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On November 14, 1998, about 0910 eastern standard time, a homebuilt Wichawk, N30HR, was destroyed when it struck the ground near Pine Island, New York. The two certificated private pilots were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated from Sussex, New Jersey, about 0900. No flight plan had been filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The two pilots were identified as the pilot-in-command (PIC) and the airplane owner who was the second pilot. The airplane had recently been sold to the second pilot by the PIC. The purpose of the flight was for the PIC to check out the airplane owner in the airplane.
According to one witness:
"...I looked up at the airplane and heard the motor stop and then start again then stop and start again and then stop - the airplane then nose dived at about a 60 degree angle and crashed in the black dirt...."
Another witness stated:
"I...was watching the plane fly across the field. I heard the engine cut out and the plane suddenly nose dived and slowly circled. I ran around to the front of house and the plane hit the field...."
A third witness stated:
"...I heard a motor shut off, that is when I looked out my living room window. At that time I saw a white and orange plane fly past my window. The plane was going down. The plane crashed in the field and made a large puff of smoke."
In a follow-up telephone interview, the witness reported that the engine was running when the airplane impacted the ground.
The PIC held a private pilot certificate with ratings for single engine land and single engine sea airplanes. He was issued a FAA Second Class Airman Medical Certificate with no limitation on July 1, 1997. On his airman medical application, he listed his total time as 430 hours. The pilot's logbook was not recovered, and his recency of experience and last flight review could not be documented.
The airplane owner held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land airplane rating. He was last issued a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Third Class Airman Medical Certificate with no limitations on October 9, 1998. On his airman medical application he listed his total time as 480 hours. The airplane owner's medical application did not list any treatment. According to the pilot's logbook, he had flown 24.5 hours in the preceding year, 11.4 hours in the preceding 90 days and had logged two flights for a total 3.9 hours in the accident airplane in the preceding 30 days.
The airplane was originally issued an airworthiness certificate in 1976. A review of the airworthiness file from FAA records in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma revealed no major repairs or modifications to the airplane once the airworthiness certificate had been issued. The maintenance logbooks were not recovered, and the recent maintenance history of the airplane was not available for review. According to FAA Advisory Circular 20-27D, CERTIFICATION AND OPERATION OF AMATEUR-BUILT AIRCRAFT:
"...The amateur-built program was designed to permit person(s) to build an aircraft solely for education or recreational purposes. The FAA has always permitted amateur builders freedom to select their own designs...Since 1983, FAA inspections of amateur-built aircraft have been limited to ensuring the use of acceptable workmanship methods, techniques, practices, and issuing operating limitations necessary to protect person and property not involved in this activity...."
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was examined at the accident site on November 14, 1998, by an inspector from the FAA. He reported that the airplane had impacted in an open field of soft dirt. There was a strong smell of fuel at the accident site. The engine was buried in the ground with the back of the engine flush with the ground. One magneto and the carburetor had separated from the engine. The metal propeller remained attached to the engine, with one propeller blade bent back, and the other blade bent slightly forward. One propeller blade prevented full rotation; however, partial rotation was achieved with no binding was observed.
All flight control cables were intact and attached to their respective control surfaces. There were no breaks at attach points.
The wings remained attached to the airplane and wing attach struts had not pulled out of the wings.
The airspeed indicator needle was stuck at the 90 miles per hour position.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies on both pilots were conducted on November 14, 1998, for Orange County, New York. According to the medical examiner records, the PIC was in seated in the left seat, and the airplane owner was seated in the right seat.
Toxicological testing was accomplished by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The PIC was negative for drugs and alcohol. The airplane owner tested positive for setraline and desmethylsertraline in the quantities listed below:
0.079 ug/mL SERTRALINE detected in Blood 0.114 ug/mL DESMETHYLSERTRALINE detected in Blood 9.852 ug/mL SERTRALINE detected in Liver 5.666 ug/mL DESMETHYLSERTRALINE detected in Liver
Sertraline (Trade name ZOLOFT) was a prescription drug used for the treatment of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and panic disorder.
According to the 53rd edition of the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR), ZOLOFT was used for treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. Following are the definitions as defined in the PDR.
"Depression...A major depressive episode implies a prominent and relatively persistent depressed or dysphoric mood that usually interferes with daily functioning (nearly every day for at least 2 weeks)...."
"Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by recurrent and persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses, or images (obsessions) that are ego-dystomic and/or repetitive, purposeful, and intentional behaviors (compulsion) that are recognized by the person as excessive or unreasonable...."
"Panic disorder...a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort in which four (or more) of the following symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes; (1) palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; (2) sweating; (3) trembling or shaking; (4) sensations of shortness of breath or smothering; (5) feeling of choking; (6) chest pain or discomfort; (7) nausea or abdominal distress; (8) feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint; (9) derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being unattached from oneself); (10) fear of losing control; (11) fear of dying; (12) paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations); (13) chills or hot flushes...."
According to his wife, the airplane owner took the drug to control what she described as anxiety attacks.