ATL98LA032
ATL98LA032

On January 17, 1998, at 1715 eastern standard time, a Via Inc., Aero Comp AC6, N656AC, collided with trees and burst into flames while maneuvering near Rockledge, Florida. The personal flight operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. A review of weather data recovered from the nearest reporting facility disclosed that visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane was destroyed, and there was a post-impact fire. The airline transport rated pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. The flight departed Merritt Island, Florida, at 1610 EST.

According to one of the previous partners of the airplane, the pilot was preparing the airplane for a flight to South America when the accident occurred. The airplane had been flown several times earlier in the day without no apparent problem. The partner stated that the airplane had about 70 gallons of fuel on board when they departed. About forty-five minutes into the flight, several witnesses reported hearing and seeing the airplane before the accident. Witness accounts of the airplane ranged from hearing the engine sputtering to no interruption in engine power. Witnesses reported that the airplane collided with a tree and burst into flames.

An examination of the accident site disclosed that wreckage debris was scattered over an area 55 feet wide and 80 feet long. The aircraft impacted the ground in a 60 to 70 degree nose low attitude. Further examination of the accident site disclosed that airplane collided with a tree along the wreckage path prior to the airplane's collision with the ground. The engine was separated from the airframe and was located beyond the airplane's impact point with the ground. The airplane flight control cables and surfaces were located in the immediate vicinity of the airplane wreckage. The wreckage examination also disclosed that the entire airframe was fire damaged and the composite material, of which the airplane was constructed, was melted. Examination of the airplane failed to disclose a mechanical problem.

Examination of the engine assembly also failed to disclose any pre-existing mechanical problems that would have prevented normal operation (see attached report of engine examination).

According to a co-owner of the airplane, he believed that the pilot and the son of the designer/owner of the airplane were checking the accuracy of the fuel quantity system when the accident occurred. He also stated that N656AC, was originally built with an extended range fuel system. The extended range fuel tank was simply accomplished by moving the fuel tank bulkhead further outboard from the wing root. The wet wing fuel system employed a simple left/right and off fuel selector system.

An autopsy on the pilot was conducted on January 18, 1998, by Dr. Paul O. Vasallo at the Brevard County Medical Examiner's office in Rockledge, Florida. The toxicological examinations disclosed that 27.000 mg/dl, ethanol and 97.000 mg/dl ethanol were discovered in kidney and muscle samples respectively. According to the FAA Manager of the toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, the levels of ethanol found were consistent with postmortem production. Diliazem was also found in the same samples. Diliazem is an anti-hypertensive medication. A review of the pilot's last medical application disclosed that he had reported treatment for high blood pressure.

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