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Inexperienced Pilot's Decision Leads to Aircraft Accident in Colorado

Low Experience and Adverse Winds Cause Zodiac Stall Crash

In a recent aviation accident in La Veta, Colorado, the NTSB has determined that the pilot's lack of experience and decision to fly in strong, gusting wind were the probable causes. The accident occurred on March 10, 2023, at 10:45 local time, involving a Zenith Zodiac 601XL aircraft, registered under N969WD.

The pilot reported a complete loss of engine power shortly after takeoff at an altitude of 400 to 500 feet above ground level (agl). The aircraft then entered an aerodynamic stall, descended rapidly, and impacted the ground, coming to rest inverted. The pilot, who had just purchased the aircraft, had no prior flight time in this make and model.

The previous owner, who was present at the scene, stated that he did not believe the accident resulted from a loss of engine power. He noted that the engine run-up was normal and that the wind was gusting between 35 to 40 knots at the time of the accident. He observed the aircraft bouncing around due to the wind after takeoff, then stalling and falling to the ground.

A post-accident examination, which included an engine run, did not reveal any pre-impact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Based on the available evidence, the NTSB concluded that the accident likely resulted from the pilot's decision to fly the aircraft, in which he had no experience, in strong, gusting wind. This led to the exceedance of the aircraft's critical angle of attack and an aerodynamic stall from which the pilot had insufficient altitude to recover.

The accident resulted in substantial damage to the aircraft and minor injuries to two individuals. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of pilot experience and the need for caution when flying in adverse weather conditions.

FMI: NTSB.gov

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