Roll Reversal

The NTSB has released its preliminary report on a 09 September 2023 accident in which a Champion 7KCAB Citabria, registration N998B, was substantially damaged shortly after departing Arizona’s Benson Municipal Airport (E95). The aircraft’s two occupants—a flight-instructor and a student-pilot receiving instruction—escaped injury.

The accident-aircraft was operated as an instructional flight under Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

The flight-instructor reported he and the student pilot had planned a one-hour lesson comprising pattern-work at Benson Municipal Airport. Shortly after departing E95 Runway 10/28, the accident-aircraft—while climbing through an altitude of approximately fifty-feet AGL—entered an uncommanded right-turn before rolling sharply to the right. The occurrence compelled the flight-instructor to take control of the aircraft.

Determining the Citabria’s aileron-controls to be unresponsive, the flight-instructor added left rudder, thereby arresting the uncommanded bank and leveling the aircraft’s wings.

The accident-aircraft immediately rolled left before again rolling right. Elevator/pitch control remained normal; ailerons inputs, however, had no effect on the aircraft’s attitude about its longitudinal axis—so stated the flight-instructor, who continued to control the accident-aircraft via elevator and rudder inputs.

Level flight could not be sustained, and the Citabria impacted the ground in a wings-level attitude, bouncing several times before coming to rest on the runway.

The accident-aircraft’s wreckage, in accordance with federal regulation, was transported to a secure location for further examination.

The 7KCAB Citabria is a light, single-engine, two-seat, fixed-conventional-gear airplane developed by Osceola, Wisconsin-based Champion Aircraft. The type entered production in 1968. Designed for primary and aerobatic flight-training (the Citabria moniker is a semordnilap of aerobatic), as well as utility and personal use, the 7KCAB is capable of sustaining loads of +5 G to -2 G.

Champion was acquired by Bellanca Aircraft Corporation in 1970. The latter concern subsequently introduced two approximations of the Citabria: the 8KCAB Decathlon and the 8GCBC Scout. Production at Bellanca ended in 1980, and the company’s assets were liquidated in 1982.