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On September 12, 2004, at 1306 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Rans S-12, N195CB, was destroyed during a collision with terrain following an uncontrolled descent in Seneca Castle, New York. The certificated student pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local personal flight that originated at the pilot's home in Geneva, New York, exact time unknown. No flight plan was filed for the local flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
Three witnesses provided sworn statements to the local Sheriff. One witness observed the airplane in a climbing right turn. He said that he thought the pilot was "goofing off" because of the steepness of the turn. The airplane continued to turn through 360 degrees, then the nose pointed towards the ground. The airplane spiraled straight down, and during the airplane's descent, the witness noticed a white streamer trailing behind the airplane that looked like a kite tail.
A second witness stated that he was working adjacent to the pilot's grass strip, and watched the airplane perform a low approach to approximately 5 feet above the landing surface, then depart to the north. His attention was diverted away from the airplane, but when he looked back, the cockpit was "facing straight down."
A third witness stated that she heard a plane with engine trouble and looked up. The airplane was 150 to 200 feet above the ground and "starting to spiral downward", before it dove straight down. The engine sound did not stop, but was "sputtering".
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight, approximately 42 degrees, 53 minutes north latitude, and 77 degrees, 04 minutes west longitude.
The pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate. The certificate was issued on April 8, 2004 and the pilot reported 30 hours of flight experience on that date.
In a telephone interview, the pilot's flight instructor said the pilot began receiving flight instruction, stopped flying for several years, and then began receiving flight instruction again in recent months. He gave the pilot 19.5 hours of dual instruction in a Cessna 150 between March 31, 2004, and August 1, 2004, and the pilot was not endorsed to fly solo.
According to the instructor, the pilot contacted him and inquired about receiving instruction in the Rans in order to obtain a recreational pilot's certificate. The instructor replied that he would only provide instruction in an airplane certified in the normal category, and would only train to the FAA private pilot certificate standards. The pilot agreed.
Over the course of the training, the pilot showed erratic behavior and was inconsistent in his performance. On three separate occasions, the instructor spoke to the pilot about discontinuing his training, as he did not feel the pilot would ever pass a private pilot practical examination. He further stated that the pilot did not study, and could not perform consistently at any task. Lastly, he said that he had "no idea" that the pilot was flying the Rans solo, as he could not, and would not endorse the pilot for solo flight.
The airplane was a homebuilt Rans S-12. The airworthiness certificate was issued July 26, 1995. The current owner, the pilot's son, purchased the airplane July 9, 2003, and registered the airplane April 20, 2004.
The airplane's maintenance records were not recovered, and the airplane's total time, and its maintenance history could not be determined. According to the owner, the last annual inspection was completed prior to the purchase of the airplane. In a telephone interview, the previous owner stated that the annual inspection was completed on June 23, 2003.
At 1253, the weather reported at the Penn Yan Airport, Penn Yan, New York, 16 miles southwest of the accident site, was clear skies with 10 miles visibility. The wind was from 250 degrees at 7 knots. The temperature was 73 degrees Fahrenheit, the dew point 61 degrees Fahrenheit, and the barometric pressure was 30.18 inches of mercury.
The airplane was examined at the scene by FAA aviation safety inspectors. The airplane had been consumed by post-crash fire. Flight control continuity was established. A ballistic recovery system parachute extended from the wreckage and lay on the ground. Examination of the parachute system revealed that the parachute deployed, but that the canopy had not inflated prior to ground contact.
The engine was relocated to a garage for further examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Examination of the pilot's FAA medical record revealed that he was issued a third class medical certificate in 1969, 1998, and a second class medical in 2004.
The Deputy Medical Examiner of Monroe County, New York, performed the autopsy on the pilot.
The FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed the toxicological testing on the pilot.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The ballistic parachute system was examined at the scene on September 14, 2004. A representative of Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS), under the supervision of an FAA aviation safety inspector, conducted the examination. According to the BRS representative, the system deployed, but the canopy did not inflate prior to ground contact.
The components deployed as designed, and there were no restrictions to prevent canopy inflation. When asked the minimum altitude required for full canopy inflation, he said between 300 to 400 feet, with some forward airspeed to aid deployment of the parachute.
The engine was examined at Honeoye Falls, New York, on October 12, 2004. A representative of Rotax engines, under the supervision of an FAA aviation safety inspector, conducted the examination.
The engine could not be rotated by hand. The fuel pump, and the capacitor discharge ignition (CDI) unit were removed and the engine was rotated by hand through the CDI drive quill. Continuity was established through the powertrain, valvetrain, and accessory section. Compression was confirmed in all cylinders using the thumb method.
The oil filter was removed and the filter element was absent of debris or metal particles.
The engine was disassembled, and examination revealed asymmetrical wear on the cam lobes of the #3 cylinder. The hydraulic intake lifter on the #3 cylinder was collapsed, and contained no oil. The intake valve pushrod was dry and contained no oil. Examination of the pistons and cylinders revealed no abnormal wear or evidence of seizure.
In a telephone interview, the pilot's son said that he had no reservations about the airworthiness of the airplane. He described the airplane as "immaculate."