Cessna stands by its light sport aircraft

Washington DC
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Cessna chief executive Jack Pelton says the company will stand by its light sport single-engine entry level SkyCatcher aircraft despite having the second prototype crash in spin testing on 19 March.

According to a preliminary crash report by the US National Transportation Safety Board, the aircraft entered a "rapid and disorienting spin" during a planned spin testing manoeuvre and spin recovery control inputs had no response.

The pilot deployed a ballistic recovery system parachute to regain control, but a special jettison mechanism designed to shed the parachute after control was regained did not work as planned, forcing the pilot to stay with the aircraft until touchdown.

 © Cessna

The first prototype SkyCatcher crashed on 18 September, again during spin testing. The NTSB's preliminary report of that accident says the test pilot could not regain control of the aircraft after specific spin test and was forced to bail out and deploy his personal parachute after the aircraft's ballistic parachute failed to launch.

Cessna redesigned the aircraft's empennage, increasing the vertical stabiliser area as well as decreasing its sweep and removing the dorsal fin.

Pelton says the second test aircraft was undergoing a "very aggressive spin test regime", including power-on and cross-controlled spins, when it entered a spin that "was not immediately recoverable". Despite the problems, he says the need for a "modern, cost-effective two-seat trainer aircraft has never been greater" and that Cessna will proceed with the development.