On August 25, 2002, at 1600 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Genesis, N51XT, was destroyed while approaching Grant County Airport (W99), Petersburg, West Virginia. The certificated private pilot/owner sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport (MFD), Mansfield, Ohio, at 1251. No flight plan was filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
A witness reported that she was outside her home, about one-quarter mile from the Grant County Airport, when she heard the airplane approach. She heard the engine operating, then it stopped, then operated again. When the airplane passed over her house, the engine was completely stopped.
The airplane glided over her property and just cleared wires at her property line, when the nose "dropped" and the airplane descended vertically into a cornfield.
An officer with the West Virginia Department of Resources reported that when he responded to the site, there was no odor of fuel or evidence of fuel spillage at the scene.
During a telephone interview, the builder, who was also the previous owner of the airplane, stated that he had recently sold it to the pilot. He also stated that prior to the purchase, the pilot had never flown it, nor had he ever flown any other Genesis airplane.
The builder also said that when the pilot purchased the airplane, they discussed numerous options for him to transport it from Wisconsin to the pilot's home in Virginia. They discussed flight instruction in the airplane for the pilot, and having an instructor accompany the pilot on the flight to Virginia. Eventually, the pilot decided to hire a ferry pilot to fly the airplane from Outagamie Regional Airport (ATW), Appleton, Wisconsin, to Louisa County Airport (LKU), Louisa, Virginia.
The ferry pilot departed Appleton on August 3, 2002. On August 4, 2002, he landed at Mansfield and parked the airplane. The ferry pilot decided not to continue the flight. A review of e-mail correspondence and conversations with the builder revealed that the ferry pilot was uncomfortable with the airplane due to perceived electrical problems and his lack of understanding of the airplane's fuel system. The electrical problem was resolved when a tripped circuit breaker was reset.
After discussions with the builder, the pilot/owner traveled to Mansfield to meet with a flight instructor, and get "checked out" in the airplane, or have the flight instructor accompany him on the flight to Louisa.
On August 24, 2002, the flight instructor serviced the airplane with 15 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline, which filled the tanks. To familiarize himself with the airplane, he taxied it back and forth, and performed several takeoffs and landings. The flight instructor stated that the brakes were "weak", and the communication radios were essentially inoperative. The flight instructor ran the engine continuously for about one hour while he attempted to troubleshoot the radios and brakes, and performed various maneuvers
On August 25, 2002, the pilot called a mechanic at home, and asked if the mechanic could service the brakes and help troubleshoot the radios. The mechanic explained that there was an extra charge for responding on a Sunday, but the pilot was unconcerned about the cost because "he was in a hurry."
The mechanic completed the brake service, but could only repair or replace the radios the following day. The pilot declined the options, and reiterated that he was in a hurry. According to the mechanic, the pilot appeared to be unfamiliar with the airplane.
Later, the pilot met with the flight instructor, and discussed the hours required for a checkout in the airplane. The flight instructor asked the pilot if he had familiarized himself with the airplane's Pilot Operating Handbook, and the pilot responded, "I'm looking at it now." Because the airplane repairs conflicted with the instructor's schedule, the pilot declined the flight instruction, and departed Mansfield at 1251.
Conversation with the mechanic and a review of air traffic control records revealed that the pilot taxied and ran the airplane for about 45 minutes prior to takeoff. An examination of fuel records revealed that the pilot did not service the airplane with fuel prior to his departure.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the airplane at the site on August 26, 2002. He found the airplane in a cornfield about 500 feet southwest of the runway. The main fuel tank was "split open," and there was no odor of fuel or evidence of fuel spillage at the scene. There was a small amount of fuel in the auxiliary fuel tank.
The airplane had a fuel capacity of 23.5 gallons; 13.5 gallons in the main tank, and 10 gallons in the auxiliary tank. According to the builder, the average fuel consumption rate for the airplane was 5 gallons per hour.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, single engine sea, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration third class medical certificate was issued January 9, 2001.
According to FAA Advisory Circular AC-20-27D, Certification and Operation of Amateur-Built Aircraft: "FAA inspections of amateur-built aircraft have been limited to ensuring the use of acceptable workmanship methods, techniques, practices, and issuing operating limitations necessary to protect persons and property not involved in this activity.
At 1556, the weather reported at Grant County Airport included clear skies with winds from 350 degrees at 5 knots.