On October 27, 1993, at 1439 Pacific daylight time, an experimental homebuilt Wittman Tailwind W8L airplane, N9052C, collided with trees and a city street while attempting a forced landing in a residential area in San Jose, California. The aircraft was on approach to San Jose International Airport when the local controller in the tower cab heard a garbled transmission from the pilot concerning the engine. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the cross-country personal flight. The aircraft was destroyed in the collision sequence and postcrash fire. The certificated airline transport pilot and his one passenger sustained fatal injuries. Three trees, portions of a city street, and a pickup truck were damaged in the accident. The flight originated at Watsonville, California, on the day of the mishap at about 1400 hours as a cross-country flight to San Jose. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to information obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) at San Jose, the pilot telephoned the tower to request permission to enter the Class C airspace at the airport without an operable transponder. The pilot explained that he was bringing the aircraft to San Jose to have the transponder repaired. The tower personnel granted permission for the entry and arranged for the pilot to contact the tower over a local area airport for sequencing. According to the tower controllers, the pilot contacted the facility by radio at the agreed upon location and was sequenced for landing. At about 1437 hours, the local controller heard a garbled transmission from the aircraft concerning the engine. No further transmissions were heard from the aircraft.
Ground witnesses reported that the aircraft appeared to be attempting to land on a residential city street with the propeller stopped. The aircraft collided with three trees, a parked pickup truck, and the street. A fire began which consumed the aircraft.
FAA inspectors from the San Jose Flight Standards District Office responded to the accident site. They reported that the engine separated from the aircraft at the firewall and was not involved in the postcrash fire. No external evidence of catastrophic engine failure was observed. The engine and related components were removed from the site for detailed follow-up examinations. The fire department drained about 10 gallons of fuel from the fuselage tank after the fire was extinguished. According to the responding FAA inspectors, the drained fuel had an odor and color similar to automotive gasoline.
According to the FAA inspectors who examined the maintenance records, the aircraft had reportedly been in storage for 10 years. During the first part of May 1993, the aircraft was removed from storage and a condition inspection performed. The accident flight was reported to be the second flight since removal from storage.
On November 3, 1993, the engine was examined by FAA airworthiness inspectors. Impact related damage was observed to the number four cylinder rocker arm boss. The top spark plugs were of the fine wire type and appeared to be excessively worn. The bottom spark plugs were reported to be serviceable. The magnetos were found to be timed at 20 degrees for the left and 25 degrees for the right; the engine data plate specified magneto timing at 18 degrees.
After the visual examination, the engine was installed on a test stand and run for 4 minutes 40 seconds. Magneto checks were satisfactory and the reporting FAA inspectors noted that the engine responded to rapid throttle movements.
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiners Office. The attesting pathologists reported the cause of death to be multiple traumatic injury and no pre existing conditions were noted which would have affected the decedents ability to pilot an aircraft. Samples were retained for toxicological analysis with negative results for volatiles and all screened drug substances.