LAX02LA072
LAX02LA072

On January 30, 2002, at 1340 hours Pacific standard time, a Canadian registered experimental Hillyer XL-RG Velocity, C-FPDL, impacted terrain near the MCAS Miramar airport at San Diego, California. The Canadian-certificated private pilot and United States private-certificated second pilot were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The local area, personal flight of the amateur-built airplane was operated by the owner under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at Montgomery Field Airport, San Diego, at 1254, and no flight plan was filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

The Safety Board investigator listened to a recording of the pilot's radio communication with Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar Tower. About 1335, the pilot contacted the tower while about 4 miles west of the airport and said: "Miramar tower this is Canadian papa delta lima with an emergency we've uh run out of fuel." The tower controller replied: "Canadian papa delta lima Miramar tower altimeter three zero one two wind two niner zero at one five runway 6 left cleared to land." There was a subsequent conversation between the tower and the pilot a few seconds later regarding the arresting gear in place on runway 6L during which the pilot said: "were just hoping we make the runway." The tower controller approved landing on the taxiway. The airplane subsequently impacted an embankment about 200 feet short of the runway 6L threshold in an open, grassy area.

An inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration San Diego Flight Standards District Office responded to the scene and reported finding only a small amount of fuel (less than 1 quart) in the aircraft. The fuel tanks were not breached. He also reported the airplane was last fueled December 13, 2001, at Montgomery Field.

The builder of the airplane, who said he instructed the pilot/owner in construction of the airplane, was present prior to departure of the accident flight. He said the airplane was equipped with an Electronics International fuel totalizer system that used capacitance type fuel quantity sensors and had been carefully calibrated and was quite accurate. It had a cockpit display showing fuel flow rate and gallons remaining (digital) and lighted segments to show individual tank quantity. The segments were green until below 1/4 tank, where they became red. The aircraft held 96 gallons fuel; the totalizer read full above 87 gallons, and when it read "empty" there was still 10 gallons usable fuel in the tank. There were two fuel tanks, one tank in each wing, from which fuel flowed by gravity to a fuselage header tank and from there to a dual electric boost pump and then to the engine driven pump. The airplane had fuel pickups at the rear and center of the tanks. It did not have the front pickup that came out as an option after this airplane was built.

Prior to the accident flight, the builder said that he observed the pilot use a plain, uncalibrated stick of wood to measure the fuel quantity during his preflight inspection of the aircraft. No fuel was added. He thought it odd that the pilot used the same, moistened, end of the same stick to measure the quantity in the second tank. The pilot commented they wouldn't be out very long, maybe 1 hour. The builder also asked if the pilot had his reading glasses with him in the accident. He said the pilot could not see well enough to read the instrument panel without near-vision glasses. He believed the flight departed between 1225 and 1235 as opposed to the reported 1254.

According to the builder, an engine fuel shutoff valve was repaired by the owner about 2 months prior. The owner/pilot had called saying that fuel was seeping past the valve while the airplane was parked and leaking onto the ground through a system drain. The builder said the valve in question was a certificated aircraft valve and that he told the owner he would have to change the seals inside. He said the owner did replace the seals with the assistance of the man who was the passenger in the accident, and who was a certificated aircraft mechanic. He said there were no further complaints about the fuel leak and the airplane had flown 2 hours since the seal replacement. He noted that the flights may not have been in the aircraft log because the owner/pilot sometimes didn't enter them until after several flights accumulated.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner reported no reading glasses were found with the pilot. The second pilot did not have any vision limitations on his medical certificate.

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