NTSB: Pilot forgot about portable speaker on plane, causing accident during takeoff

The speaker is still missing.
The image on the left shows the missing propeller and the photo on the right shows the damage to the floatplane. 

The image on the left shows the missing propeller and the photo on the right shows the damage to the floatplane. 

Have you ever left something on the roof of your car and then drove off? Well, that's kind of what happened to a guy in Duluth — but when he left a portable speaker on his floatplane, it caused substantial damage to the aircraft. 

That's according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which earlier this month released its final report on the June 3, 2020, incident at Duluth's Sky Harbor Airport. 

The pilot was taxiing the Icon A5 amphibious airplane for takeoff on the water, and about 5 seconds after he applied full power, he heard a "loud bang" — the three propeller blades were gone and had penetrated the fuselage, resulting in "substantial damage" to the airplane's fuselage and holes in the hull, the NTSB report states. 

The probable cause of the accident was the "pilot's failure to remove an object from the airplane’s exterior, which impacted the propeller blades when he applied full power, causing them to fracture and damage the airplane," the report said. 

The pilot and passenger were not injured in the incident, and they were able to flag down a pontoon boat to help tow them — and the sinking airplane — to shore, NTSB documents state. 

Initially, the pilot wasn't sure what happened, thinking maybe he'd hit something under the water. Then he sat down to write the accident report to the NTSB and he realized he'd left the speaker sitting on the plane. Oops.

He wrote: 

"It wasn't until I sat down and begin to fill out the NTSB paperwork at my computer, as I was going to listen to some music, that discovered what I believe had happened. 

"While at the beach and before departing, I had a portable speaker sitting on top of the aircraft as we washed the aircraft. While boarding the aircraft for departure, I must have forgot to secure the speaker in the baggage area. Therefore when at full power and aircraft began to accelerate, that the speaker must have rolled back over the engine compartment, and into the propellers causing the separation and damage to the aircraft."

In the recommendation section, the pilot wrote, "Simply that I should have confirmed all items secured prior to boarding the aircraft."

The speaker is still missing, the report notes.

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