The AOPA Air Safety Institute (ASI) released a video today (May 24) exploring the May 20 fatal accident during the MayDay STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) event in Wayne, Nebraska. Competitor Tom Dafoe was killed when his Cessna 140 crashed on final approach during a STOL demonstration. As part of the institute’s Early Analysis series, the video is designed to focus on what is known about the accident and recommend cautionary strategies for pilots.
ASI Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden said, “In ‘Early Analysis: N76075,’ the AOPA Air Safety Institute wants to help pilots understand what is known about the accident. We look at factors that are likely to be the subject of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).” Citing cellphone video of the accident, McSpadden said, “It appeared Dafoe’s Cessna 140 made an S-turn for spacing behind a Zenith 701 to compensate for the Cessna’s faster speed, leading to a stall/spin accident. A lesson general aviation pilots can take away from this accident is to always have a Plan B when following closely behind a slower aircraft—including breaking off and performing a go-around.”
McSpadden enumerated possible safety enhancements for STOL competitions, including: sequencing faster aircraft ahead of slower aircraft; increasing the spacing intervals to 30 seconds (video indicates that the MayDay STOL competition launched at approximately 25-second intervals, he said); establishing mandatory turn points in the pattern; disallowing spacing turns (S-turns or other) on final approach; only allowing one aircraft on final at a time; delegating a safety observer with a radio to direct pilots to break out of the pattern if necessary; and briefing competitors on break-out procedures before the competition.