On August 8, 2000, about 0850 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Eachon Time Warp Spitfire 9, N355DE, registered to a private individual, impacted with the ground during takeoff from Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Lakeland, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight. The airplane was destroyed. The commercial-rated pilot was fatally injured. The flight was originating at the time. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
This was the first flight of this airplane after being built, and was to be a test flight. Witnesses saw the airplane depart from runway 9, climb at a steep nose high attitude to an altitude of about 150 to 200 feet above the ground, fall flat to the ground, impacting right side up, and flat.
The NTSB investigator-in-charge reviewed videotape that was made by a relative of the pilot, and is being held as evidence by the Lakeland Police Department. The tape shows N355DE during a high-speed taxi test and then returning to the hangar area. Several people greeted the pilot when he returned to the hangar. In a conversation with the people at the hangar, the pilot said he was having difficulty in getting the tail up. He told the people present, "...it's a bugger back there," referring to the tail coming up. In addition he said, "...I should have more elevator authority."
According to the FAA inspector's statement, "...a review of all witness statements, and a...video tape...indicate that the subject aircraft may have been overweight or tail heavy, or perhaps both. Inspection of the wreckage revealed no apparent airframe failure. The control surfaces were heavily coated with bondo to smooth them out. A piece of bondo was chipped from the aileron that measured 3/16 of an inch thick. The flight controls were weighed...the right aileron weighed 20 pounds, the right elevator weighed 15 pounds, and the rudder weighed 27 pounds...the advertisement on the internet site listed the empty weight at 1,300 pounds...gross weight at 2,000 pounds. The actual weight shown for certification was empty weight 1,779 pounds...gross weight 2,400 pounds. It has not been determined how the [pilot/builder] established these numbers...the videotape...includes a sequence where the [pilot/builder] is interviewed after initial taxi tests...the [pilot/builder] states that he had the speed up to 70 knots and the stick full forward and the tail would not come up. When questioned about this, the [pilot/builder] stated that the aircraft may need a larger horizontal stabilizer and elevator to attain sufficient elevator authority. No work to correct this problem was accomplished prior to the attempted flight."
Continuity was established through the elevator cables, but the tail section and cables were cut to extract the pilot from the wreckage. Control continuity was established to all the flight controls.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Dr. Alexander Melamud performed an autopsy on the pilot, on August 8, 2000, at the Polk County Medical Examiner's Office, Lakeland, Florida. According to the autopsy report, "...Cause of death: Multiple injuries. "
Toxicological tests were conducted at the Federal Aviation Administration, Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and revealed, "No ethanol or drugs detected."