NTSB Identification: CEN12FA619
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, September 10, 2012 in Lansing, IL
Aircraft: Wiggins Air Boss, registration: N717EW
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 September 10, 2012, about 1100 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Wiggins Air Boss gyroplane, N717EW, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain at Lansing Municipal Airport (KIGQ), Lansing, Illinois. The private pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The gyroplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local test flight that was originating at the time of the accident.

A witness reported that he was watching the pilot test fly his recently completed gyroplane. The test flight consisted of the gyroplane temporarily becoming airborne and then landing on the remaining runway. He stated that the pilot completed three full-stop landings on runway 18 before he taxied back to the hangar. After the flight, the pilot remarked that the gyroplane’s flight controls felt “mushy” during the test flights. The witness, a gyroplane pilot, reported that the main landing gear had remained parallel to the runway after each of the takeoffs and that he believed the gyroplane had been flying on the “backside of the power curve” (also known as the region of reversed command; a low-speed flight condition where a decrease in airspeed must be accompanied by an increased power setting in order to maintain steady flight). The witness also remarked that on at least one takeoff the gyroplane had yawed nose left (tail right) shortly after liftoff, but it had realigned with the runway heading before each landing.

The witness reported that he agreed to continue to watch the pilot perform additional takeoff-and-landings. He stated that on the next takeoff the accident gyroplane again yawed nose left (tail right) and rolled right shortly after liftoff. The gyroplane descended briefly from an altitude of 20 feet before it rolled level and entered a climb. The witness reported the gyroplane climbed to about 100 feet above ground level while continuing on the runway heading. He transmitted to the pilot that because of his altitude he should continue around the traffic pattern instead of attempting to land on the remaining runway. The witness reported that the gyroplane continued to fly on the runway heading before it yawed nose left (tail right), entered a right roll, and descended rapidly into a cornfield south of the runway. Another individual, who was working outside his residence located adjacent to the airport property, reported that he heard the gyroplane’s engine running until he heard a sound similar to a ground impact.

The experimental amateur-built gyroplane was issued an airworthiness certificate on September 5, 2012, by a designated airworthiness representative. Several individuals reported that the pilot had built the gyroplane over a period of several years and that he had recently begun ground and flight testing. Although the pilot held a private pilot certificate for single-engine land airplanes, he did not possess a category classification for rotorcraft (including gyroplanes). Federal aviation regulations allow certificated pilots to operate non-type certificated (experimental) aircraft without an applicable category or class rating. The pilot reportedly had not flown in over 20 years before receiving 1.8 hours of familiarization training in a two-seat gyroplane in May 2012. There was no record that the pilot had received any additional flight training in gyroplanes subsequent to the two familiarization flights.

A postaccident investigation confirmed that all airframe structural components were located at the accident site. The main wreckage was located on the extended runway centerline, about 0.2 miles south of the departure threshold. The initial point-of-impact was a ground depression consistent with a main rotor blade impact. The main wreckage was located 59 feet south of this initial point-of-impact. The main wreckage consisted of the tubular fuselage and fiberglass enclosure, landing gear, cockpit, flight controls, engine, and main rotor assembly. The empennage had separated from the fuselage and was located 21 feet to the southeast of the main wreckage. Both main rotor blades remained attached to the mast head and exhibited impact damage. Cyclic control continuity could not be established aft of the main cabin due to impact damage; however, all observed cyclic control tube separations exhibited fracture features consistent with overstress failure. One of the two push-pull tubes that connected to the mast head was not located during the on-scene investigation. Rudder control cable continuity was confirmed from the cockpit pedals to the empennage control horn assembly. The vertical stabilizer torque tube had separated from the control horn assembly; however, the observed fracture features were consistent with an overstress separation. The pilot seat also functioned as the fuel tank. The plastic fuel tank seat had several ruptures and was void of fuel. There was the smell of automobile gasoline at the accident site. The fuel filter assembly contained fuel. The fuel shut-off valve was found open by first responders, but was subsequently closed by fire department personnel. The airframe battery leads were also disconnected by first responders. The two fuel pumps functioned when electric power was applied during postaccident testing. A multifunction avionic device was retained for possible non-volatile data download.

A postaccident engine examination confirmed internal engine and valve train continuity as the engine crankshaft was rotated. Compression and suction were noted on all cylinders in conjunction with crankshaft rotation. The spark plugs were removed and exhibited features consistent with normal engine operation. There were no obstructions between the air filter housing and the carburetor inlet. The carburetor bowl contained fuel. Mechanical continuity was confirmed from the cockpit engine controls to their respective engine components. All three composite propeller blades had separated from the metal hub assembly, consistent with propeller rotation at impact. The postaccident examination revealed no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal engine operation.

At 1115, the airport's automatic weather observing station reported the following weather conditions: wind from 190 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 21 degrees Celsius, dew point 08 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.24 inches of mercury.

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