NTSB Identification: FTW96FA319.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, July 23, 1996 in LAFAYETTE, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/29/1997
Aircraft: Chester GLASAIR RG, registration: N127E
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The pilot had received a two hour check out in the Glasair RG kit-built airplane on 6/23/96, then he next flew it on the day of the accident (7/23/96). He was receiving VFR flight following from Houston Center and was detouring around an area of thunderstorm activity, when radar contact was lost about 5 miles northwest of Lafayette, Louisiana. Three days later, the aircraft was located east of the Lafayette Regional Airport, about 5 miles from the end of runway 29. Impact occurred in an unpopulated, unlit, and densely wooded area. Examination of the accident area revealed that the aircraft initially impacted trees in a shallow descent, while on a heading of 345 degrees. Glasair pilots reported that static discharges are relatively common and discharges always interfere with the comm/nav radios, sometimes causing damage. Examination of the airplane's radios revealed the comm/nav radios had numerous shorted circuits. An examination of a navigational light bulb revealed the filament had melted and that the metal had pooled, but there was no elongation of the filament. Examination of the aircraft and engine did not disclose any pre-mishap discrepancy.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: failure of the pilot to maintain proper altitude (and clearance above wooded terrain), while diverting to an alternate destination. Factors relating to the accident were: the loss of the comm/nav equipment as a result of an electrostatic discharge, darkness, the lack of visual cues (dark hole effect), and the pilot's lack of experience in the Glasair RG. Full narrative available
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