NTSB Identification: CEN12LA634
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 14, 2012 in Vermillion, SD
Aircraft: North Wing Design Apache Sport, registration: N850GB
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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On September 14, 2012, about 1615 central daylight time, an experimental North Wing Design model Apache Sport light sport aircraft, N850GB, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain shortly after takeoff from Harold Davidson Field Airport (KVMR), Vermillion, South Dakota. A postimpact ground fire ensued. The sport pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The weight-shift-control aircraft 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 personal flight. The cross-country flight was originating at the time of the accident and was en route to a private airstrip near Kimball, South Dakota.
A witness to the accident reported that he was working outside his residence when he heard the weight-shift-control aircraft depart the airport. He initially heard the sound of the aircraft’s engine before he spotted the aircraft climbing at a steep angle. He reported that the aircraft then rolled to the left and entered a near vertical descent. The aircraft descended below his sightline before he heard a sound similar to a ground impact and saw smoke rising-up from the same general area.
Another witness reported that he was working in his garage when he heard the sound of an aircraft engine “having trouble.” He looked up and saw the weight-shift-control aircraft in a steep bank angle as it descended toward the ground. He stated that the engine was making a loud noise during the descent.
Another witness reported that he was watching the weight-shift-control aircraft takeoff from the airport. He stated that the engine initially sounded like it was operating normally, but as the aircraft continued to climb the engine began to run roughly. He noted that the airplane then descended below a nearby tree line.
A postaccident investigation confirmed that all airframe structural components were located at the accident site. The main wreckage was located on the extended runway 30 centerline, about 1/2 mile past the departure threshold. The entire wreckage was contained within an area comparable to the lateral dimensions of the aircraft. The lack of a wreckage debris path or any lateral impact damage to the surrounding corn crop was consistent with a near vertical impact angle. A majority of the fuselage structure and wing were consumed during the postimpact fire. Flight control continuity could not be established due to damage; however, all observed separations were consistent with either an overstress failure or prolonged exposure to fire. The engine, a Rotax model 582 UL, serial number 5743300, exhibited damage consistent with prolonged exposure to fire. The dual electronic ignition system and both carburetors were destroyed during the fire. A postaccident engine examination confirmed internal engine and valve train continuity as the engine crankshaft was rotated. Compression and suction were noted on both cylinders in conjunction with crankshaft rotation. The spark plugs were removed and exhibited features consistent with normal engine operation. All three composite propeller blades remained attached to the metal hub assembly and exhibited damage consistent with impact and prolonged exposure to fire. The postaccident examination revealed no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal engine operation.
At 1555, the airport's automatic weather observing station reported the following weather conditions: wind from 280 degrees at 2 knots, visibility in excess of 10 miles, temperature 28 degrees Celsius, dew point 04 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.24 inches of mercury. Review of photographs taken by local law enforcement immediately following the accident revealed no appreciable cloud cover or visibility restrictions at the accident site, consistent with visual meteorological conditions.
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