Fatal accident involving a Pitts S-1S (G-BOXV) at Shobdon Airfield, Herefordshire, 26 August 2022
During an aerobatic practice flight, G-BOXV was seen to enter a climbing vertical rolling manoeuvre from approximately 420ft above ground level. The aircraft yawed right at the top of the manoeuvre, which apexed at approximately 1,100ft above ground level. During this, an uncommanded autorotative right roll developed and the aircraft entered a steep nose-down spiral dive. As the pilot attempted to pull out of the ensuing dive, the aircraft experienced an accelerated stall and rolling departure to the right. At that point, there was insufficient height remaining in which to effect a safe recovery and the aircraft struck the ground. The pilot was fatally injured in the accident.
No causal or contributory technical issues were found during the post-accident examination of the aircraft. The investigation found that the entry conditions to the initial climbing manoeuvre gave little or no safety margin when the aircraft began to dynamically diverge from the expected flight path at the apex. Entering the manoeuvre with more height and/or speed would likely have increased the pilot’s chances of avoiding the loss of control and/or being able to recover from it safely.
This accident serves as a reminder that conducting low-level acrobatics comes with inherent risks when manoeuvres do not proceed as expected. There is generic guidance for aerobatic pilots contained in the CAA Safety Sense Leaflet 19 titled ‘Aerobatics’.