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Old 09-17-2017, 08:02 AM
Captain Avgas Captain Avgas is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 1,763
Default Tip-up canopy fatal accident

In October 2014 an Australian registered RV6A crashed catastrophically into a laneway in a densely populated suburb of a major city. The aircraft hit two houses and several cars and the pilot died on impact.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigated the accident comprehensively and subsequently issued a final report. It suggested that the most likely cause of the crash was the tip-up canopy coming open during flight. For those with a tip-up canopy RV this report will be compelling reading. It can be viewed here:

It is also noted that Vans Aircraft have issued a Service Letter designated "Tip-up Canopy Operation" that features in the New Service Information section of their home page. It can be viewed here:
Bob Barrow
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Old 09-17-2017, 08:46 AM
mike newall's Avatar
mike newall mike newall is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Yorkshire, England
Posts: 1,850

I have reviewed the report and looked at the comments about the canopy opening on the 6 and notice there was reference to a 12 incident as well.

I have had a canopy come open on both a 7 and a 12 - the 7 was ours and was a mistake by me on pre flight, the 12 was during phase 1 testing and was as a result of the owner turning the latch round without my knowledge between flight 1 and flight 2. The single latch of the 12 didn't have the secondary or the latch microswitch fitted as it was a few years ago.

In both cases, the airspeed was moderately quick, the 7 was in cruise at around 120-130kts, the 12 was around 100kts as I was increasing speed to check handling.

In neither event was there a marked change in handling - yes, there was a startle effect, more so on the 7 as I was not expecting anything, on the 12, I was still under flight testing so was expecting the unexpected !

7 - I was with someone who could fly, I transferred control to him, we slowed down and managed to shut and latch the canopy and continue. The 12 floated around a foot up, I managed to catch and hold the canopy but was not able to close and latch it as I was by myself.

With the 12, I ended up doing "The Balloon Dance" trying to hold 3 things with two hands. I eventually found a solution and was able to set up for a glide approach holding the stick and the canopy.

The thing I see is the problem with the initial startle, noise, things flying around etc and perhaps not then continuing to fly the aeroplane. As we all know, they are slippery and if you then add out of trim, startle, etc you could quickly get into a fast descent, or spiral.

A tragic accident, whether it could have been avoided or coped with differently is speculation.

Full and frank reporting of any incident helps us all to review our own flying and ask the big - what if - questions that hopefully keep us safer.
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Old 09-17-2017, 09:44 AM
rv7charlie rv7charlie is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Pocahontas MS
Posts: 3,875


I know someone who's tested a -6 tipper in flight, and nothing bad happens. Either something broke, or the pilot just failed to fly the plane. Same thing happens in planes with doors; pilot freaks & quits flying.
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Old 09-17-2017, 11:39 AM
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rmartingt rmartingt is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Savannah, GA
Posts: 948

Originally Posted by rv7charlie View Post
or the pilot just failed to fly the plane. Same thing happens in planes with doors; pilot freaks & quits flying.
The urge to do something like close the open door/canopy, catch the falling (metal sheet/phone/cup/gun/$object), pick up the dropped item in the vehicle, etc. can be extremely hard to resist because it's an almost automatic response. Anyone ever automatically try to catch a dropped kitchen knife before the rational part of your brain kicked in and said "wait, that's a dumb idea!"? Anyone manage to catch said knife before that happened? I know I hit a curb and blew a tire one day trying to keep my lunchbox from sliding off the passenger seat, and it wasn't a conscious act.

It reminds me of all the discussion about pilots "trying to save the airplane". I don't think that's what they're trying to do at all. I think they're trying to not crash, because every instinct we have says crashing = hurting/dying, and every bit of training we get on how to avoid getting hurt by the ground while attempting to alight upon it involves making a proper landing.
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Old 09-17-2017, 12:06 PM
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DaleB DaleB is offline
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Omaha, NE (KMLE)
Posts: 2,177

Every time I read or hear about an accident that happens after a canopy pops open (happened near here recently, experienced pilot in a glider) I remind myself to FLY THE PLANE. I can only hope that if the day ever comes when my stuff is gettimg sucked overbaord, I can actually remember to do it and not follow any number of better pilots before me.

