Sun 'n Fun Crash And Speculation

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A Lancair Legacy that departed the Sun 'n Fun Fly-in and airshow at Lakeland, Fla., April 13 may have done so with an open canopy and did result in a fatality. An AVweb reader sent our newsteam an image of the accident aircraft departing with a gap clearly visible along the canopy/fuselage joint and at the rear of the canopy. The Legacy is an all-composite, retractable-gear, two-place kit-built aircraft, in this case powered by a Continental IO-550. Its canopy is usually forward-hinged. The NTSB's preliminary report on the accident states that the aircraft, N1177M, departed Lakeland's Runway 27L in VFR conditions. Witnesses told the NTSB that the pilot and sole occupant appeared to have difficulty closing the canopy. One witness stated that during takeoff climb he saw the canopy moving "up and down about 6 to 12 inches." Shortly after takeoff, another witness said the "engine lost power," the aircraft continued straight and level before nosing down 40 degrees, dipping its left wing and crashing beyond a tree line.

Pilots familiar with Lancair designs speculate that an unlatched canopy introduces a significant distraction to the pilot but should not in and of itself result in complete loss of controlled flight for the Lancair Legacy.