On April 15, 1995, at 1040 hours Pacific daylight time, a Brown (et al) amateur built Pitts S-1E, N301SH, collided with a tree and crashed about 10 miles north of Auburn, California. The pilot was conducting a visual flight rules personal flight to Auburn Municipal Airport, Auburn, California. The airplane, registered to and operated by the pilot, was destroyed by the impact forces and resulting postimpact fire. The certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The airplane departed Oroville Municipal Airport at 1025 hours.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector from the Sacramento Flight Standards District Office conducted the on-scene investigation. He said that the airplane departed Oroville Municipal Airport with another experimental airplane. When both airplanes approached the accident site, the second airplane was flying at a "normal" altitude; the accident airplane was flying at treetop level. The inspector said a witness, located about 1/2 mile north of the accident site, said he observed the airplane at treetop level "corkscrewing through the air" before it struck the tree.

Several witnesses told Nevada County Sheriff's deputies that they observed the accident airplane executing a roll maneuver. During the maneuver, the airplane pitched down and collided with the terrain. One witness said he heard the accident airplane engine power increase before it entered the roll maneuver.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators interviewed the pilot of the second airplane (hereafter called the second pilot) at Auburn Airport, on May 5, 1995. The pilot said that he and the accident pilot flew their airplanes to Oroville Municipal Airport for breakfast. They departed Auburn Airport at 0900 hours.

After departing Oroville Municipal Airport, they flew as a flight of two; the accident airplane pilot was flying to the right and below the second pilot's airplane. Both pilots maintained communications on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF).

When the flight approached the accident site, the accident pilot lost sight of the accident airplane. The second pilot called the accident pilot on CTAF to determine his location. The accident pilot assured the second pilot that he was below him and had him in sight.

When the second pilot approached Auburn Airport he called the accident pilot, but received no reply. The second pilot decided to "turn around" and return to the flight's last flight path. After reversing his course, the second pilot saw smoke coming from the area that he last saw the accident airplane. When he arrived over the area, the second pilot saw the accident airplane wreckage and returned to Auburn Airport.


Safety Board investigators did not recover the pilot's flight hours logbook. The flight hours reflected on page 3 of this report were obtained from the pilot's last medical application form. Investigators were unable to determine if the pilot satisfied the biennial flight review requirements of 14 CFR Part 61.56.

The FAA records show that the FAA previously cited the pilot for violation of 14 CFR Part 91.119C (Minimum safe altitudes) and 14 CFR Part 91.13A (Careless or reckless operation). The citing inspector told Safety Board investigators that the violation resulted from a public complaint. The pilot departed the Auburn Airport in a Mooney 20C and, at 100 feet above ground level (agl), he flew over a building near the airport.


Safety Board investigators did not recover the airplane maintenance records and were unable to determine when the airplane received its last annual inspection.


The on-scene examination revealed the airplane right wing struck a 100-foot tall pine tree. The airplane came to rest, right-side-up, about 1/8 mile beyond the tree facing in a northwesterly direction.

The entire airplane was incinerated by the postimpact fire.


The Nevada County Sheriff's/Coroner's Office conducted the post mortem examination on the pilot. The pathologist did not note any findings that would have affected the pilot's ability to fly an airplane.

The FAA, Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological examinations on the pilot. The examinations were negative for alcohol or drugs.


The California Department of Forestry (CDF) conducted the fire suppression activities. The Nevada County Sheriff's Office records show that CDF personnel arrived at the accident site at 1055 hours. The records do not show that CDF personnel experienced any difficulties during their fire suppression activities.


The Safety Board did not assume custody of the wreckage.

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