NTSB Identification: CEN11FA597
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 25, 2011 in Heath, OH
Aircraft: Nichols Lancair 235, registration: N777BN
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.

On August 25, 2011, at 1856 eastern daylight time, a Nichols model Lancair 235 airplane, N777BN, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain during initial climb from Newark-Heath Airport, Heath, Ohio. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private pilot, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was operated without a flight plan. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to a witness, who was located on the airport, the airplane had used runway 27 for the accident takeoff. The witness stated that the airplane appeared to be "very unstable" after it became airborne, alternately rolling right and left while remaining only a few feet above the runway. The witness noted that he did not believe the pilot had control of the airplane. The airplane then turned left and proceeded off the runway directly toward the witness's position. The witness noted that the airplane continued to fly erratically, with continuous pitch, yaw, and roll changes, and cleared a row of hangars by approximately 10 feet. The airplane continued in a climb to 100-150 feet above the ground before it banked sharply to the left and entered a nose-down descent into trees. The witness stated that the engine sounded normal throughout the entire flight, with no hesitations or misfires noted.

A postaccident examination of the airport property revealed that the airplane had veered off the left side of the runway, about 1,700 feet from the approach threshold, while still on the ground. The airplane's nose landing gear collided with a runway edge light and the observed tire tracks continued on a southwesterly heading for about 100 feet before the airplane became airborne.

The airplane collided with several trees and a residential backyard located immediately south of the airport property. All airframe structural components and aerodynamic control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site. Flight control continuity could not be established due to damage; however, all observed flight control system discontinuities were consistent with an overload failure. No preimpact anomalies were noted with the main landing gear braking system that was used for directional control during ground operations. The airplane was not equipped with nose-wheel steering.

The experimental amateur-built airplane had accumulated 1,131 hours since being issued an airworthiness certificate on August 10, 1990. The pilot reportedly had not flown the airplane since he purchased it from the original builder on September 14, 2010. He had reportedly expressed concerns with the airplane's ground-handling characteristics, and in the weeks preceding the accident, was seen performing several high-speed ground tests.

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