On February 4, 2001, about 1350 hours Pacific standard time, an amateur-built experimental Sutton Tailwind W-8L, N12079, was destroyed when it collided with terrain while maneuvering 20 miles north of Reno, Nevada. The commercial pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot and one passenger, who was his son, sustained fatal injuries. The personal flight departed the Reno Stead Airport about 1330. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The accident's coordinates were 39 degrees 50.347 minutes north latitude and 119 degrees 44.828 minutes west longitude. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to witnesses interviewed by the Washoe County Sheriff's Office, the airplane was engaged in aerobatic maneuvers at the time of the accident and impacted the ground during a roll. Several witnesses observed the airplane maneuvering at low altitude and estimated the airplane's height at 50 feet prior to commencing the roll. One witness said he did not hear any noise that would indicate engine trouble.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accident coordinator inspected the wreckage, and established control continuity. The control yoke was U-shaped. Each pilot position, left and right, had a single handle in front of it. These handles connected to a common shaft in the middle of the cabin. The right handle fractured and separated near its base. The passenger was in the right seat and remained in the wreckage. The left handle bent straight out to the left and twisted counterclockwise. The pilot was outside of the airplane on the left side. The pilot's right hand was lacerated in the palm near the thumb. There was no fire.
The FAA coordinator interviewed the pilot's brother. The brother flew the airplane earlier in the day. Seventeen gallons of fuel were added after that flight. The brother reported that he did not experience any difficulties with the airplane or engine.
The FAA coordinator reviewed the airplane's records. The kit builder's plans indicated that the airplane was not designed for aerobatics.
A safety investigator for Textron Lycoming, who manufactured the engine components, inspected the engine under the supervision of the FAA accident coordinator. He reported that the propeller fractured and separated from the crankshaft, and the crankshaft was bent and twisted at the fracture surface. He could not manually rotate the engine. He performed a borescope inspection of the cylinders. He observed no mechanical damage to the pistons, valves, or interior of the cylinders. The spark plugs showed no sign of mechanical damage, and the color of the electrodes corresponded to normal operation according to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug AV-27 Chart. He observed no discrepancies that would have precluded normal operation of the engine.