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On September 3, 1995, at 1354 central daylight time, a Champion 7GCB, N9838Y, operated by a commercial, instrument rated pilot, was destroyed during a forced landing attempt following a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from runway 18 (2,025' x 80' dry/turf), at Howard, Wisconsin. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The purpose of the flight was for banner towing. The airplane had just picked up the banner when the event occurred. No flight plan was on file for the 14 CFR Part 91 flight. The local flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions. The flight originated at 1349.
Two witnesses to the accident were interviewed on scene and asked to make written statements. The written statements are attached to this report. They stated that the pilot was towing banners for a football game. He was to tow three banners during the first half of the game, land, refuel the airplane and tow three banners during the second half of the game.
According to the witnesses, the pilot had towed the three banners during the first half of the game and had landed and refueled from a five gallon can. He then prepared to tow the banners for the second half. He had three tow hooks mounted on the airplane and carried three tow cables aboard the airplane with him to release as needed. He departed to the north and released two cables instead of one. Heading south, he attempted to pick up the banner, but was unsuccessful. He then made a second pass to drop one cable; however, on release it tangled with the second cable previously released. He made a third pass to release both cables and then returned with the one remaining cable to retrieve the banner. Witnesses reported that the banner pick up was successful and the airplane began a climb, on a south heading. The witnesses stated that just south of the departure end of runway, they heard the engine suffer a loss of power and observed the airplane bank to the right, with the banner still in tow. One witness said that the airplane, "... appeared to stall and pitch down to the right."
Crops in the field where damaged during the impact.
The 53 year old pilot was the holder of a commercial pilot certificate with single engine land and sea privileges and an instrument rating for airplanes. His personal log book entries ended at August 17, 1994, indicating a total flight time of 2,185 hours. His most recent biennial flight review was on June 21, 1994.
The airplane was a Champion 7GCB, N9838Y, serial number 59. At the time of the accident the airplane had accumulated 2,310 hours. The most recent annual inspection was recorded on the day before the accident, September 2, 1995, and the airplane had accumulated three hours since the inspection.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was initially inspected by a Federal Aviation Administration, Flight Standards District Office inspector on the day of the accident. He reported that he found the wreckage in a corn field with an, "Angle of impact, estimate 60 degrees nose down, right wing low." He further reported that the right wing tank was ruptured; however, the left wing tank was intact. He said that there was fuel spillage evident, with a puddle of fuel, in the field. He observed that the banner was still attached to the airplane tow hook.
He had the airplane moved to a hangar and continued the examination. He reported that, "An estimated two (2) oz. of water and contaminated fuel was recovered from the fuselage aft drain sump."
The NTSB inspector examined the wreckage in the hangar on September 12, 1995. The engine remained attached to the mounts and the firewall. At that time it was noted that both wing spars were broken and the wing struts were bent and separated. All control surfaces remained attached and continuity was established. A fuel can identified by witnesses as used by the pilot for fueling the airplane between the banner tows, was found to be near full. It contained approximately five gallons of fuel which was light yellow in color similar to auto fuel. No contamination was found in this container. Both fuel caps on the airplane had gaskets and were tight. No fuel remained in either tank. The fuel vent outlets were clear and passed air. Both the fuel selector and fuel valve were found in the on position; however, the linkage between the selector and valve was separated.
The carburetor was fractured through the throttle shaft bushing holes. The throttle and mixture controls remained attached at their terminal ends. The carburetor was disassembled and the bowl was found to be clean. The float valve opened and closed. The fuel inlet screen was examined and found to be clean. The venturi was of multi-piece construction; however, was intact. Fuel was expelled by action of the accelerator pump. The foam floats were placed in gasoline for several hours and then cut open. No leaking was evident inside the floats. The carburetor air box was damaged; however, the air valve and shaft remained attached to the box. The gascolator was separated and damaged.
The propeller flange was bent and three propeller bolts were separated in the thread area of the flange. The engine rotated and there was continuity throughout. There was compression on all cylinders. The left magneto was capable of firing spark plugs through engine rotation. The right magneto was removed and also sparked when rotated. The spark plugs contained combustion deposits. Number one and three cylinders were removed and inspected. There was scuffing on the skirts of both pistons. Intake ports of both cylinders were found clean and looked as though they had received recent mechanical cleaning.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Brown County Medical Examiner, Green Bay, Wisconsin, on September 4, 1995. The examination revealed nothing of a pathological nature which would have contributed to the accident.
Toxicological examination of specimens from the pilot were negative for the drugs scanned.
Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration, Flight Standards District Office, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Lycoming of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The wreckage was stored in the owner/pilot's hangar. Family members of the owner/pilot were notified of the location of the wreckage.