NTSB Identification: NYC07LA219.
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Accident occurred Friday, September 07, 2007 in Virginia Beach, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/26/2008
Aircraft: North American SNJ-2, registration: N52033
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The accident airplane was one of five airplanes practicing for a formation aerial demonstration. For the final maneuver of the demonstration, each of the first four airplanes performed a "pop up break," in order to return for landing. The fifth airplane, however, continued straight ahead in a slight descent, and did not pull up or "break." The airplane continued in a constant descent, with the wings level and in a slight nose down attitude. The airplane impacted the ground and erupted in flames. Examination of the wreckage did not reveal evidence of any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures. A Review of the pilot's personal and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical documents revealed that the pilot had falsified information on at least three applications for medical certification regarding his evaluation and treatment for cardiac conditions. The FAA denied his application for a medical certificate when it became aware of the falsification, and the pilot submitted medical records in order to regain his medical certificate. Those medical records documented, in part, a long history of exertional chest pain with normal coronary arteries by cardiac catheterization, an enlarged heart, intermittent atrial fibrillation treated with a blood thinner and a beta-blocker medication to reduce heart rate, and use of an alpha-blocker medication that also reduced blood pressure. After submission of those records, the pilot was granted (approximately 14 months prior to the accident) an Authorization for Special Issuance of a (second-class) medical with a requirement to not operate an aircraft if he had new symptoms or changed medication. No restrictions were placed by the FAA on the pilot with regard to aerobatic flight, though records submitted to the FAA clearly noted the pilot's participation in aggressive flying at airshows. The aviation medical examiner (AME) who issued the pilot's most recent medical certificate approximately 8 1/2 months prior to the accident was also a pilot who had previously participated in formation flights with the accident pilot in the accident airplane make and model. There was additional information pertinent to the pilot's condition available prior to his most recent medical certification that was not submitted to the FAA or the AME by the pilot or his cardiologist, but the FAA clearly had sufficient information to justify restricting the pilot from commercial and/or aerobatic flight. Following his most recent medical certification, in the 6 months prior to the accident, the pilot had experienced increasing symptoms (treated by increases in his beta-blocker dose), and had received at least one new diagnosis (pulmonary hypertension). Additionally, the pilot had visited his cardiologist 3 days prior to the accident, complaining of multiple episodes of atrial fibrillation over the previous three months with fatigue and shortness of breath lasting anywhere from several hours to up to 36 hours at a time. At the time of the accident, the pilot had completed over 15 minutes of high performance flight, including nearly two minutes of increased G-loading (up to 2.9G), and had just completed the longest sustained-G maneuver of the show (30 seconds of 2G loading).

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's inability to maintain control of the airplane due to physiological incapacitation. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration to deny or restrict the pilot's medical certification, and the pilot's improper decision to perform the flight given his recent history of worsening symptoms.

Full narrative available

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