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On April 2, 2000, approximately 1530 central daylight time, a Van's Aircraft, Inc. RV-6T experimental research and development airplane, N96VA, was destroyed during impact with trees and terrain while maneuvering near Pettigrew, Arkansas. The aircraft was manufactured, owned, and operated by Van's Aircraft, Inc., of North Plains, Oregon. The non-instrument rated private pilot and private pilot rated passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed at the accident site, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 business flight. The cross-country flight departed Aurora, Missouri, after 1430, with a destination of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Witnesses located near the accident site reported to the NTSB investigator-in-charge that they heard the accident aircraft circling the area for about 10-15 minutes. They then heard the airplane's engine sputter, pop, and quit; this was followed by a cracking/snapping noise, and a loud "thump." The witnesses further reported that the weather was foggy, and they estimated that the visibility was less than 400 feet.
The accident site was located in wooded, mountainous terrain, approximately 70 nautical miles south of Aurora.
According to FAA records, the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on November 19, 1979, with an airplane single-engine land rating. The pilot held a third class medical certificate, which was issued November 19, 1998. The medical certificate stipulated a limitation to wear corrective lenses while operating an aircraft.
A review of the pilot's flight logbook revealed that on March 24, 1999, he completed a biennial flight review in a Van's RV-6A airplane. The logbook also revealed that as of January 2, 2000 (last entry in logbook), the pilot had logged a total flight time of 2,553.3 hours. The pilot had logged 8.3 hours of simulated instrument flight.
According to FAA records, the pilot rated passenger was issued a private pilot certificate on June 15, 1994, with an airplane single-engine land rating. The passenger held a second class medical certificate, which was issued March 6, 1997. The medical certificate stipulated a limitation to wear corrective lenses while operating an aircraft. On the medical certificate application, the passenger reported a total flight time of 550 hours of which 10 hours were within the previous 6 months.
The 1994-model RV-6T was a low-wing, single-engine, side-by-side two-place, single-engine airplane, which had fixed tricycle landing gear. It was powered by a Lycoming O-235-L2C engine rated at 118-horsepower, and a Sensenich, two-bladed, fixed pitch propeller. The research and development airplane was modified to be an RV-9A. The airplane was not equipped for IMC flight.
A review of the airframe and engine records did not reveal evidence of any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects. The airplane's last condition inspection was completed on March 13, 2000, at a total aircraft time of 409.0 hours. The last oil change was on March 29, 2000, at a total aircraft time of 413.6 hours.
There were no official National Weather Service (NWS) weather reporting stations in Pettigrew, Arkansas, therefore, the weather observations at surrounding area airports with federal observing systems were documented.
Fayetteville-Drake Field Airport (KFYV), located 30 miles west-northwest of the accident site, reported at 1553, wind calm, visibility 4 statute miles in haze, ceiling overcast at 1,800 feet, temperature 14 degrees C, dew point temperature 10 degrees C, altimeter 29.87 inches of Mercury (Hg). Remarks: Automated Observation, sea level pressure 1011.1 millibars (mb), temperature 13.9 degrees C, dew point 10.0 degrees C, pressure tendency falling 1.8 mb last 3 hours.
KFYV reported at 1453, wind from 220 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 3 statute miles in haze, ceiling overcast at 1,600 feet, temperature 13 degrees C, dew point temperature 9 degrees C, altimeter 29.89 inches of Mercury (Hg). Remarks: Automated Observation, pressure falling rapidly, temperature 12.8 degrees C, dew point 9.4 degrees C.
Harrison-Boone County Airport (KHRO), located 37 miles northeast of the accident site, reported at 1552, wind from 300 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 2 statute miles in mist, ceiling overcast at 1,000 feet, temperature 12 degrees C, dew point temperature 11 degrees C, altimeter 29.90 inches of Mercury (Hg). Remarks: Automated Observation, ceiling 700 feet variable 1,200 feet, sea level pressure 1012.6 mb, pressure falling 0.7 mb during the last 3 hours.
KHRO reported at 1538, wind from 320 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 2.5 statute miles in mist, ceiling overcast at 1,000 feet, temperature 12 degrees C, dew point temperature 10 degrees C, altimeter 29.90 inches of Mercury (Hg).
Fort Smith Regional Airport (KFSM), located 46 miles southwest of the accident site, reported at 1553, wind from 250 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 5 statute miles in haze, ceiling overcast at 2,500 feet, temperature 14 degrees C, dew point temperature 11 degrees C, altimeter 29.89 inches of Mercury (Hg). Remarks: Automated Observation, sea level pressure 1011.9.6 mb, 6-hour precipitation less than 0.01 inches, temperature 13.9 C, dew point 11.1 degrees C, pressure tendency falling 0.6 mb in the last 3 hours.
