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On November 30, 2002, approximately 1045 Pacific standard time, an amphibious homebuilt Caron Seawind 3000, N313FC, recently registered to, and operated by a private pilot, who was accompanied by a commercial pilot, was destroyed during collision with terrain in an uncontrolled descent following a loss of control in flight. The aircraft crashed in heavily wooded terrain three nautical miles north-northeast of Bryant, Washington. A post-crash fire destroyed much of the aircraft. Visual meteorological conditions existed and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was being conducted to test the aircraft and afford the owner/builder flight experience in the aircraft, was operated under 14CFR91, and originated from Paine Field, Everett, Washington, where the aircraft underwent final assembly. The aircraft was cleared for takeoff from Paine Field at 1014 on the morning of the accident.
Several witnesses located in the vicinity of the accident site reported observing the aircraft prior to the accident. The witnesses reported the following:
Witness #1 was located approximately one nautical mile north northeast of the crash site. He reported hearing the aircraft coming up from the direction of Arlington (from the south) and observed the aircraft "...bank[ed] over to the left and start[ed] a tight spiral...." He estimated the aircraft's altitude about 3,000 feet, climbing steadily and reported that its engine sounded like it was "laboring." He further reported that the pilot "...could not maintain power..." and the spirals became "bigger" throughout the descent until he lost sight of the aircraft due to trees. When asked to describe the spiral maneuver in greater detail he reported that the "...spiral started tight and he quickle [sic] turned 3 or 4 times, then he enlarged the spiral getting wider and wider..." (refer to attached Statement W-I).
Witness #2 was located approximately 2,000 feet south of the crash site. He reported that he heard the aircraft, looked over at it and noted that it was traveling east estimating its altitude as about 3,000 feet. He diverted his attention away from the aircraft and then heard the engine "quit," at which time he looked back and observed the aircraft "...making a clockwise turn and the nose was about 30 to 40 [degrees] down...." He further commented that "...it sounded like he was trying to start it..." and that as the aircraft headed west the nose came up and the aircraft entered another clockwise circle with the wings rocking about the longitudinal axis. He continued, reporting that when the aircraft was about three quarters through the third circle the nose went down and "...I knew he was going to hit..." (refer to attached Statement W-II).
Witness #3 was located approximately 2,000 feet northeast of the crash site. He reported that while working outside he "...heard 2 distinctive short 'burbs' (not drawn out sputtering)..." at which time he looked up and observed the aircraft slightly northwest of his location engaged in a slow, clockwise spiral. He reported that about five seconds later he hear a distinct, loud "pop" and the aircraft "...began a faster downward spiral almost straight down...." He continued, reporting that several seconds later the aircraft "...seemed to decrease the angle of descent & slow down..." as it continued its clockwise downward spiral. He indicated that at this point the aircraft was "angling" toward the crash site (tracking roughly southwest) at which time the aircraft disappeared behind trees/terrain (refer to attached Statement W-III).
A 4th witness located five miles north of Arlington provided a statement to the Snohomish County Sheriff's department. She reported in part, hearing the sound of an airplane engine "...spitting - going out - then back on again..." and then looked up and saw a white airplane spiraling down (refer to attached Statement W-IV).
None of the witnesses reported seeing anything depart the aircraft nor did they report seeing any smoke from the aircraft during their observations.
The pilot/builder possessed a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and sea ratings. According to his "Airman Rating Application" for a single-engine sea rating, dated August 29, 1998, he reported a total of 1,570 hours of flight experience of which 1,510 were reported as pilot-in-command. His most recent FAA medical, dated July 1, 2002, showed a total of 1,670 hours of flight experience and he received a Class 3 medical certificate with a restriction the he "must wear corrective lenses." According to the Snohomish County Sheriff's report, this occupant was found in the left seat position of the accident wreckage.
