On September 6, 1997, at 1030 central daylight time (cdt), a Higgens Rans S-12 XL, N7304Q, operated by a private pilot, sustained substantial damage when while maneuvering, it departed controlled flight and impacted the terrain five miles north of Tuscola, Illinois. 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 reported minor injuries. The passenger on board suffered serious injuries. The local flight originated at Tuscola, Illinois, at 1020 cdt.

In his written statement, the pilot said that he and the passenger were maneuvering in the vicinity of the passenger's house. "At a cruise speed of 60 miles per hour and 6,000 rpm, at 500 feet above ground level (agl) and a heading of 300-degrees, we entered a shallow right turn around the west side of the house. After passing the north side and heading down the east side of the house (heading approximately 150 to 180-degrees), we started to lose altitude." The pilot lowered the nose and added full power. He then raised the nose to a level flight attitude, but continued to descend. "At this point, impact with the ground was imminent."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector who examined the airplane observed upward crush damage to the cockpit floor and frame. Both wings were separated at the wing roots. Both wings showed upward bending and heavy skin wrinkling. The boom fuselage was twisted to the right approximately 15-degrees. A 10-inch long gash was observed in the center fuselage metal running 45-degrees outward and aft of a rivet line. The forward vertical stabilizer showed heavy skin wrinkles. One of the three propeller blades was twisted forward and bent outward. Flight control continuity was confirmed. No anomalies were observed in the engine, engine controls, or other airplane systems.

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