Control Misrigging Blamed in Fatal Alaska Accident

Investigators find incorrectly installed elevator cables.

The NTSB has released a preliminary report on an accident that happened on July 1 immediately after a Piper PA-12 departed from Merrill Field Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. According to the report, a witness who saw the accident said the "airplane's angle of attack was so steep" that he knew "something was not right." Another witness said the taildragger continued to climb steeper and steeper until it stalled and pitched down, descending vertically to the ground.

After analyzing the flight controls of the crashed airplane, a mechanic assisting the NTSB investigator-in-charge concluded that the elevator control cables were incorrectly attached to the stick in the rear seat, which resulted in the elevator moving in the opposite direction when pressures were applied to the stick.

The accident serves as a reminder to all pilots to do a control check prior to every flight. Fatal accidents have also resulted in the past from ailerons being improperly attached, causing opposite response to control inputs, which can be so disorienting to the pilot that he or she may not be able to recover control of the airplane.

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