The test pilot possessed a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and sea, multi-engine land, and instrument ratings. Additionally, he possessed a flight instructor certificate with an airplane single-engine rating. He also held an advanced ground instructor certificate and an airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate.
According to an itemization of ratings, qualifications and flight time for insurance purposes, dated September 1, 2002, he reported a total of 9,000 hours of flight experience of which 150 hours were in the Seawind model aircraft. His most recent FAA medical, dated October 11, 2001, showed a total of 9,000 hours of flight experience and he received a Class 2 medical certificate with a restriction the he "must wear corrective lenses." According to the Snohomish County Sheriff's report, this occupant was found in the right seat position of the accident wreckage.
N313FC, a homebuilt Seawind 3000 serial number 57, was a single engine, mid-wing, four place experimentally certificated amphibious aircraft. Each outboard wingtip terminated in a downward curved sponson for stable water operations. The Lycoming IO-540-K1G5D engine was mounted on a pylon that extended forward of the upper third of the large, delta shaped vertical stabilizer, and was equipped with a three-blade, variable pitch Hartzell propeller. The cabin was accessed via a clamshell canopy that opened up and aft on rear hinges. The performance specifications for the Seawind 3000 available on the kit plane's website provided specifications including a clean stall speed of 72 miles per hour (64 knots) (refer to Graphic Image I and attachment SS-I).
According to documentation provided to the FAA and associated with the pilot/builder's "Application for Airworthiness Certificate," the aircraft's total airframe time on November 8, 2002, was logged as 0.0 hours. An acquaintance of the pilot/builder who was also familiar with the ongoing flight testing of the aircraft spoke with him on the morning of November 29th, and was told that the aircraft had accrued approximately 12 hours of flight time. The acquaintance provided a general history of problems he was aware of with the aircraft during the flight testing. Among these were a lack of fuel flow from the right wing tank, a repair of a fuel leak in the right wing root area, a second occasion whereby there was no fuel flow from the right tank, and a loss of power which was restored with the application of rich mixture and application of the fuel boost pump (refer to attachment H-I).
Records provided by Fliteline Services, the operator of a self-service fueling facility at both Paine Field (PAE) and Arlington Municipal airport (AWO), showed that the pilot/builder purchased 100 low lead aviation fuel on five occasions as noted below:
DATE: TIME: QUANTITY: LOCATION:
04NOV02 12:35PM 15.00 gal PAE self serve
08NOV02 3:28PM 45.36 gal PAE self serve
12NOV02 2:45PM 30.01 gal PAE self serve
20NOV02 3:13PM 61.74 gal AWO self serve
29NOV02 3:06PM 49.77 gal AWO self serve
There was no indication that the aircraft was fueled after the 29NOV02 fueling and it was not known whether the "refueling from cans" on the morning of November 29th was fuel acquired from either of these pump facilities or another source (refer to attachment H-I). The amount of fuel the aircraft had upon departure on the accident flight was believed to be not less than approximately 49.77 gallons (~292 pounds).
According to the previously referenced documentation provided to the FAA, the aircraft's basic empty weight (BEW) was 2,457 pounds and its maximum gross takeoff weight was 3,400 pounds. The aircraft had 30 pounds of ballast installed (in addition to the BEW) and the documentation showed the forward and aft center of gravity (CG) limits to be 136.2 and 144.5 inches respectively (refer to attachment WB-I). The aircraft weight and balance documentation, along with the minimum (takeoff) fuel weight (from above) provide the following:
ITEM WEIGHT ARM STN MOMENT
BEW 2547 152.44 388265
PILOT (1) 195 84 16380
PILOT (2) 220 84 18480
FUEL 292 137 40004
BALLAST 30 6 180
TOTALS 3284 141.08 463309
The aviation surface weather observation taken at Arlington airport for 1035 on the morning of the accident reported the following conditions:
Winds calm, skies clear, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature/dew point 04/03 degrees Celsius, and the altimeter was 30.16 inches of mercury. The observation taken 20 minutes later was the same with the exception of the temperature increasing to 05 degrees Celsius.
