NYC94LA088
NYC94LA088

On May 21, 1994, at 1738 eastern daylight time, an Aeronca 11AC, N3167E, owned and piloted by Gerard J. Curran, of Somersworth, New Hampshire, struck the ground after takeoff from a private airstrip in Berwick, Maine. The pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed by the impact. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the flight operating under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to a witness at the airport:

I heard...taxiing N3167E back and forth on the runway. I was opening the hangar door when I heard him apply takeoff power at the east end of the strip. I went to a window to watch takeoff which would normally be visible from window. The aircraft was not visible at first, but suddenly dropped into view in a vertical dive with no rotation or spin. Heard the engine running at full power. The aircraft immediately impacted approximately half way down the runway....

The FAA reported this was the first flight following an annual inspection. According to the mechanic who accomplished the inspection:

...I did a check of the elevator control system by moving the elevators to the full limits of their travels, at the elevators, to insure that they were going from stop to stop, they were and the control yoke responded properly.....

According to FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Airworthiness) of the Portland Flight Standards District Office,

...the elevator control cables had been incorrectly routed to their perspective attachment point, I.E. the cables attached to the top attachment point at the elevator control was routed directly to the top attachment point at the elevator horn located at the rear most point of the fuselage. The bottom cable was attached to the bottom of the attachment point at the control yoke and routed directly to the lower attachment point of the elevator horn. This arrangement allowed the elevators to deflect downward when the control yoke was moved in the aft direction.

Additionally, it was noted that the turnbuckles attached to the control yoke attachment points had been safety wired by a non experienced person, and that there was a difference in the size of the wire. The upper turnbuckle was saftied with .032 wire while the lower turnbuckle was saftied with .041 wire. At the aft section of the fuselage, two (2) discrepancies were noted. The first was the top elevator cable (attached to the top attachment point of the elevator horn) had been routed between the two elevator trim cables. Under operating conditions, this would have caused the larger elevator cable to "saw" through the smaller diameter cable over a period of time. The second discrepancy was the incorrect installation of the bolt securing the elevator cable shackle (p/n AN 115) to the elevator horn. The nut and cotter pin barely missed striking the frame. The opposite side provided a cut out in the frame to allow for clearance of the nut/cotter pin. It was also noted that the top bolt and nut were original, but had a new cotter pin stalled. The lower bolt, nut and cotter pin were new.

According to Mr. Paul Hubbard, Aviation Safety Inspector (Airworthiness), Portland Flight Standards District Office, the airplane was involved in an incident in 1992, after which the wings and tail surfaces were removed and the airplane was taken to the pilots residence. The airplane was then transported to Furnas airport. Mr. Hubbard was unable to determined when or where the pilot installed the elevators.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Hubbard said the safety wire on the elevator cable turnbuckles had to be cut and the turnbuckles loosed to remove the cables. After installation, the turnbuckles would be tightened to tension the cables, and then safety wired to hold their positions.

An autopsy was conducted by Henry F. Ryan, M.D. Chief Medical Examiner, Augusta, Maine, on May 23, 1994. According to Dr. Ryan, a screwdriver, and various screws and fasteners were part of the pilot's personal effects. Toxicological examination conducted by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol.

According to the pilot's last medical application dated November 23, 1992, he had a total time of 758 hours. The last entry in the pilot's log book was dated September 24, 1993. It showed a total time of 630 hours. The pilot's recency of experience was not determined. The log book did show 60 hours of flight time in the accident airplane between August 5, 1990 and September 1993.

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