KFSM reported at 1453, wind from 260 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 4 statute miles in mist, ceiling overcast at 2,300 feet, temperature 13 degrees C, dew point temperature 11 degrees C, altimeter 29.90 inches of Mercury (Hg). Remarks: automated observation, rain began at 1437 and ended at 1448, sea level pressure 1012.3 mb, precipitation since last hour less than 0.01 inches, temperature 13.3 degrees C, dew point 11.1 degrees C.
Hot Springs Memorial Field Airport (KHOT), located 83 miles south-southwest of the accident site, reported at 1550, wind variable at 3 knots, visibility 6 statute miles in mist, ceiling overcast at 800 feet, temperature 17 degrees C, dew point temperature 16 degrees C, altimeter 29.90 inches of Mercury (Hg). Remarks: Automated Observation, sea level pressure 1012.0 mb, pressure tendency decreasing 1.4 mb over the last 3 hours.
KHOT reported at 1450, wind from 140 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 6 statute miles in mist, ceiling overcast at 600 feet, temperature 17 degrees C, dew point temperature 16 degrees C, altimeter 29.89 inches of Mercury (Hg). Remarks: Rain ended at 1412, sea level pressure 1011.7 mb.
Prior to departing Aurora, Missouri on April 2, 2000, the pilot of N96VA contacted the Columbia Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) about 1440 and received a standard weather briefing.
The AFSS briefer stated that there were flight advisories for instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions, moderate turbulence, and moderate icing for the route and visual flight rules (VFR) was not recommended. The briefer summarized the synoptic features influencing the area as a cold front over the destination of Shreveport with rain showers and thunderstorms scattered in northern Arkansas, and solid light to heavy rain in southern Arkansas. Crossing into Louisiana there was an embedded line of thunderstorms. The briefer advised that there was a Convective SIGMET further to the south, with the activity moving towards Shreveport and that a tornado watch was current. The Convective SIGMET over Louisiana was for a line of thunderstorms moving northeast at 35 knots.
The briefer summarized the conditions from central Arkansas as marginal VFR conditions and south of there dropping into fairly solid IFR conditions due to low ceilings and visibilities. The briefer provided the Shreveport terminal aerodrome forecast valid for the period, which indicated a sky condition of 400 scattered, ceiling at 1,000 feet broken, with occasional ceilings at 400 feet overcast with visibility 1 mile in thunderstorms and heavy rain, and wind variable at 15 gusting to 25 knots.
When the briefer asked the pilot if he needed anything else, the pilot requested the current conditions at Hot Springs, Arkansas. The briefer provided the current conditions as 500 feet broken, 2,400 feet overcast, visibility 6 miles in light rain, and wind variable at 3 knots. The briefing was then concluded.
WRECKAGE IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located at 35 degrees 47.063 minutes north latitude and 93 degrees 36.801 minutes west longitude. The accident site was approximately 2.7 nautical miles southeast of Pettigrew.
Examination of the accident site revealed that the aircraft struck a 60-foot tree about 18 feet below its top, at an elevation of approximately 2,229 feet msl. The aircraft traveled on a measured magnetic heading of 130 degrees for approximately 146 feet before impacting the ground. The airplane continued 52 feet beyond the initial ground impact point on a magnetic heading of 140 degrees before coming to rest inverted on a magnetic heading of 335 degrees.
Examination of the airplane revealed that the left wing was separated from the fuselage, and the outboard section of the right wing was also separated. The left horizontal stabilizer and elevator were separated from the empennage, and the vertical stabilizer and rudder were buckled. The cockpit/cabin area was consumed by a fire. Flight control surface continuity was confirmed to the elevator, the rudder, the right aileron, and to where the left wing separated.
The engine sustained impact and fire damage and was partially separated from its mounts and the firewall. The propeller flange was bent and the crankshaft would not rotate. The propeller flange was partially straightened, and even though the crankshaft would not rotate freely, continuity was established to the accessory gears. There was also movement to several rocker arms. All of the pushrods and housings were in place, but had sustained impact and fire damage. The right magneto sparked when rotated by hand. The left magneto had impact and fire damage, and would not spark.
The propeller was separated from the crankshaft at the propeller flange. The propeller was found between the initial ground scar and the airplane wreckage. Both blades exhibited twisting and aft bending with chordwise scratches and nicks along their leading edges. One blade exhibited "S" type bending.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock, Arkansas, performed autopsies of the pilot and pilot rated passenger. There was no evidence found of any preexisting disease that could have contributed to the accident.
Toxicological testing on both the pilot and passenger was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute's (CAMI) Forensic Toxicology and Accident Research Center at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicological tests were negative for alcohol and drugs.
The aircraft wreckage was released to the owner's representative on April 18, 2000.