FTW03LA061
FTW03LA061

On December 20, 2002, at 1303 central standard time, a Creekmore Team Rocket F-1 homebuilt single-engine airplane, was destroyed when it impacted terrain following the in-flight separation of the vertical stabilizer near Rosenberg, Texas. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot. The commercial pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The local flight originated from Sugarland Regional Airport (SGR), near Sugarland, Texas, at 1200.

A review of radar data revealed that the airplane was emitting a VFR transponder beacon code. The flight departed SGR, traversed around the Houston terminal control area (TCA), and traveled southeast bound toward Galveston Bay. The airplane circled around Texas City, then continued southwest bound along the coast towards Palacios. The airplane then flew north bound until reaching Egypt, Texas, then maneuvered east towards Rosenberg. The last radar return was approximately 29 degrees, 32 minutes north latitude, and 095 degrees, 56 minutes west longitude, and at an altitude of 3,400 feet mean sea level (msl).

A review of voice communications revealed that the pilot contacted SGR air traffic control tower (ATCT), and stated that he was at an altitude of 5,000 feet msl and 20 miles west of Sugarland inbound for landing. ATC advised the pilot of Class B airspace, and the pilot advised ATC that he was starting his descent. SGR ATCT had no further communications with the pilot.

Witnesses reported observing the airplane in a near vertical descent as it disappeared from their view, and that they heard the engine making a "high level of noise." After the airplane descended from view, the witnesses observed a piece(s) of the airplane "fluttering down."

The wreckage came to rest in a boggy, rice field. The airplane was severely fragmented from the impact. The vertical stabilizer was located approximately one-half mile southwest from the impact point. The vertical fin aft spar and rudder remained attached to the airplane. The flight control cables attaching the rudder to the pedals remained intact, but were severed by the first responders. Evidence of shear was observed on the vertical fin forward spar and attachment point. Located at the impact point was the canopy, pieces of Plexiglass, and the engine was buried approximately nine into the ground and never recovered.

The pilot and aircraft logbooks were not recovered. On the application form for his most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate completed on June 28, 2001, the pilot reported a total flight time of 6,000 hours.

The Automated Surface Observing Station SGR, near Sugarland, Texas, 8 miles southwest of the accident site, at 1253 reported winds from 260 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 17 degrees Celsius, dew point 0 degree Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.22 inches of Mercury.

The wreckage was recovered and moved to a local hangar, where it was examined by an FAA inspector, and a representative from the manufacturer, on January 5, 2003. They reported to the NTSB Investigator-In-Charge that the upper attachment fitting for the vertical fin aft spar was not installed. This is a 1 x 1 x.125 inch extruded angle that is designed to absorb the fin torque loads resulting from rudder deflections. Four "AN3" fasteners attach this fitting to the aft section of the fuselage, and to the vertical fin aft spar. It was also observed that the vertical fin forward spar attach holes were not drilled, as directed by the assembly manual.

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