Pilot distracted by door unexpectedly opening in flight

On Feb. 22, 2019, a Beech 65 hit terrain near Colby, Kansas, while maneuvering for a precautionary landing.

The commercial pilot was not injured, but the airplane sustained substantial damage.

Day instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight was originating from Shalz Field Airport (KCBK) in Colby, Kansas, and destined for Denver, Colorado.

According to the pilot, shortly after takeoff, he noticed the crew hatch door, located next to the left front seat, had unexpectedly opened.

He attempted to close the door, without success. While focusing on trying to close the door, he “wasn’t able to fully control the airplane normally (mainly [in] heading and pitch),” so he initiated a precautionary landing back to KCBK.

While maneuvering at a low altitude to stay in visual flight rules conditions (overcast ceiling at 300 feet), the airspeed decreased, and the wing tips were dipping back and forth.

The pilot retracted the landing gear and applied full engine power to try and gain airspeed. He was unable to gain airspeed, the airplane was losing altitude, and he knew it was going to hit terrain. Prior to the impact, he kept the wings level, and the nose in a slightly pitch up attitude. The plane then hit the snow-covered terrain with the landing gear retracted.

Post-accident examination of the airplane revealed the left wing and left aileron were bent. No evidence was noted that the crew hatch door malfunctioned during the flight.

Probable Cause: The pilot’s failure to properly secure the crew hatch door before takeoff, which resulted in his distraction and his failure to maintain airplane control and airspeed.

NTSB Identification: 99027

This February 2019 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

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