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On December 9, 2001, about 1439 Pacific standard time, an amateur built Rominger, Zic Zac Bird, N204ED, owned and operated by the pilot-builder, experienced an in-flight breakup while on approach to runway 29 at the Marina Municipal Airport, Marina, California. A witness reported observing a wing separate from the airplane during the airplane's roll out turn onto the final approach leg. Thereafter, the airplane descended into an open field. The airplane was destroyed, and the private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the personal flight, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight was performed under 14 CFR Part 91, and it originated from Marina about 1432.
A witness observed the accident. The witness worked as a corporate pilot and was an acquaintance of the accident pilot. The witness stated that the wing separation occurred during a normal appearing turn toward runway 29, about 800 feet above ground level. Thereafter, the airplane entered a vertical dive, rolled, and descended until he lost sight of it behind trees. The witness additionally reported that he believed the airframe's total time was between 5 and 15 hours.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicate that the accident pilot fabricated and assembled the airplane. The FAA reported that the airplane had conventional landing gear and a single seat, and that it was principally constructed from wood and fabric components. The airplane was equipped with a 65-horsepower Volkswagen engine, with a fixed pitch wood propeller.
On September 25, 2001, the FAA issued the airplane a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the Experimental Category. The stated purpose of the certificate was for operating amateur homebuilt aircraft.
According to the pilot's records, he first flew the airplane on November 10, 2001. Thereafter, he flew it on November 13, 14, 17, and 18.
His next logged flight was on November 27. The pilot's flight record on this date indicates "fuel leaks" were noted. The fatal accident occurred during the next flight, by which time the airplane's total flight time was about 4.8 hours.
An FAA certificated airplane mechanic reported that he was aware of a recent incident with the accident airplane in which it ground looped on landing. During the event, the right main landing gear had been bent. Also, the right wing tip was contacted, and one side of the propeller blade was broken. Following this event, a fuel leak was noted. The mechanic further stated that on several occasions he had spoken with the accident pilot about the mishap. The pilot stated to the mechanic that he was working on the fuel leak and was attempting to fix it.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. His total logged flight time was about 465 hours.
The pilot's son reported that his father designed the airplane and it was a "one of a kind" airplane. The airplane was constructed for personal reasons, and the pilot planned to compete for various speed and climb performance records for airplanes having gross weights less than 660 pounds.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was found about 1 mile east-southeast of the airport in an open field, near the intersection of Blanco Road and Reservation Road, in Marina. The airplane's empennage, with its vertical and horizontal stabilizers and attached elevators and rudder assembly, was found connected to the aft portion of the fuselage. The fuselage, including the entire cockpit, was destroyed and was fragmented. The left wing was found impact damaged and was located next to the main wreckage.
The right wing was found about 1/4-mile east-northeast of the main wreckage. There was no fire.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
According to the FAA, the right wing spar was found broken. An examination of the wing structure revealed preimpact evidence of a fuel leak. Styrofoam-like material was noted to have been used inside the wing. Unlike the Styrofoam inside the left wing that was white in appearance, the Styrofoam in the right wing was pink, the color of fuel. The FAA reported to the Safety Board investigator that the preimpact integrity of the wing appeared compromised by a combination of its light weight structure and the fuel leak.
The FAA reported that it had no record of the previous ground loop mishap in which structural damage occurred to the airplane. No documentation of the repairs has been found. Also, the FAA indicated that the quality of some of the materials used in the airplane's construction was "questionable."
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot's third-class aviation medical certificate was issued in June 2001. An autopsy was performed by the Monterey County Sheriff-Coroner, 1414 Natividad Road, Salinas, California 93906. Toxicological tests were performed by the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory. No drugs or ethanol were found.
The National Transportation Safety Board did not take custody of the wreckage. No parts have been retained.