The observation reporting site was seven nautical miles south of the accident site and was located 137 feet above mean seal level.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft crashed in wooded terrain approximately three nautical miles north northeast of Bryant, Washington. The accident site coordinates were determined using a hand held GPS unit and were found to be 48 degrees 16.485 minutes north latitude and 122 degrees 06.913 minutes west longitude. The elevation of the accident site was approximately 650 feet MSL (refer to CHART I).
The remains of the aircraft were observed impacted in the ground in an area bounded by a tight cluster of five mature, deciduous trees. The wreckage was observed nested in between the tree bases and a post crash fire had consumed all of the aircraft with the exception of the left and right outboard wingtips/sponsons, the engine/propeller, portions of the engine pylon and support structure, miscellaneous heavy components, and the very forward portion of the cockpit which was embedded several feet into the soil at the ground impact site (refer to photographs 1 and 2 as well as Supplement I). The approximate magnetic bearing line of the wing spar was 140/320 degrees (right wing northwest) with the engine/pylon located slightly southwest of the center point of this line (refer to photographs 3 and 4). The right sponson was observed at the site such that the right wing's chordline was nearly vertical (perpendicular to the surface of the earth).
One of the five tree's upper trunk section (approximately 75 feet above ground) was observed broken off (refer to photograph 5). There was no other significant evidence of tree strikes or limb breaks with any of the remaining trees around the ground impact site. Prominent slash marks or cuts were observed along the lower trunk of an adjacent tree beginning about 25 feet above ground progressing downward (refer to photograph 6). The distance between the slash marks was measured beginning with the base of the uppermost mark. The distance between the first and second marks was 25 inches, the distance between the second and third marks was 29.5 inches and the distance between the third and fourth marks was 53 inches (refer to photograph 7).
On site examination of what remained of the aircraft revealed no evidence of a control discontinuity with the flight controls or powerplant. There was no evidence of any major missing components from the aircraft at the site. The engine, which sustained extensive fire damage, was observed separated from its pylon structure and was lying inverted on the ground with the accessory section facing opposite to the pylon structure (refer to photographs 8, 9 and 10). The propeller, which also sustained extensive fire damage, remained attached to the engine with one blade loose within the hub assembly and all three blades displaying varying amounts of bending deformation (refer to photograph 11). One blade displayed numerous chordwise scratch marks running between the leading and trailing edges.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Norman Thiersch, M.D., conducted post-mortem examination of both pilots at the facilities of the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office, Everett, Washington, on December 2, 2002, (case numbers SCME 02SN2000 and 02SN1999).
The FAA's Toxicology Accident and Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma conducted toxicological evaluation of samples from both pilots. The following findings were reported (refer to attached TOX report):
The results of all tests for the commercial pilot were negative as were the results for the private pilot, with the exception of a finding of Diphenhydramine detected in both liver and muscle (refer to attached Toxicology reports).
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The engine was transported to the facilities of Aircraft Inspection and Repair, Inc., at the Arlington airport and was disassembled and examined. No evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunction was noted during the examination (refer to attachment LYC-I).
The equation that relates aircraft ground speed (knots) to engine RPM for reciprocating engines is: *
( GS x GR x 101.3)/(N x D) = Engine RPM, where
GS = Ground Speed (knots)
GR = Engine gear ratio (1 in the case of N313FC)
N = Number of propeller blades (3 in the case of N313FC)
D = Distance between scar marks (feet)
* Handbook for Aircraft Accident Investigation (NAVAIR 00-80T-67).
On-site examination of the wreckage was conducted on November 30, 2002, after which the wreckage was verbally released to Arlington Towing for the purpose of removal and storage for further examination. Written release of the wreckage to the builder's wife was accomplished on December 14, 2002, and is documented on NTSB form 6120.15 (enclosed).