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On June 11, 2002, at 0940 mountain daylight time (mdt), a Galbraith Piel Emeraude, N71PE, owned and piloted by a commercial pilot, was destroyed when it impacted terrain following a loss of power and subsequent loss of control while practicing touch and goes. The airplane was on takeoff climb from runway 19 (4,505 feet by 100 feet, dry/asphalt) at Hot Springs Municipal Airport (HSR), Hot Springs, South Dakota. The pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan.
According to an eyewitness, the aircraft departed HSR heading southbound. He stated that the aircraft was approximately 200 - 300 feet above ground level (agl) when he saw the left wing dip and then stabilize. He reported that 15 - 30 seconds later the aircraft made a sharp right turn followed by approximately one and a half turns before impacting the field.
Another witness reported that he observed the aircraft doing touch and go landings prior to the accident. He stated that the aircraft had departed the south end of the runway and was approximately one half mile from the airport when he saw a white streak behind the airplane. The witness reported that the aircraft appeared to turn back to the airport. According to the witness, the engine noise decreased and the aircraft went nose down, impacting the ground.
The 78 year old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and multi-engine land ratings. The pilot was also the holder of a flight instructor certificate for single engine land and multi-engine land aircraft, which was renewed on March 3, 2002. The pilot held an airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate with active status. The pilot's last medical examination was conducted on July 9, 2001, and he was issued a second-class medical certificate with no limitations or restrictions. The pilot reported his total flight time was 17,000 hours during his last medical examination. The pilot had heart by-pass surgery on April 3, 2002.
The aircraft was an amateur-built Galbraith Piel Emeraude, serial number 1035. The Galbraith Piel Emeraude was a fixed wing single engine aircraft designed by Claude Piel. The construction materials were wood and fabric. The Galbraith Piel Emeraude had cantilevered low wings of elliptical plan form, and was powered by a Lycoming O-290 engine rated at 140 horsepower. The landing gear was a fixed tailwheel and the tail was a swept configuration. The accident airplane was configured to accommodate two in side-by-side seats.
The accident airplane was maintained with an annual inspection on August 5, 2001 and August 6, 2001. At the time of the inspection, the aircraft had 1534.7 hours of total time. It had accumulated a total time of 1547.7 hours at the time of the accident and 13 hours since the annual inspection.
The weather observation station located at RAP recorded the weather at approximately 13 minutes after the accident as:
Observation Time: 0953 mdt
Wind: 010degrees magnetic at 9 knots
Visibility: 10 statute miles
Sky Condition: clear
Temperature: 18 degrees centigrade
Dew Point: -1 degrees centigrade
Pressure: 29.97 inches of mercury
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft came to a rest less than one-fourth of a mile from the departure end of runway 19 at the Hot Springs Municipal Airport. The aircraft impacted nose down in a dry, flat hayfield. The leading edge was found crushed nearly perpendicular to the ground at approximately a 90 degree angle. There was no tail damage and the main landing gear was firmly attached to the spars and the outboard wing portions. Cable continuity was established for all flight controls. The engine did not exhibit continuity and crush damage was apparent. The propeller was broken off at the flange, but no damage was found.
An engine teardown was performed at the Fall River County maintenance yard on June 13, 2002. The number three cylinder did not have compression. All valve covers were removed and valve action was normal. The number three cylinder was removed and the connecting rod was found broken at the crank journal. One of the connecting rod bolts was fractured in two. The nut was still attached to the bolt. One of the connecting rod bolts was found bent at an approximate 20 degree angle. The corresponding connecting rod nut was found in the oil sump and it was broken in several pieces.
The number three cylinder connecting rod cap, two sections of the connecting rod, and the two rod bolts and nuts, were sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory Division in Washington, D.C. for examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGIAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed by the Clinical Laboratory of the Black Hills in Rapid City, South Dakota.
A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. The results indicated:
No carbon monoxide detected in the blood.
No cyanide detected in the blood.
No ethanol detected in the urine.
Metoprolol detected in the blood and urine.
Metoprolol is a "beta blocker" used in the treatment of hypertension and certain arrhythmias.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The NTSB Materials Laboratory Report indicated that the broken connecting rod bolt exhibited "significant necking approximately in the center of its length. The fracture features were rough with shear lips observed on the outer diameter. These features were consistent with tensile overstress."
The examination of the connecting rod sections revealed that both sections were "fractured at similar locations at the base radius of the bolt straps..…Portions of both fractures had thumbnail shapes and had arrest marks indicative of fatigue propogation."
The Federal Aviation Administration was a party to the investigation.