The Flight Instructor Directed The Private Pilot To Recover “Gradually And Easily”

Location: Hiddenite, NC Accident Number: ERA21LA322
Date & Time: August 9, 2021, 13:35 Local Registration: N906ER
Aircraft: Diamond DA42 Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Instructional

On August 9, 2021, about 1335 eastern daylight time, a Diamond DA-42-L360 airplane, N906ER, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Hiddenite, North Carolina. The flight instructor and a private pilot were not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

The flight instructor and private pilot had completed several maneuvers and simulated emergency procedures during the multi-engine instructional flight. Following a simulated single-engine approach and landing to Wilkes County Airport (UKF), North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the instructor attempted to simulate a right-engine failure during takeoff roll; however, the engine lost power. The instructor restarted the right engine and performed a “quick run up” on the runway in which “everything was functioning normally.” The private pilot then continued the takeoff and climb.

Upon reaching 5,000 ft mean sea level (msl), the private pilot performed an emergency descent maneuver while also simulating a left engine fire. As part of the simulated left engine fire, the left engine was shut down with the full reduction of the throttle, propeller, and mixture. During the maneuver after descending about 500-1000 ft, the Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) failed, and the flight instructor directed the private pilot to recover “gradually and easily” at 3,500 ft msl and maintain 90 knots. The AHRS displayed a message that it was  aligning/calibrating and to keep the wings level.

The flight instructor subsequently noticed that the airspeed had increased through 100 knots and altitude had decreased to about 3,000 ft, and about this time, the private pilot stated, “I can’t pitch up” and then the sole operating right engine began to sputter. The flight instructor took the flight controls, applied full-forward mixture, propeller, and throttle to both engines, and ensured the landing gear and flaps were up; however, he was unable to increase the pitch and stop the descent. The flight instructor noted that the manual elevator trim was near the takeoff position, and he did not adjust the trim throughout the descent.

The flight instructor reported that “it felt as if we were unable to fully pull the control stick back, as if it were restricted preventing full movement.” He added that both engines regained power, however, it felt as if they “were not producing normal operation power.” The airspeed increased to over 100 knots during the descent, so he reduced engine power, and turned toward an open field. The flight instructor further reported that as the airplane descended, “We both were pulling back as hard as we could but could not get the nose to come up.” About 500 ft above ground level, the flight instructor kept his hands on the control stick and the private pilot lowered the landing gear and added full flaps for landing. Subsequently, the airplane touched down nose low in a soybean field, impacted a ditch, and skidded to a stop.

Initial examination of the airplane at the accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that the nose landing gear had collapsed, and the right wing sustained substantial damage. Flight control continuity was established from the flight controls to each control surface, which moved freely and correctly through the full range of motion. The manual elevator trim wheel indicated a slight nose down setting. The autopilot circuit breaker was found pulled and collared. Both wing tanks contained fuel and no oil spray was observed on the engine cowling or fuselage.

The airplane was retained for further examination.