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On June 26, 2002, at 0838 central daylight time, a BAR/Curtiss JN-4D, N38057, collided with power lines and the terrain following a loss of control shortly after takeoff from the Owatonna Degner Regional Airport (OWA), Owatonna, Minnesota. The takeoff was made on the grass, which parallels the taxiway in the direction of runway 30. The pilot was fatally injured and the front seat passenger received serious injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan. The flight originated from the airport just prior to the accident.
The passenger reported that he does not have any recall of the accident. He stated that the pilot, who is also the airplane owner, contacted him on the morning of the accident and asked him to the get the airplane ready to fly. The passenger stated that he got the airplane out of the hangar and refueled it. He reported the pilot arrived at the airport and flew the airplane once around the traffic pattern. The passenger stated that the pilot then asked him if he wanted to go for a ride since he had helped build the airplane. The passenger stated that the last thing he remembers is getting into the airplane.
A witness reported that the pilot departed in N38057, flew around the traffic pattern once then landed. The witness stated that the pilot did not shut the engine down while the passenger got into the front seat of the airplane. The witness stated that the airplane then departed and he looked away for a short time. When he looked back he saw the airplane in what appeared to be an 80 degree left bank turn. He reported it looked like the airplane was not climbing, but rather was in a level turn just above the treetops. He reported the airplane then entered a steep nose down attitude, rotated to the left, and went straight down.
Another witness reported seeing the airplane when the pilot flew it solo around the traffic pattern. He reported that there was nothing unusual about the flight and the airplane was about 500 to 800 feet above the ground.
The pilot, age 78, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, airplane single engine sea, airplane multi-engine land, and airplane instrument ratings. In addition, he held rotorcraft and glider aero tow ratings. The pilot's last medical certificate was for a third class medical dated June 10, 1979. The certificate contained the limitation "must wear corrective lenses."
Pilot logbook records were not located. The pilot's wife stated that he did not believe that he kept any recent logbooks. At the time of his last medical in 1979, the pilot reported having 3,400 hours of flight time.
The airplane, a BAR/Curtiss JN-4D, serial number B-010, was a replica of a 1917 bi-wing Curtiss Jenny. The pilot's company, Born Again Restorations, built the airplane. An overhauled, 90 horsepower, liquid cooled, Curtiss OX-5 engine powered the airplane.
The airplane was issued a Special Airworthiness Certificate for the experimental airplane on May 1, 2002, along with the Experimental Operating Limitations.
The aircraft logbook contained two entries. The first is dated April 16, 2002, which states in part "I certify that this aircraft has been inspected on 04-16-02 in accordance with the scope and detail of CFR 43, appendix D and found to be in a condition for safe operation. Aircraft time in service is zero." The second entry was for the issuance of the airworthiness certificate.
The engine logbook contained one entry dated April 16, 2002. This entry stated that the engine had been inspected in accordance with a 100-hour inspection.
The passenger reported that he had worked with several other people to build the Jenny, and it was completed in November or early December 2001. He stated that the airplane had been flown approximately 5 times prior the accident, the last time being in December. The passenger stated that the entire airplane was new with the exception of some nuts and bolts, and the engine, which had just been overhauled. He stated that the engine had been running fine and in his opinion, the airplane was just underpowered to recover if it stalled at a low altitude.
Another person who helped build the airplane stated that it took them approximately 10 years to complete the airplane. He reported that it had been flown only twice since it was completed, with the first flight being in December 2001. He reported that after that flight the pilot, who was also the accident pilot, was asked how the airplane handled. The pilot responded with "don't change a thing."
According to personnel who were involved with building N38057, it was built as close as possible to an original Jenny. The airplane was not equipped with radios. Both the front and rear seats had flight controls, but all instrumentation was in the rear. The airplane was equipped with new seatbelts and no shoulder harnesses were installed.
The aviation routine weather report (METAR) at OWA showed the following weather conditions existed at 0838.
Wind: 310 degrees magnetic at 3 knots
Visibility: 5 statute miles with mist
Sky Condition: 700 feet scattered
Temperature: 23 degrees centigrade
Dew Point: 21 degree centigrade
Altimeter: 29.87 inches of mercury
The field elevation at OWA is 1,146 feet. The density altitude at the time of accident was approximately 2,425 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located on the east side of NW 32nd Avenue, (Airport Road) approximately 1 mile west of OWA. A global positioning system (GPS) receiver recorded the position of the airplane as 44-degrees 07.463' north latitude, 93-degrees 16.377' west longitude.
The lower left wing contacted power lines during the descent. The airplane came to rest in an approximate 45-degree nose down attitude, just under the power lines. Although damaged, the airplane was relatively intact.
Inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Minneapolis Flight Standards District Office inspected the wreckage. They reported that they were able to establish flight control continuity from the rear seat controls to the control surfaces. The inspector was informed that the front seat controls were intact, but had been disconnected when the airplane was removed from the accident site.
Inspection of the engine by the FAA inspectors revealed the engine rotated freely by hand. All the spark plugs were removed and found to be clean. Thumb compression was achieved on all cylinders when the engine was turned by hand. The magneto and all eight spark plug leads produced spark when the magneto was turned by hand. The carburetor had sustained impact damage, but fuel remained in the bowl.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, on June 27, 2002.
The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, prepared a Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report. The toxicology results for the pilot were negative for all tests performed with the exception of Diphenhydramine, which was found in the blood and urine, and Acetaminophen, which was found in the urine.
Acetaminophen is a common over the counter analgesic commonly found in Tylenol, decongestants and antihistamines. Diphenhydramine is a common over the counter antihistamine.
Phase I of the Experimental Operating Limitations issued to N38057, stated "This aircraft shall be operated for at least 5 hours with at least 5 takeoffs and landings (to a full stop) and shall be conducted within 50 nautical miles of Owatonna Degner Regional Airport as shown on the attached Flight Test Chart chart." It continues to state, "No person may be carried in this aircraft during flight unless that person is essential to the purpose of the flight."