On March 15, 2002, about 1340 Pacific standard time, an amateur-built experimental Trenti RV-4, N491T, collided with terrain during an attempted landing at the Jacumba Airport, Jacumba, California. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed. The local personal flight departed Gillespie Field Airport, El Cajon, California, at 1323, with a planned destination of Jacumba. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector interviewed two witnesses to the accident. One witness reported seeing the airplane at a low altitude, flying just above the surrounding utility poles. She noted that the engine sounded different, not what she was accustomed to hearing an airplane engine sounding like. The other witness saw the airplane flying toward the airport in a southeast direction. He observed the airplane moving slowly, at a low altitude, and began a sharp right turn. About 20 feet above ground level, the right wing dropped and the airplane continued in the right turn until the right wing contacted the ground. The airplane cartwheeled along the terrain, and shortly after coming to rest, became engulfed in flames. He noted that he did not hear any abnormal engine sounds.

The FAA inspector also interviewed a deputy sheriff, who had seen the pilot landing the experimental airplane several times at Jacumba. He stated that the pilot normally made a high approach heading in an easterly direction, where he flies over his house and uses it as a landmark. The house is located northeast of the airport, about 1/4 to 1/3 mile from the runway.


A review of FAA airman records revealed that the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. He was issued a third-class medical certificate on May 08, 2001, with a limitation to wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision. According to the last medical certificate application, the pilot reported having accumulated a total of 1,690 hours of flight time. The FAA inspector reported that the pilot had accumulated 790 hours in the make and model. The pilot's logbook was not recovered during the investigation


An aviation routine weather report (METAR) generated by an Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) in Campo, California (located 15 nautical miles west from the accident site), indicated that about the time of the accident winds were 220 degrees at 13 knots gusting to 18 knots.


The FAA inspector reported that the wreckage was about 150 feet north of runway 25. He noted that the right wing tank burned, but the left wing tank remained intact.


The FAA inspector examined the wreckage at the accident site. He reported that the airplane had a Textron Lycoming O-320-E2A engine, serial number L-16988-27A, installed. Manual rotation of the crankshaft produced thumb compression of the cylinders, as well as valve train and accessory gear continuity of the engine. The spark plug electrodes and ignition leads were in good condition.

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