Seats in Position for Takeoff

It’s a lovely March afternoon on the Carribean coast of Panama.  What better way to spend such a beautiful day than pattern work with your flight instructor?  Preflight, startup, taxi, and takeoff are normal.  Time to settle in to the touch-and-go routine. Uh oh. Did that word make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? You know, “routine.” 

Flight Plan at

First time around the pattern is a little rough.  Just knocking the rust off. Nothing to be concerned about.  Second one is better. “Landings are coming along.  We’ll work on those in a few minutes,” says the Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). “While smooth takeoffs are good, you are acting like you’re scared of the throttle.  The more quickly we get in the air and faster our rate of climb, the more times we can get around the pattern today.”  The CFI opens with praise.  Good.  I’m a little worried about the words he uses to explain more power is needed on takeoff, though.  

Downwind and base leg look good.  ”Don’t carry extra power on final in anticipation of takeoff.  Wait until we safely land,” the CFI says.  With a nice flare and little waggle, the Cessna 150 sets down right on centerline.

“Good.  Let’s get back up there.”  Wait for it.  Our dutiful student gives the throttle a firm push and just as the instructure is about to say, “Whoa!”, the nose points up to an unnaturally high position and the engine goes to idle.  Something far less appropriate for this forum than what he planned to say come out of the CFI’s mouth as he fights to push the yoke forward and he realizes he is not bumping elbows with his student. 

While still trying to get the nose over, the instructor glances over to see what is going on and sees his student has pulled the yoke and throttle back to their stops.  The student’s arms are at full extension holding on to the controls and his feet no longer reach the pedals with legs outstretched.  As his brain struggles to put all this together, the CFI pushes forward on the yoke with all his might and continues to turn his head to find the student.  Before you read any further, put yourself in his place.  The student has pulled the engine to idle, the nose is pointing toward the moon, and all you see is arms and legs.  Oh, and your altitude is surely less than 100 feet. 

Now looking behind him, the CFI finds the student wide-eyed all the way back at the stops of the seat position track. 

Cessna 150 N60106 crashed March 9,1974, at Gamboa Airport, Panama.  Both pilot and instructor received minor injuries and the aircraft was destroyed.  

From the Probable Cause section of the report: “Dual student – Spontaneous – Improper action”

From the Remarks section: “Students seat slid rearward causing him to pull back on the control wheel and throttle.”

I don’t think that event needs any commentary. 

While I normally list the probable causes, I’ve provided the entire report below from the NTSB Aviation Database for this one.  It is remarkably short.  Not even weather information is included. My, how far we’ve come in accident analysis and reporting 


Do you check the security of the seat position before you go flying?

What say you?