General Aviation Accident: How Glynn Falcon Survived a Crash in a Piper Arrow with its Ailerons Connected in Reverse

In July 2017, Glynn Falcon had a crash while taking off in his Piper Arrow at the Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, CA. His plane was there for maintenance, and he was planning to fly it back to his home airport in Marina, CA. Immediately after rotation, he observed that the aircraft made an uncommanded roll to the left. Realizing he was unable to control the aircraft, he pulled the power, and the plane was destroyed in the crash. Glynn survived with minor injuries. In this episode, he describes the factors that led to the crash, and what he learned from his first flight instructor that helped him avoid what is often a fatal accident type.

Here’s what I teach my students from day one. When you’re checking the controls, take ahold of the yoke and stick and stick your thumb straight up. Then when you move the yoke or stick, your thumb will be pointing at the aileron that is supposed to be up. If you do that religiously, every time you do a run up, you’ll avoid ever taking off with the controls connected backwards.

And this is a mistake that even test pilots make. In 2006, the sole prototype of the Spectrum 33, which was a $3.6 million business jet, crashed on takeoff, killing both pilots. Witnesses reported that the plane entered a right roll and immediately cartwheeled when the right wing hit the ground. According to the NTSB, the ailerons were linked in a manner that reversed the roll control, such that the left roll input from the stick would have deflected the ailerons to produce right roll of the airplane, and vice versa.

Prior to the accident, the aircraft had undergone extensive maintenance, including removal of the main landing gear, which required disconnection of a portion of the linkage control systems.

Click here for the listener survey. Tell us what flight planning tools you use when planning a longer flight.

Please visit my new Patreon page and make a contribution to help me with my goal of improving the website.

You can Dictate a listener question from your phone and I’ll try to answer it on a future show, or send an email.