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On February 26, 1995, at 1110 hours Pacific standard time, a Bellanca 7ECA, N9198L, crashed shortly after taking off on runway 13R, at Reid-Hillview Airport, San Jose, California. The pilot was conducting a local visual flight rules personal flight and was executing touch and go landings and takeoffs. The airplane, registered to and operated by a private individual, was destroyed by impact forces and the resulting postimpact fire. The certificated private pilot and his passenger sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight originated at Reid-Hillview Airport at 1034 hours; the flight landed at 1051 hours and then departed on the accident flight at 1100 hours.
The registered owner/operator told National Transportation Safety Board investigators that the pilot called him the night before the accident and requested to rent the airplane. He said that he taught the pilot to fly in the accident airplane.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reid-Hillview Airport Traffic Control Tower recorded communications media revealed the pilot initially obtained a taxi clearance to runway 13L at 1034:15 hours. At 1039:27 hours, the pilot advised the local controller that he was "ready to go." The local controller cleared the flight for takeoff.
At 1042:17 hours, the local controller cleared N9198L for the option (either land or execute a touch-and-go landing and takeoff). The pilot executed two touch-and-go landings and takeoffs.
At 1049:37 hours, the local controller again cleared N9198L for the option. The pilot advised the local controller that he was going to make a full-stop landing to pick up another passenger. At 1051:45 hours, the ground controller cleared N9198L to taxi to the parking area.
At 1059:36 hours, the pilot advised the local controller that he was ready for takeoff on runway 13L. The local controller cleared N9198L for takeoff. At 1103:36 hours, the local controller cleared N9198L for the option, but to change to runway 13R. The pilot acknowledged the clearance and executed a touch-and-go landing and takeoff.
At 1107:56 hours, the local controller cleared N9198L for the option on runway 13R. The pilot acknowledged the clearance. There were no further communications between N9198L and the local controller.
Safety Board investigators interviewed the pilot on March 6, 1995, at Valley Medical Center, San Jose, California. The pilot said that on the last takeoff, about 900 feet above the ground, the engine ". . . sputtered and then lost power. . . ." He said that he was climbing at 70 miles per hour when the engine sputtered and then the airplane's nose dropped. He checked the fuel selector valve, but did not move it. He then attempted to turn to the left to land on runway 31L. He did not communicate his intentions to the local controller and vaguely recalls hitting the ground.
The passenger told National Transportation Safety Board investigators that he did not hear any sounds before the accident. He said that during the climb the airplane abruptly turned to the left and nosed down. The airplane made a 360-degree turn before it struck the ground in a vertical nose-down attitude.
The local controller said after clearing a helicopter for takeoff, he observed N9198L departing runway 13R. He said the airplane's takeoff roll and climbing attitude looked longer and steeper than normal. The next time he saw the airplane, it was in a left 90-degrees banking attitude. The airplane continued in a left banking turn and it was in a nearly vertical nose-down attitude. He said the airplane never got above the height of the mall [about 200 feet above ground level (agl)].
A FAA controller trainee said he observed the airplane about 50 feet agl in a "slightly nose-high" attitude. The airplane's right wing dipped slightly and then the airplane banked 90 degrees to the left. The nose raised as the airplane continued rotating to the left, and then the nose went down. He said the airplane struck the ground in a nose-down attitude and bounced backward.
The consensus of other ground witnesses was that during the initial climb, shortly after performing a touch-and-go landing and takeoff, the airplane was climbing at a high angle of attack when the engine began to sputter. The airplane's left wing abruptly rotated to the left about its longitudinal axis; simultaneously, the airplane's nose pitched down to a near-vertical descent attitude. The airplane continued in a left turn and nose-down attitude until impact.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane, single-engine land rating; he received his private pilot certificate on November 28, 1993. He also held an unrestricted third-class medical certificate dated January 14, 1994.
Safety Board investigators recovered burnt remnants of the pilot's flight hours logbook from the wreckage. The flight hours reflected on page 3 of this report were derived from the logbook examination, the pilot's FAA pilot application form, and the owner's records. The date column of the flight hours logbook was not discernable. The last flight hours logbook entry showed a total flight time of 95 hours, of which 55 hours were logged as pilot-in-command.
According to the owner's records, the pilot flew the airplane 7.0 hours since he received his private pilot certificate. The pilot showed in his private pilot application form that he had accrued 90 flight hours which included 53 solo (pilot-in-command) flight hours.
The FAA records show that the airplane was registered to the owner on September 7, 1994. The airplane received its airworthiness certificate on December 22, 1971.
The owner provided the Safety Board with the airplane's airframe and engine logbooks. Examination of the logbooks revealed that an annual inspection on the airframe and engine was accomplished on September 30, 1994; the airframe and engine accrued 2,580 hours at the time of the inspection. The engine accrued 120 hours since major overhaul.
According to the owner's records, the airplane accrued about 2,647 hours at the time of the accident - including the accident flight.
