During The Initial Climb After Takeoff, About 100 Ft Above Ground Level Over The Runway, An Engine Compartment Access Cover Opened

Location: Sanford, Florida Accident Number: ERA23LA379
Date & Time: September 26, 2023, 15:51 Local Registration: N708WC
Aircraft: Dorr Dan W Sequoia F.8L Falco Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

Analysis: The pilot performed a preflight inspection before he initiated the startup and taxi without any anomalies noted. During the initial climb after takeoff, about 100 ft above ground level over the runway, an engine compartment access cover opened. The pilot called the air traffic control tower and was cleared to land on a parallel runway. The pilot continued in the traffic pattern, but slowed the airplane in hopes that the access cover would not detach. The pilot became focused on the open cover and let the airspeed decrease, which resulted in a buffet, the left wing dropping, and the airplane “[falling] out of the sky.” 

The airplane subsequently impacted a taxiway and came to rest on the parallel runway, resulting in substantial damage to the fuselage and left wing. The pilot reported that there were no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures of the airplane that would have precluded normal operation. He also stated that he, “…focused way too much on the open engine cover and way too little on flying the airplane… The result was classic stall/spin scenario too close to the ground.”

Probable Cause and Findings: The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be — The pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control after an engine access cover opened during the initial climb. 

FMI: www.ntsb.gov