres, the canopy of the aircraft covering the cockpit unexpectedly opened. The pilot, who was not named, was able to pull the canopy closed but could not lock it shut, requiring him “to exert sustained manual pressure” while continuing to fly the aircraft using his left hand.

In order to land as quickly as possible he climbed to 305 metres and completed a standard circuit for Runway 18 at the airfield. “With only one hand available to operate the stick and throttle, control of the aircraft was difficult.”

Hard landing

A subsequent loss of airspeed resulted in a hard landing which caused the left wheel to become detached from the aircraft. About seven metres after the aircraft first made contact with the runway the propeller hit the ground, breaking both propeller blades. The aircraft then swivelled an anti-clockwise direction before coming to rest. The air accident report noted damage to right wheel shock absorber and that the left wing was cracked.

In a commentary on the accident the investigation concluded the pilot “demonstrated good flying skills maintaining steady flight and positioning for landing”.

The report said the unexpected opening of a cockpit canopy in flight can result in the loss of an aircraft due to the “startle effect” on the pilot and subsequent control difficulties.

“Control challenges resulted in a hard landing causing significant damage to the aircraft but no injuries to the pilot”. The investigators had no special recommendations to make arising from the crash landing.

The plane EI-EWZ was a Colibri MB-2, a single seat, sports aircraft, powered by one Volkswagen engine.

It had an all wooden framework with plywood fuselage and fabric covered wings. It was amateur built by the pilot from plans provided by Colibri and was first flown on the July 26th, 2012. At the time of the occurrence the aircraft had an IAA Permit to Fly issued on February 1st, 2017, which was valid until January 31st, 2018.