The weather data reflected on page 4 of this report was the Reid- Hillview Airport 1115 hours surface weather observation. The ambient temperature was 58 degrees Fahrenheit and the dew point was 48 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the FAA Icing Probability Chart, with the airport's reported temperature and dew point, the airplane was susceptible to serious icing conditions in the cruise or climb power configuration.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed on the northeast corner of Eastridge Lane and Tully Road about 300 feet east of the departure end of runway 13R. The airplane came to rest, nose down, with the top of the cabin facing 185 degrees (all headings/bearings noted in this report are oriented toward magnetic north) about 50 feet north of the initial impact point.
The wreckage examination, ground scars, and the witnesses observations disclosed that the airplane struck the ground while spinning to the left. The airplane was about 30 degrees beyond the vertical attitude (inverted) with the top of the cabin facing 162 degrees at impact.
All of the airplane's major components and flight controls were found at the main wreckage area. The right wing separated from its respective wing-to-fuselage attach fittings. The left wing remained attached to the forward wing-to-fuselage attach fitting. Both wings sustained extensive postcrash fire damage inboard from their respective metal fuel tanks.
The wing and empennage flight controls remained attached at their respective attach points. Continuity of the rudder, elevator, and elevator trim tab cables was established. The cables remained connected at their respective control mechanisms. The control mechanisms, however, sustained extreme fire damage and could not be operated.
The left wing flight control cables remained connected to the control stick torque arm casting; the right wing control cable broke at the torque arm casting.
The entire fuselage was incinerated. The upper forward frame tubes were found buckled toward the rear and the cabin floor. None of the flight or engine instruments were discernable.
The engine remained connected to its firewall attach mounts. The firewall, however, burnt away from its fuselage attach points. The propeller separated from the engine crankshaft and was found about 20 feet west of the main wreckage. Both propeller blades displayed extensive "s" twisting, chordwise scuffing, and leading edge gouging.
The engine was examined at AeroTech, Reid-Hillview Airport, on March 1, 1995.
Continuity of the gear and valve train assembly was established. Thumb compression was noted on all of the cylinders during the continuity test.
The oil pressure screen contained minor carbon deposits. The oil suction screen was missing.
The exhaust mufflers were intact.
The right magneto drive could be rotated, but it did not produce spark; the left magneto's drive shaft was seized. Both magnetos internal examination showed extensive postimpact fire damage. The upper spark plugs center electrodes displayed extensive ovaling signatures. The clearance gap exceeded 0.022 inches. According to the manufacturer (Champion Spark Plugs), the maximum service limit gap is 0.022 inches.
The lower spark plugs gaps were within the manufacturer's service limits. The lower spark plugs scavenge areas contained minor lead deposits.
The carburetor sustained extensive postimpact fire damage. Parts of the venturi were found; the remaining parts were destroyed by fire. The carburetor was equipped with a two-piece venturi and a composite float. The carburetor screen contained minor carbon deposits.
The following are the valve stem and valve guide measurements obtained during the engine examination:
Cylinder Valve Stem (Upper/Lower) Guide (Upper/Lower) Number Type Ten-Thousands Inches Ten-Thousands Inches Outer Diameter Inner Diameter
1 Intake 0.0423/0.4023 0.4044/0.4045 1 Exhaust 0.4015/0.3987 0.4044/0.4103 2 Intake 0.4024/0.4017 0.4042/0.4047 2 Exhaust 0.4016/0.4000 0.4043/0.4115 3 Intake 0.4025/0.4016 0.4040/0.4045 3 Exhaust 0.4015/0.3987 0.4044/0.4162 4 Intake 0.4025/0.4015 0.4040/0.4045 4 Exhaust 0.4016/0.3980 0.4030/0.4130
According to the Lycoming Table of Limits for the O-235 series engines the intake valves stems outside diameter service limits are 0.4022 to 0.4030 inches; the exhaust valve stem outside diameter service limits are 0.4012 to 0.4020 inches. The intake and exhaust valves inner diameter service limits are between 0.0040 and 0.0050 inches.
The intake valve guide to valve stem clearance service limits are between 0.0010 and 0.0028 inches; the exhaust valve guide to valve stem clearance service limits are between 0.0020 and 0.0038 inches. This value is obtained by subtracting the values of the valve guide inner diameter and the valve stem outer diameter.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot and passenger were taken to Valley Medical Center for treatment. Toxicological examinations were not done nor were they requested.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The airplane's fuel system consists of a metal tank in each wing which is gravity-fed through the selector valve and gascolator to the carburetor. An instructor pilot, who instructs in the 7ECA, told Safety Board investigators that it is possible to sustain a momentary loss of power during a climb if the pilot abruptly pushes the stick forward and creates a zero to one negative "G." The engine would restart when a positive "G" loading exists.
The Safety Board released the entire wreckage to the owner's insurance representative on March 1, 1995. The wreckage was located at the Reid-Hillview Airport when it was released.