On September 12, 2004, about 0750 Pacific daylight time, an experimental Smith S-51D, N51VS, experienced a hard landing at William J. Fox Airport, Lancaster, California. The pilot/builder/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot was not injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed. The flight originated at William J. Fox Airport about 0730.

The pilot reported to the Safety Board investigator-in-charge that he had just recently completed fabricating his S-51D, and the first flight was on June 11, 2004. Since then he had accumulated 11.3 flight hours in the airplane. The purpose of the September 12th flight was to develop emergency procedures for engine out landings. He would enter the traffic pattern at 4,000 feet (1,700 feet above ground level (agl)) for runway 24 using a modified overhead left-hand 270-degree turning maneuver. He set the engine rpm at 3,800, which corresponded to 1,784 propeller rpm. The purpose of this engine setting was to allow for quick power response if a go-around was necessary; however, this setting also significantly increased the drag on the airplane.

The pilot configured the airplane with the landing gear down, flaps up, and the engine at 3,800 rpm. He would perform the maneuver at 110 knots. The first attempt left him rolling onto final 1/4 mile short of the runway, so he added power and did a touch-and-go. During the second attempt the pilot overshot the runway extended centerline and executed a go-around. The pilot guessed that his rate of descent during this type of approach was between 3,000 and 4,000 feet per minute.

On the third attempt the pilot had the airplane on final, at 200 feet agl, on the runway extended centerline, and about 100 knots. He pulled the stick back to arrest the sink rate. He noted that the angle of attack (AOA) indicator was reading three red dots (indicating that the airplane was within 10 percent of stalling), and the airplane impacted the runway in a 3-point attitude. The main landing gear forks fractured, and the airplane skidded off the right side of the runway, traveling some 600 feet beyond the impact point.

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