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On August 26, 1997, at 1745 eastern standard time (est), a Kellums Sonerai 1, N76457, operated by a student pilot, was destroyed when during cruise flight following takeoff, the airplane's engine lost power. The airplane subsequently impacted the terrain. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. There was no flight plan on file. The pilot was fatally injured. The local flight originated at Scottsburg, Indiana, at 1740 est.
A witness at Scottsburg Airport, Indiana, who was mowing the grass on the airfield, saw the student pilot takeoff to the south on Runway 20. The witness said, "The takeoff was normal and he [the student pilot] performed a normal climbout. He was about even with the tops of the trees [approximately 150 feet above ground level] when he flew by. I went back to mowing the grass."
The witness said that the student pilot was a "stickler for following the rules" and felt that he turned eastbound to enter the traffic pattern.
Another witness who lives near the accident site said she was standing in her yard when she "heard the airplane's engine cut out." The witness said that when she looked south toward where she heard the sound, she "saw the airplane come straight down."
The student pilot had approximately 9.0 hours total flying time in a single-engine land airplane. The entire 9.0 hours was as pilot-in-command.
A friend of the student pilot, also the manager of Scottsburg Airport, said that the student pilot had accumulated approximately 200 to 300 hours in ultralights. The witness said that he had taught the student pilot how to fly ultralights, and that the student pilot had begun flying his own Challenger ultralight out of Scottsburg Airport about two-and-a-half to three years earlier. The witness said that the student pilot brought the airplane to Scottsburg Airport in the spring of 1997. He said that he saw the student pilot fly the airplane around the airport four or five times. The witness did not know if the student pilot received any flight instruction outside of that which the witness had given him in ultralights.
The airplane was a homebuilt kit constructed by the pilot. The airplane was issued a special airworthiness certificate, experimental - amateur built, on December 13, 1996. No records were found which indicated the airplane's airframe time. The Hobb's meter was observed at the accident site and indicated 9.8 hours.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on site investigation began on August 27, 1997, at 0800 est.
The accident site was located on the edge of a soybean field, 2,650 feet west of Indiana state highway 31, a north-south running paved road. Examination of the accident site revealed a 42-inch wide, 38-inch long, and 21-inch deep crater which conformed to the shape of the cowling of the airplane. Foliage around the accident site consisted of tall grass approximately 40 inches in height. An 18-foot long and 8-inch wide impression in the grass ran northwest to southeast through the crater, along a 127-degree magnetic heading. The grass in this area was discolored and dying. The smell of auto fuel was prevalent in and around the crater.
The airplane wreckage consisted of the entire airplane. The airplane's fuselage, from the firewall aft, rested upright on the grass. The airplane's flight path was oriented along a 207- degree magnetic heading.
The engine, lower cowling, propeller and spinner rested in the crater at a penetration angle of 50 degrees from the horizontal line. Both propeller blades were broken near the flange and bent aft along the sides of the engine. Both propeller blades were split longitudinally in several places. The spinner was crushed aft and conformed around the propeller and flange area of the engine. The lower engine cowling was crushed upward and had broken into several pieces. The engine and firewall were intact and broken free of the airplane at the engine mounts. The firewall was bent forward around the single magneto. The engine mounts were bent upward, elongated and broken. The engine oil sump, air intake manifold and exhaust manifold were broken and crushed upward.
The airplane's upper engine cowling was separated from the airplane and broken open. The airplane's main landing gear was broken off from the lower fuselage and folded underneath the airplane's fuselage. Both wheel pants were crushed and broken. The main landing gear tires were undamaged. The airplane's forward fuselage was bent upward and crushed aft. The bottom of the fuselage metal fuel tank was broken out at the weld seam. The sides of the fuel tank were opened outward. The airplane's canopy frame was separated from the cockpit at the hinges and twisted. The plexiglass bubble which made up the airplane's windscreen was broken out and shattered into several pieces. The airplane's cockpit floor was crushed upward into the rudder pedals and instrument panel. The left wall of the cockpit was buckled outward. The right wall of the cockpit was buckled inward and bent aft. The top part of the instrument panel was bent aft and down into the pilot's seat.
The forward 18 inches of the airplane's right wing were bent upward and crushed aft to the main spar, along the span of the leading edge. The crush line was approximately 70-degrees from the longitudinal line. The outboard 30 inches of the leading edge of the airplane's right wing were bent aft approximately 20- degrees from the lateral line. The forward 18 inches of the right wing tip were broken off at the rivet line. The remainder of the wingtip was broken aft. The right aileron showed minor damage.
The forward 17 inches of the airplane's right wing were bent upward and crushed aft to the main spar, along the span of the leading edge. The crush line was approximately 70-degrees from the longitudinal line. The left wing tip was broken off at the rivet line and crushed downward. The right aileron was broken off at the inboard hinge and bent upward 30 degrees at mid-span.
The airplane's fuselage, aft of the cockpit was twisted 10- degrees right from the vertical line. The fuselage frame, just aft of the cockpit, was bent forward and up. The fabric along the aft right side of the fuselage showed heavy wrinkling.
The airplane's vertical stabilizer, rudder, horizontal stabilizers, elevator and tail wheel were undamaged.
The airplane's engine, carburetor, magneto and throttle quadrant were retained for further examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Kentucky State Medical Examiner, on August 27, 1997, at Louisville, Kentucky. The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot were negative for all tests conducted.
According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) Aeromedical Certification Division, Medical Appeals Branch, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the student pilot was never issued a third class medical certificate. The student pilot had a post-aortic valve placed in his heart in February, 1982. This, combined with his high cholesterol level and history of a heart murmur, concerned the student pilot's medical examiner. The student pilot was asked to provide the DOT Aeromedical Certification Division, Medical Appeals Branch with an exercise stress test including a Radionuclide Scintigraphy (SPCT), on July 3, 1996. The student pilot never responded to the request. When the student pilot's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Form 8500-8, Application for Aeromedical Certificate arrived at the Medical Appeals Branch, it appeared to them that the student pilot was issued a certificate. They incorrectly coded the form as "clear certificate with restriction for glasses." The form should have been coded as "case pending." The result of these actions was that a student pilot certificate number of EE1486770 was assigned to the student pilot.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The airplane's engine and accessories were examined at Hap's Aerial Enterprises, Incorporated, Jeffersonville, Indiana, on October 7, 1997. The examination revealed an "unusually large amount of carbon in the cylinders. The carbon was dry - a type associated with too rich of a fuel mixture, or lack of sufficient spark from the magneto." The engine's single magneto "was cycled and a good blue spark was observed." Examination of the Posa slide-carburetor revealed free movement in the slide in spite of heavy impact damage. The throttle quadrant was bent outward, trapping the throttle and mixture controls. The throttle and mixture controls were in the full open and full rich positions.
The airplane wreckage was released and returned to the Scottsburg Fire Department, Scottsburg, Indiana. Retained components were returned to representatives of the student pilot's family.