Just as you are taking off the door opens – what do you do?

You rotate for take off and the door or hatch opens , what do you do?

A twin engined Piper Aztec had completed its C of A maintenance check at Glenrothes and was due to be flown on the required C of A air test with a pilot & observer (no other passengers are supposed to be carried). The commander was the owner of the engineering facility and elected to take 5 of his engineers with him on the C of A air test. On rotation for take off the forward hatch opened fully. The pilot, thinking the hatch would contact the propeller, elected to shut the engine down on the side that the hatch had opened. After shutting the engine down the pilot lost control of the aircraft which stalled and dropped a wing crashing into the ground. All 5 engineers were killed, the pilot survived. Piper later advised that, as stated in the flight manual, the hatch will not contact the propeller if it opens in flight.

Can you see how this tragic error chain accident started? Not taking any notice of the rules on C of A air tests, not completing a proper pre-flight inspection (absolutely essential after maintenance), not knowing the aircraft, making a totally wrong decision based on ignorance and finally not being able to handle the aircraft on one engine.

It was after this tragic accident over 25 years ago that I was prompted to introduce an exercise of ‘door opening on take off’, as one of the pre solo emergency procedures that must be signed off before first solo. Quite a few questioned the point of this at the time so many years later the accident described below proved the reasoning behind my decision. interestingly I had flown the aircraft in question (G-BAZS) when it was brand new in 1973 at the Channel Islands Aero Club in Jersey.

Captain Jon with G-BAZS at Jersey

Cessna F150L, G-BAZS

Date & Time (UTC): 12 April 1997 at 1115 hrs
Location: Sherburn-In-Elmet Aerodrome, Leeds
Persons on Board: Crew – 1 – Passengers – None
Injuries: Crew – None – Passengers – N/A
Nature of Damage: Damage to nose landing gear, propeller, engine and
mounting and forward fuselage
Commander’s Licence: Student Pilot
Commander’s Age: 34 years
Commander’s Flying Experience: 32 hours (all on type)
Last 90 days – 6 hours
Last 28 days – 3 hours

The student pilot had completed her first solo flight on 8 March1997. Adverse weather conditions prevented any further solo flying until the day of the accident. The pilot had successfully completed 0.6 hours dual flying with four circuits for Runway 29L at Sherburn. The pilot was then briefed by her instructor to complete one solo circuit. The instructor then left the aircraft and
closed the right hand door.
During the take-off run, the aircraft hopped twice before becoming airborne to a height of about
four feet. The pilot reported that the passenger door came open at this time. The pilot made
an unsuccessful attempt to close it, then elected to pitch the aircraft nose down in an attempt to land
back on the runway. On touchdown the nose landing gear collapsed. The aircraft came to rest upright on its nose.
The pilot commented that she had not received any instruction on the action to be taken in the event of a door coming open inflight, prior to this event.

The question is-HAVE YOU?


One thought on “Just as you are taking off the door opens – what do you do?

  1. Wholeheartedly agree with teaching students about doors ans Windows opening unexpectedly. For some reason the Cessnas at Stapleford in the early 90s often popped their doors open on take off. Alarming the first couple of times it happened. But we just carried on with the climb out. Certainly taught to secure our maps before rattling off.

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