SEA00LA136
SEA00LA136

On July 18, 2000, approximately 0830 mountain daylight time, an Ercoupe 415-D, N93835, was consumed by fire after a hard landing at Ravalli County Airport, Hamilton, Montana. The student pilot, who was the sole occupant, succumbed to burn injuries about 48 hours after the accident. The aircraft, which was owned and operated by the pilot, was destroyed by the fire. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal pleasure flight is believed to have departed the pilots private airstrip near Missoula, Montana, about 20 minutes prior to the accident. No flight plan had been filed, and there was no report of an ELT activation. The flight was being conducted in visual meteorological conditions.

According to numerous pilot-rated witnesses, when the aircraft turned onto final, it had a quartering tailwind of about 10 knots, was landing against the flow of other traffic, and was established at a much lower altitude than would normally be expected. As the aircraft approached the end of the runway, it appeared to dramatically increase its rate of descent and drop onto the runway very hard. According to the FAA Airworthiness inspectors who responded to the scene, the impact was hard enough to collapse the nose gear, damage the firewall, shatter the gasculator bowl, fracture a fuel line fitting, and result in the aircraft bouncing back into the air. It bounced at least 20 feet back into the air, impacted the runway a second time, whereupon flames were seen coming from the belly of the aircraft near the firewall. By the time the aircraft slid to a stop, most of the fuselage was engulfed in flames. Although the pilot was able to exit the aircraft unassisted, he suffered significant thermal injuries during the accident sequence.

The individual piloting the aircraft had been issued a student pilot certificate/third class medical on May 1, 2000, about 75 days prior to the accident, but according to family members had not received instruction in an airplane for at least 20 years. He did not have a current endorsement to fly an airplane solo. He had accumulated about 100 hours of ultralight flying time, but had not flown in the subject aircraft since he purchased it about a month before the accident. According to family members, the pilot was planning to take flying lessons from an instructor at Ravalli County Airport, and they suspect that this flight was his attempt to reposition the aircraft to that location.

A post-accident inspection of the aircraft revealed no evidence of anomalies or malfunctions in the operation of the engine or the flight control system.

By request of the pilot's relatives, no autopsy or toxicological study was performed on his remains.

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