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On July 3, 2000, about 1223 Eastern Daylight Time, a Champion 7GCAA, N8384V, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain at the Lakewood Airport (N12), Lakewood, New Jersey. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local banner-tow flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight departed N12 about 1210, and picked up a banner about 1220.
While the pilot was conducting the banner-tow flight, he was progressing with his supervised training for banner-tow operations. He was due to be observed by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector on July 5, 2000, at the completion of his training. As part of the training, he was in radio contact with an employee of the operator, located on the ground near the pick-up area. The employee provided guidance and supervision to the pilot per the training curriculum.
A witness, who was also towing a banner, was monitoring the communication frequency. After the pilot picked up the banner, the witness heard him report that he had a full right rudder deflection. The employee on the ground advised the pilot to land. Moments later, an unintelligible transmission was heard over the radio.
Another witness, who was walking toward a hangar, observed the airplane making a left turn back toward the airport, consistent with a left downwind and base leg pattern for Runway 24. While flying a track consistent with the left base leg, the airplane "stall[ed] to the left" and struck the ground.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight: located approximately 40 degrees, 04.11 minutes north longitude; and 74 degrees, 10.34 minutes west latitude. The accident site was approximately 32 feet above mean-sea-level.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. Although his logbook was never recovered, the pilot had provided the operator with a copy of an excerpt from his logbook when he began employment. The most recent entry was dated May 22, 2000. At that time, the pilot reported a total flight experience of approximately 505 hours.
The operator estimated that at the time of the accident, the pilot had approximately 515 hours of total flight experience; of which, about 10 hours were conducting banner-tow flights in the accident airplane.
The operator added that during training, the pilot had to be reminded to verify the banner-tow rope was not entangled before picking up a banner. According to the operator, banner-tow rope entanglements was addressed during training, and it was possible for pilots to control and land airplanes under that situation.
The pilot's most recent FAA second class medical certificate was issued on July 14, 1999, with a restriction for corrective lenses.
The last annual inspection of the airplane was completed on June 20, 2000.
The airplane was configured with a single seat, and dual flight instruction was not possible. The airplane was not equipped with a stall warning device.
The wreckage was examined at the accident site on July 3rd and 4th, 2000. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage was located in a dirt field adjacent to a taxiway. It was intact, inverted, and oriented about a 170-degree heading. A small impact crater was located about 20 feet to the west of the wreckage.
The cockpit area was crushed, and part of the instrument panel was destroyed. Both fuel tanks were compromised, and witnesses stated fuel leaked from the airplane. The dirt in the vicinity of the airplane was discolored, and contained an odor similar to 100LL aviation fuel.
The right wing exhibited impact damage along the leading edge. Crush lines and compression wrinkles were visible on the bottom section of the wing. The right aileron was deflected downward. Flight control continuity was established from the aileron control surface to the control stick.
The left wing exhibited impact damage along the leading edge. On the bottom of the wing, crush lines formed at an angle to the leading edge. The left aileron was deflected upward. Flight control continuity was established from the aileron control surface to the control stick.
The aft section of the fuselage, and empennage, were twisted and canted to the left. Flight control continuity was established from the elevator, elevator trim, and rudder to the cockpit area. The elevator trim tab was broken, and deflected downward. The rudder was equipped with a fixed trim device.
Below the rudder, the airplane was equipped with an assembly for banner towing. The assembly was field approved by a FAA inspector, and consisted of three separate hooks to carry banner-tow ropes. The middle hook was in the "release" position, but the rope was observed entangled around the rudder horn, and the banner was still attached to the airplane.
One propeller blade exhibited chordwise scratching, and the other blade exhibited "s" bending. Due to impact damage, the bottom spark plug of the number one cylinder could not be removed. The other seven spark plugs were removed and inspected. Their electrodes were intact, and light gray in color. The valve covers were removed, and oil was present. The crankshaft was rotated by hand. Crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity was confirmed; and thumb compression was attained on all four cylinders.
The right magneto was rotated by hand, and produced a spark at all four leads. Two of the four wires from the left magneto were observed cut. When rotated by hand, the left magneto produced a spark at the two intact leads and one of the cut leads. The fourth spark was observed at the tower.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy on the pilot was performed by the Ocean County Medical Examiner's Office, Ocean County, New Jersey.
Toxicological testing was conducted at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on July 4, 2000.