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On February 18, 1995, approximately 0800 Pacific standard time, a Bruce Tifft Varieze, N115EZ, collided with trees near Tiller, Oregon. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was substantially damaged and the private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. The flight had departed from Cottage Grove, Oregon, on February 18, 1995, at 0730 and was en route to Mohave, California.
The individual in California, whom the pilot was going to visit, stated that the intended route of flight was to follow southbound Interstate 5 to California. This person stated that if the pilot had taken off with full fuel tanks, there would not have been a need to stop for fuel. The flight was expected in Mohave, approximately 1200.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Douglas County Sheriff's Office personnel reported that an individual who had been travelling on the Tiller Trail Highway at 0700 on February 18, did not notice anything unusual at this time. When the individual returned on the highway at 0800, he noticed tree branches and yellow colored objects on the road, that were later identified as a wing storage pod and wing tip. This individual stopped and looked around the area and eventually found the airplane partially submerged in the creek. The individual then called 911 to report the accident.
Sheriff's office personnel mapped out the wreckage distribution path and reported evidence of broken tree tops near the roadway on the south side. A major point of impact was noted at a scrub oak, and it appeared that the left wing had struck this oak which caused the airplane to veer to the left where the airplane struck another tree. Direction of travel was in a westerly direction.
Ground disturbance was noted at the north side of the creek where the airplane struck head on into a tree and a large rock. The plane then slid into the creek with the nose down. The total length of the distribution path was measured at 788 feet and 59 feet south of the roadway baseline.
After the victims were removed, the airplane was retrieved by a tow truck operator and taken to Myrtle Creek, Oregon, for security.
During the airplane and engine inspection at Myrtle Creek by a Federal Aviation Administration Inspector and a representative from Textron Lycoming, it was reported that upon initial inspection, the engine was still attached to the airframe and the cowling was in place. The wood propeller remained attached to the crankshaft and one propeller tip was separated and shattered. Visual inspection of the engine revealed no impact damage or crankcase disruption. The engine data plate had been removed, however, at one time the engine was a standard Lycoming IO-360. Evidence of extensive modifications were apparent. The magnetos had been removed and replaced with two different types of electronic ignition systems. One system was mounted where the right magneto had been and fired the bottom spark plugs. The other system, labeled Direct Ignition System, was mounted on the firewall and fired the top spark plugs. All of the spark plugs and ignition harnesses were of non-standard aircraft type and there were two different types of plugs installed. The cooling fins around each spark plug had been ground away in order for the spark plugs to fit. In place of the carburetor was an Ellison Throttle Body unit. A standard engine driven fuel pump, a Facet electric fuel pump and a Bendix flow divider were attached. The flow divider was mounted upside down and all of the fuel lines were either of flexible rubber or steel braid. The injector lines from the flow divider to the injectors were flexible rubber with different types of fittings.
Before removing the spark plugs, the propeller was found to rotate easily. The top spark plugs were removed and all four cylinders were checked for compression and suction. Accessory gear and valve train continuity was established. All of the spark plugs were removed and operating signatures appeared normal. Clean oil was found in the engine.
A Pilot Logbook was found in the wreckage and reviewed. The logbook started in September 1989, and was labeled Book #2. It appears that the pilot was using this logbook to log both flight time and maintenance information. The logbook lists the dates, locations, and total time, but does not list information under make & model, aircraft flown, category of aircraft, condition of flight or type of piloting time. The last entry dated in February 1995, indicates a total flight time of 1,766 hours. It is unknown if this is the pilot's total flight time, the airplane's total time or a combination of the two.
In February 1994, a logbook entry states that an Ellison Carburetor was installed at 1,678.8 hours. On July 2-4, 1994, the logbook indicates that contaminated fuel was used after fueling at Watsonville, California. The entry further states four new cylinders, valves, V-springs, pistons and rings were installed. (note: aviation fuel contaminated with jet fuel was subject to an Airworthiness Directive (AD). This AD required that all aircraft involved with the contaminated fuel were to have the engines overhauled prior to continued flight).
During a telephone interview with a friend of the pilot, it was found that the pilot did not want to send the engine out for the factory overhaul, and that the pilot would do it himself. The logbook entry which reports the new parts, indicate maintenance consistent with a top overhaul. This friend also stated that the pilot had told him that he was having problems with the engine cooling. The pilot had ordered a cylinder head temperature gauge to try and determine where the problem was.
On January 16, 1995, the logbook entry reports a "break-in" local flight for one-half hour. The entry further states "New eng." A total of three and-a-half hours were logged prior to the accident since this entry.
The registration certificate found in the wreckage was dated August 15, 1978. The Special Airworthiness Certificate was issued on March 31, 1987. The pilot held a repairman certificate for an experimental aircraft, make: Bruce Tifft, Model: Varieze that was issued on October 28, 1980.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate and was rated for airplane single engine land and rotorcraft - gyroplane. The pilot logbook indicates that a biennial flight review was signed on July 11, 1992. The make and model airplane in which the flight review was accomplished is unknown, and the logbook does not indicate a flight on this date. The pilot held a third class medical certificate dated April 23, 1994, with no waivers or limitations reported. The Federal Aviation Administration Medical Division, stated that the pilot reported at the time of his medical examination, a total flight time of 900 hours, with 40 hours in the previous six months.
A Specialist at the McMinville, Oregon, Flight Service Station (FSS), reported that the pilot had called the FSS the night before the accident. The Specialist reported to the pilot to expect low morning overcast conditions along his route of flight.
On the morning of the accident, the Roseburg, Oregon, area was reporting an estimated ceiling at 6,000 feet with overcast and 20 miles visibility. Further south at the Sexton Mountain Pass, located just north of Grants Pass, Oregon on Interstate 5, was reporting one and a quarter miles visibility and fog.
The Specialist reported that it was common for pilots to divert to the east of the mountain range that runs north/south, to avoid adverse weather along Interstate 5. The pilot did not call for weather on the morning of the accident, nor was a flight plan filed.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Oregon Deputy State Medical Examiner, James N. Olson, reported that the cause of death to the pilot was due to severe blunt head, chest, pelvic, and musculoskeletal trauma.
Toxicological samples were sent to the Civil Aero Medical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for analysis. The results of the analysis were negative.