On May 13, 2005, about 1130 eastern daylight time, an Aeronca 65-TAC, N36973, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Harrisonburg, Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which departed from Winchester Regional Airport (OKV), Winchester, Virginia, about 1000, and conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
The airplane came to rest on rural, hilly terrain, owned by a relative of the pilot. In a written statement, the property owner recounted witnessing the final portion of the accident flight.
The witness was standing on his back porch when he saw the airplane fly past. He had never seen the airplane before, but immediately saw both occupants' faces, and observed them waving as the airplane flew by. He then went inside his home, and heard the airplane fly by again, in close proximity to the house. He heard the engine "sputter," and specifically recalled hearing the engine increase in power, followed by a sudden, total silence. About 2 to 3 seconds later, he heard the sounds of impact, and responded to the accident scene.
The witness also noted that on several previous occasions, the pilot had flown past his property in a rented Cessna airplane, and that that all of the previous flights were conducted at an altitude greater than 500 feet above ground level.
During telephone interviews, two additional witnesses recounted seeing and hearing the accident airplane just prior to the accident.
One witness saw the airplane fly overhead at a "low" altitude, but was not alarmed, as airplanes flew low in the vicinity frequently. The attitude of the airplane was "straight," and the airplane "did not look to be in trouble." She also reported that she heard the engine running, and noted no abnormalities in its sound.
The other witness heard the airplane overhead, followed by a change in engine noise that sounded as if "somebody had turned the key off." He then heard a sound similar to a backfire, and the engine briefly started, only to stop and start again about 2 to 3 more times. Shortly thereafter he heard the sounds of an impact.
A search of the FAA Airman Information Database revealed that the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. He also held a second-class medical certificate, which was issued on August 15, 2003.
A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had accumulated 445 total hours of flight experience, one hour of which was in the accident airplane make and model. The pilot conducted a "check out" flight with a flight instructor, in the accident airplane, on May 5, 2005. During the check out, the pilot discussed that he had about 30 hours of flight experience in an Aeronca Champ, and had a substantial amount of recent flight experience in a Piper Super Cub.
The accident airplane was an Aeronca 65-TAC, originally manufactured in 1942. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed in April, 2004, and the airplane had accrued 14 total flight hours since that time.
The weather reported at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD), Staunton, Virginia, located 16 nautical miles south, at 1140, included calm winds, an overcast ceiling at 2,900 feet, temperature 59 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 44 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.33 inches of mercury.
Review of an FAA carburetor icing probability chart, placed the reported temperature and dew point in the "serious icing at glide power" range.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was examined at the scene by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, on the day of the accident. During that examination, the inspector found that the carburetor heat knob was "pinched" in the off position.
Examination of photographs taken by the inspector revealed that the lower portion of the engine cowling was crushed upward at about a 45-degree angle.
The wreckage was subsequently recovered to an aircraft recovery facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, and an examination was performed on May 18, 2005.
The aft fuselage was bent about 20 degrees tail right, about 8 feet from the empennage. The cabin area was crushed and deformed downward, and bent slightly right.
The right wing exhibited significant damage to the outboard 4 feet of the leading edge, and significant deformation was noted on the leading edge and top portion of the wing. The wing was twisted upward near the outboard leading edge section.
Control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit controls to the elevator, elevator trim tab, and rudder. Control continuity was also confirmed from the flight controls to the ailerons, and the left aileron push-pull tube was found fractured. Further examination revealed that the push-pull tube fractured due to overstress.
The engine was removed from the airframe and attached to an engine test stand. Due to damage sustained during the accident, the number 3 cylinder push rods, the intake manifold, and the engine oil sump were replaced in order to operate the engine. The engine was test run for about 2 minutes at about 1,200 rpm.
The right magneto exhibited impact damage, and the p-lead was broken. Further testing revealed that when insulation was applied to the impact damaged portion of the p-lead the magneto functioned normally.
During the recovery process, about 2 gallons of fuel were drained from the main fuel tank. The fuel had an odor similar to 100 low lead aviation fuel, and was absent of water or debris.
The header fuel tank was ruptured, and contained trace amounts of fuel.
The gascolator was disassembled and found to be absent of water and debris.
The carburetor was disassembled and examined. Both the float and the needle were intact, and exhibited no signs of corrosion. A small amount of debris was observed on the carburetor fuel screen.
The two-bladed wooden propeller exhibited one shattered blade, and leading edge deformation to the remaining blade's erosion strip.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on May 18, 2005. The retained magnetos and aileron push pull tubes were returned on October 14, 2005.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On May 16, 2005, an autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Richmond, Virginia. Toxicological testing was subsequently performed at the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.