He Felt A Large Shock To The Airplane, Which Began Shaking, Buffeting Violently And Loudly

Location: Leesburg, VA Accident Number: ERA21LA106
Date & Time: January 19, 2021, 10:55 Local Registration: N5880L
Aircraft: American AA5 Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Instructional

On January 19, 2021, about 1055 eastern standard time, an American AA-5, N5880L, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Leesburg, Virginia. The flight instructor and student pilot were not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

The flight instructor stated that while flying direct to Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO), Leesburg, Virginia, in smooth air in a slight descent at 1,500 to 1,700 ft mean sea level while below the yellow arc indicated airspeed, he felt a large shock to the airplane, which began shaking, buffeting violently and loudly. The control yoke was also shaking violently, left and right, fore and aft, and the airplane was pitching up and down. He took control of the airplane from the student and initially thought there was an engine issue. He applied carburetor heat, reduced the throttle to idle and slowed to the airplane’s best glide speed, which was 80 mph, and executed the engine failure checklist from memory.

He circled left looking for a suitable field in which to perform an emergency landing and declared a mayday three times to the air traffic control tower at JYO. Both occupants identified several possible landing spots, but he added power and was informed by a pilot who was flying off their right wing that their elevator was “flapping in the wind.” He flew to JYO accompanied by the chase airplane again declaring an emergency with the JYO air traffic control tower. The flight was cleared to land on runway 17, and both prepared for landing. He flew a straight-in approach and when near the runway reduced power to idle and attempted to roundout and land normally, pulling the control yoke.

The nose pitched down very quickly, striking the runway skidding on the nose landing gear and propeller. After coming to rest the airplane was secured and both occupants exited it. Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed the left elevator was partially separated, with the outboard portion of it well below the position of the horizontal stabilizer. The airplane was secured pending further examination of the elevator primary and secondary flight control system.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov