On June 6, 1999, between 0830 and 0900 mountain daylight time, an amateur-built D. Wayne Smith Wayncraft 14 experimental-category airplane, N58WS, departed Libby, Montana. Later that morning (approximately 1125), search and rescue satellites detected emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signals originating in the Libby area, and a search was initiated to locate the source of the ELT signals. The substantially damaged wreckage of N58WS was located near the computed signal origin between approximately 1600 and 1630 that afternoon. The wreckage was located at approximately the 6,100-foot level on a ridge in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness area of the Kootenai National Forest, approximately 11 nautical miles west of the Libby airport. The private pilot-in-command, who was the registered owner (but not the builder) and sole occupant of the aircraft, was found dead with the wreckage. Visual meteorological conditions were reported at Glacier Park International Airport, Kalispell, Montana (approximately 59 nautical miles east of the accident site), during the entire time between N58WS's departure from Libby and the time the wreckage was located, and no flight plan had been filed for the 14 CFR 91 personal flight. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The Wayncraft 14 is a replica of the Piper PA-14 airplane built from plans prepared by Wag-Aero Inc., Lyons, Wisconsin (Wag-Aero's model name for this plans-built aircraft type is the "Sportsman 2+2".) According to FAA records, the accident aircraft received an experimental-category airworthiness certificate on July 22, 1990, and was sold to the accident pilot by its builder in January 1999. The aircraft logs, and tachometer hour reading observed in the aircraft wreckage, indicated that the aircraft's last condition inspection was performed by the aircraft's builder on January 5, 1999 (approximately 33 flight hours prior to the accident), and that the aircraft had approximately 177 total airframe hours at the time of the accident.
The accident pilot had had the airplane modified by installation of Montana Float model 2300A amphibious floats (the float installation was performed by the Montana Float Company, Inc., of Libby.) An FAA letter of authorization had been issued for this modification. The aircraft log entry documenting the float installation and post-modification flight testing required by the FAA letter of authorization was dated June 5, 1999, the day prior to the accident. According to the Montana Float Company work order for the float installation, the pilot installed an electric hydraulic pump and a hand pump in conjunction with the float installation. According to the aircraft logs, the float installation increased the aircraft's empty weight from 1,318 pounds to 1,618 pounds and moved its empty center of gravity forward by 1.56 inches, from 13.76 inches aft of datum (datum is the leading edge of the wing) to 12.2 inches aft of datum (the aircraft's allowable center of gravity range is 9 to 21 inches aft of datum, according to Wag-Aero's plans.) (NOTE: A copy of the old aircraft weight and balance computation furnished by Montana Float company indicated that the accident pilot had performed the empty weight and balance computation himself.) The aircraft's maximum gross weight was listed in the aircraft logs as 2,200 pounds, and is given in Wag-Aero's plans as 2,250 pounds for a seaplane variant.
The aircraft logs, and the Montana Float Company work order for the modification, indicated that following the float installation, the aircraft was test-flown by the accident pilot for a total of 2 hours and 12 minutes, including 5 wheel landings and 11 water landings, and that the pilot had reported good controllability. A difference of 2.6 hours was noted between the aircraft hours recorded on the Montana Float Company work order for the float installation (dated on the day of the accident) and the tachometer reading noted in the aircraft wreckage.
The airplane was equipped with a 200-horsepower Textron Lycoming IO-360-A1B engine (Wag-Aero's plans state that the aircraft is approved for engines of 115 to 200 horsepower, and list the recommended engines for the aircraft as Textron Lycoming O-290 series, O-320 series, and O-360 series) and Hartzell 2-blade constant-speed propeller. The aircraft and engine logs, and tachometer hours observed in the aircraft wreckage, indicated that the engine, manufactured in 1971, had 1,510 total hours at the time of the accident. Prior to being installed on N58WS, the engine was involved in two propeller strikes, the first in 1980 at 1,237.34 engine hours and the second in 1988 at approximately 1,335 engine hours. The engine was installed on N58WS following repairs made to the engine after the 1988 propeller strike. These repairs included replacement of the crankcase, crankshaft, and connecting rods with "repaired overhauled parts." Although the engine log indicated that the engine was disassembled, examined, repaired and reassembled following both propeller strikes, there was no record that the engine had ever undergone a major overhaul. Textron Lycoming service instructions list the recommended time between overhauls (TBO) interval for the accident engine serial number (L-7396-51A) as 1,400 hours, or in the 12th year for engines which do not accumulate the recommended TBO flight hours prior to that time.
The 63-year-old pilot, who was listed in the FAA airman registry as being from Redding, California, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane single-engine sea, instrument airplane, and helicopter ratings. He held a third-class medical certificate with a date of issue of June 15, 1997. The FAA reported that the pilot stated he was on a cholesterol-lowering medication at the time of his last FAA medical examination. FAA records indicated that the pilot held repairman/experimental aircraft builder certificates for eight different experimental aircraft types, but did not hold one for the accident aircraft; he also did not hold an FAA mechanic certificate.
The 0856 automated weather observation at Glacier Park International (elevation 2,972 feet above sea level) reported conditions as follows: wind from 250 degrees at 10 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; ceiling 5,500 feet overcast; temperature 11 degrees C; dewpoint minus 2 degrees C; and altimeter setting 29.96 inches Hg.
The aircraft impacted a wooded and snow-covered ridge. Personnel who recovered the aircraft from the accident site reported the following, based upon their observations at the accident site:
The [aircraft] was traveling down slope upon impact. The slope was 32 degrees. At 162 feet before impact, the aircraft clipped a tree approximately 60 feet above ground. It continued for another 110 feet and hit a snag approximately 20 feet high. It continued on for 52 feet more where it impacted in a slight depression in the ridge, facing down slope. The [aircraft] came to rest against a snag stump approximately 24 inches in diameter and protruding approximately 5 feet above the snow level.... The marks from the floats indicate about 4 feet of [forward] travel from initial impact to stop. The right side of the aircraft just [forward] of the right windshield post and door frame impacted the stump....
The right wing was noted to be shattered; however, all aircraft components were found at the site within approximately 20 feet of the main wreckage. The recovery crew reported that they found good continuity to the aircraft's flight controls "as best as could be determined", and that both fuel tanks were found ruptured and empty; however, they reported that search-and-rescue (SAR) personnel who were the first personnel at the accident site stated they could smell fuel when they arrived on scene (approximately 1700 on the day of the accident.) The recovery crew reported that there was no evidence of post-impact fire.
An inspector from the FAA's Helena, Montana, Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and an investigator from Textron Lycoming, the engine manufacturer, conducted a disassembly examination of the accident aircraft's engine at the facilities of the Montana Float Company in Libby on June 23, 1999. The FAA and Textron Lycoming investigators reported their examination findings as follows. The spark plugs appeared normal, except for a slight buildup of oil and fuel on the number 1 and number 3 cylinder lower plugs. The engine would rotate, and a compression check found 60/80 or better compression on all four cylinders. Timing could not be determined because the starter ring gear support was installed incorrectly (timing marks were not indexed.) Both Bendix S4LN magnetos would produce spark; however, both magnetos had "old style" amber coils without a separate ground wire. This type coil was mandated to be removed by an FAA Airworthiness Directive (AD), AD 73-07-04 (subsequently superseded by AD 94-01-03R2). The stated purpose of this AD-mandated action was "to prevent magneto failure and subsequent engine failure." Both magneto coils were observed to be split and leaking oil into the magneto housing. The propeller governor external oil line was also noted to be a metal line with aluminum fitting, which was mandated for replacement by a line with steel fitting ("to prevent oil line fracture and loss of engine oil", according to the AD) no later than May 1, 1992, by AD 90-04-06.
The FAA and Textron Lycoming investigators reported that both of the airplane's propeller blades were bent aft about 18 to 20 inches inboard from the blade tips, one to 80 to 90 degrees and the other to 10 to 20 degrees, and that no chordwise scratching, scarring, or leading edge nicks, dents, or gouges were observed on either blade. The investigators reported that the airplane's manifold pressure gauge read 24 inches Hg, and that the engine tachometer was captured at 3,425 RPM (the engine's rated maximum RPM is 2,700.) Fuel was found in the fuel injector servo inlet screen, along with "a few particles of some kind of material about the size of grains of pepper", and "what appeared to be fuel" was also found in several fuel injector nozzles. The investigators reported they observed no evidence of fire.
A flow check and disassembly examination of the aircraft's Precision Airmotive (formerly Bendix) RSA-5AD1 fuel injector servo was conducted under NTSB supervision at the facilities of the servo manufacturer, Precision Airmotive of Everett, Washington, on October 1, 1999. The flow check was within limits at four of nine different tests points, and excessively rich at four test points. The ninth test point, which flowed excessively lean, was conducted at only about one-half the airflow specified for that test point (an idle test point), as the servo was set too low to attain additional airflow at that test point. Fluid leakage was also noted from the idle lever stem during the flow check (the flow test sheet states that no external leakage is allowed.) The Precision Airmotive representative, based on his observations during the disassembly examination, characterized the servo as being old and generally poorly maintained. In particular, the disassembly examination disclosed evidence of non-compliance with at least four Bendix service bulletins (RS-52, RS-65, RS-71, and RS-86.) However, the disassembly examination yielded no specific evidence of a mechanical anomaly or malfunction of the servo.
The Lincoln County, Montana, coroner did not perform an autopsy on the pilot. The pilot's certificate of death listed the cause of the pilot's death as "blunt force trauma." Toxicology testing on the pilot was performed by the Forensic Science Division of the Montana Department of Justice, Missoula, Montana. The Forensic Science Division's tests screened for the presence of alcohol and drugs, and detected only caffeine.
Wag-Aero's plans list the aircraft's service ceiling as 14,800 feet, and indicate a climb rate of 265 feet per minute for an O-290-equipped aircraft at a gross weight of 1,950 pounds, pressure altitude of 6,000 feet, temperature of 40 degrees F, and airspeed of 72 MPH "true indicated airspeed" (TIAS). The plans list the aircraft's power-off, wings-level stall speed as 38 MPH TIAS.