L2019-06 Ultralight Airplane Accident at Eura on September 8, 2019

On September 8, 2019, a student pilot was returning to his home airfield at Eura from a solo cross-country flight after a long flying day. The aircraft was a Flight Design CTSW, a fast and powerful ultralight airplane. The airplane lost height abruptly on landing, touched down hard, and bounced. The pilot initiated go-around by adding full power and applying aft stick, which resulted in a sudden pitch-up. The airplane stalled, banked left, and impacted wooded terrain adjacent to the runway. It was substantially damaged, and the pilot sustained minor injuries.

During the day of the accident, the student had logged over 5 hours of flight time corresponding to 855 journey kilometers. The day’s schedule had consisted of dual cross-country exercises and, as the last item, a long solo cross-country flight. The pilot's training records showed no previous solo flying experience. Although national aviation regulation TRG M1-7 prescribes a maximum daily flight time for a pilot undergoing training, the limitation is not applicable to cross-country flights, which allows training days of dangerously long duration. The duration of flying days should be limited to maintain the student’s learning ability and alertness at an adequate level.

In Finland, flying clubs across the country provide ultralight flight training. The commonly used training program is issued by the Finnish Aeronautical Association and approved by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom. Although the program shall be adhered to in flight training, variations exist in its implementation between training organizations. While Traficom audits training organizations at infrequent intervals, the organizations are required to submit an own-check report to the authority on a yearly basis. Quality assurance of training is essential for the fostering and maintenance of good airmanship.

In its current form, ultralight flight training fails to provide an adequate basis for safe recreational flying. Ultralight flight training requirements are less stringent than those established by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for LAPL and PPL training due to, among other factors, the assumption that ultralight airplanes are light, slow, and easy to handle and do not create a major hazard to other people. In reality, however, the increase in mass and stalling speed of these airplanes over the past few years means that they have become more demanding to fly. A regulation that is currently under preparation will further raise the authorized maximum mass and stalling speed of ultralight airplanes. Even though modern ultralight airplanes do not differ from type-certificated aircraft, the regulations, directives, and training programs remain based on ultralight airplane types that became available in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

An outcome of a national recreational aviation risk survey was a policy that transfers responsibility for safety to the aviation community. The implementation of the policy is, however, hampered by lack of financial and human resources and knowledge. Task sharing and authorization between the involved operators also remains unclear. The authority has systems that can be used to analyze occurrences in recreational aviation, but the focus of safety work is in commercial aviation. Recreational aviation organizations, on the other hand, do not have real-time access to occurrence reports and resources for the processing of occurrences. A sound safety culture is based on clear task sharing agreed between various operators in matters related to the actioning on safety-critical matters.

The Safety Investigation Authority Finland recommends that Traficom

• amends aviation regulation TRG M1-7 in such a way that will preclude excessively long flight training days for a student undergoing instruction.

• together with the Finnish Aeronautical Association and other recreational aviation operators improves quality assurance and safety management in training with the aim of ensuring the compliance with the applicable training requirements in all nationally approved organizations.

• harmonizes ultralight flight training requirements with EASA’s LAPL training requirements.

• together with recreational aviation operators takes steps to clarify task sharing in safety matters and ensures the availability of adequate financial and human resources and required knowledge.

Report (in Finnish) (pdf, 2.63 Mt)

Published 18.6.2020