Cessna says it is too early tell if the recent crash in Wichita, Kansas of its Model 162 SkyCatcher prototype will affect the programme's schedule. Deliveries of the two-seat light sport aircraft, for which Cessna has secured almost 1000 orders, are scheduled to begin in the second half of next year.
The US National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident, which took place at around 11:00 local time on 18 September when the aircraft went down in a rural area south-east of Wichita during power-on, cross-controlled spin testing.
"The aircraft was equipped with a Ballistic Recovery Systems aircraft parachute that was activated, but did not properly deploy. The sound and "sparks" from the firing of the rocket were reported by witnesses on the ground," says Cessna.
The pilot was conducting scheduled flight tests that pushed the aircraft beyond normal operations, the airframer says. "Although light sport aircraft fall under American Society of Testing and Materials standards, Cessna is conducting flight tests that, in all cases, equal or exceed ASTM standards to assure the aircraft envelope is properly defined and that the limits of the aircraft are substantially known," Cessna says. The pilot parachuted safely and was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
The SkyCatcher prototype is the third aircraft in the programme along with the first production model and a third airframe, which is used for static testing. The prototype had accumulated about 128 flight hours during more than 100 flights.