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Old 09-17-2017, 12:52 PM
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snopercod snopercod is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 1,992
Default Lancairs, too.

There have been a number of Lancair accidents due to tip-up canopy opening in flight. There's an excellent writeup by Valin Thorn at Lancair Legacy Canopy Safety Issue
The Legacy’s canopy, though, can create a catastrophic flight hazard if it is not securely latched for flight. In the Legacy’s flight history to date, there have been seven known flights with the Legacy’s canopy unlatched resulting in three fatal crashes, two crash landings with significant aircraft damage and/or pilot injuries, one aborted flight immediately after takeoff with minor damage, and one flight without incident. There are also two other fatal Legacy accidents after takeoff without enough evidence to draw conclusions as to their cause though flight with an unlatched canopy is a possibility.
Besides losing forward visibility, when the canopy comes up, it blanks the elevator. Bad thing...
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Old 09-17-2017, 06:02 PM
DHeal DHeal is offline
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Windsor, California
Posts: 848

Mike -- Why did you "hold on to the canopy" during your approach and landing? Were you concerned that it would rise up further than the initial 12" and depart the airframe or interfere with aircraft controlability? What do you think might happen during the approach and landing if one did not hold onto the canopy? Thanks for sharing your experience. -- David
David Heal - Windsor, CA (near Santa Rosa)
EAA #23982 (circa 1965) - EAA Technical Counselor and Flight Advisor; CFI - A&I
RV-12 E-LSA #120496 (SV w/ AP and ADS-B 2020) - N124DH flying since March 2014 - 870+ hours (as of Jan 2020)!
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Old 09-17-2017, 06:28 PM is offline
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Battle Ground WA
Posts: 16

Been there done that. Been flying for nigh onto 30 years.
Can't say I'm proud to say this but when giving one of my 6 year old grand kid twin boys their 'first' flight in a small plane "RV-6A" I took off with the canopy unlatched. And that is after he told me as we were taxing up to the fuel plumps to not forget o latch the canopy before we took off. Yup! got distracted!!!
Yea it startled me as the canopy opened at rotation. "Fly the plane" was my only thought. Had to fly 12 miles at 500 feet to clear class C airspace, then climbed to 2,500 and went into slow flight mode full flaps. Got canopy closed and went on our way for the next hour.
I tried to close it before but to no avail. Even screwed up my back muscles trying. That's another story.
Don't even try to close the canopy at any speed except just above a stall. It won't work.
Now for the real "What the is going on moment" I was taking the other twin for a ride 4 days later. And you guessed it. Cruising along 4,500 feet at 190 and enjoying the smoky day here in Washington.
POW the canopy pops open all by itself. Seems the latch system can latch one side and not the other. I says to myself 'Gonna have to fix that NOW!'
This was a no event for me being the second time and at altitude. Just told Dylan to be cool and I'd slow the bird down and close the lid.
Man! now I get the " Grandpa now remember to close the canopy" routine pounded into me by my 6 year old grand kids.
The take away is fly the plane. It flys quite well. I have a habit of securing everything in the cockpit so nothing flew around except a bit of hair.
Thank you Van for designing these great little airplanes
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Old 09-17-2017, 06:44 PM
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snopercod snopercod is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 1,992

The official greeter will be along shortly to welcome you, but allow me to thank you for your story. You remained cool and the outcome was good. Best--
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Old 09-17-2017, 06:49 PM
rv7charlie rv7charlie is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Pocahontas MS
Posts: 3,875

Just got home & had a chance to read the ATSB report, and the Van's service letter.

Odd that both mention 'significant pitchdown', when multiple owners report having to extend flaps (causing nose down pitch response) to close the canopy, but no one mentions any flight characteristics change when it pops open. (Other than the 'startle' factor...)

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