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On January 28, 2006, about 1310 Pacific standard time, the pilot flying an experimental Reichel, Lancair 360, N79Y, experienced an in-flight loss of control and descended into the ground about 1 mile southwest of the Santa Ynez (uncontrolled) Airport, Santa Ynez, California. The home-built airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post impact ground fire. The private pilot was the owner-builder of the airplane, and he was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the personal flight, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, and it originated from Santa Ynez at an undetermined time. The airplane's route of flight following its departure from Santa Ynez was not determined.
A pilot on approach to the airport reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that he and his wife heard the Lancair pilot broadcast on the common air traffic (UNICOM) frequency that he was "on the 45-degree entry leg" [to the airport]. No further transmissions were heard from the accident pilot. Less than a minute thereafter, they observed a fire about 1 mile southwest of the airport as they were approaching the airport for landing.
A ground-based witness, who also was a pilot, reported to the Safety Board investigator that he heard the airplane approach the airport. The witness stated that the engine was revved up, and it remained revved up during the entire time he heard it. No sputtering or backfiring was heard. The witness stated that the engine sounded "firewalled," and it was operating at a "high rpm."
The private pilot held airplane single engine land, multiengine land, glider, and instrument airplane ratings. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), when the pilot last applied for an aviation medical certificate in October 2004, he reported that his total flight time was 5,850 hours. Also, the pilot indicated having flown 15 hours during the preceding 6 months.
The pilot also held a repairman, experimental aircraft builder, certificate. The certificate was issued in April 1995, and it was limited to the accident airplane.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The FAA issued the pilot a third-class aviation medical certificate in October 2004. The certificate indicated that the pilot must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision.
Family members reported to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner that the pilot did not have any health ailments other than diet controlled diabetes.
Based upon the severity of the pilot's injuries, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner elected not to perform an autopsy. Toxicology tests were performed by the sheriff's contract laboratory, and by the FAA, Civil Aeromedical Institute. No evidence of ethyl alcohol or any screened drugs was found.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The 540-foot mean sea level accident site was located in an open, soft field, at the following approximate global positioning system coordinates: 34 degrees 35.7 minutes north latitude by 120 degrees 05.1 minutes west longitude. Under the direction of the Safety Board investigator, an FAA aviation safety inspector examined the airplane wreckage at the accident site. In summary, the FAA inspector reported observing green navigation light fragments in the shallow ground scar at the initial point of impact. Also, the soil in this area was fuel soaked.
Evidence of multiple propeller strike marks was observed in the soil, and the wood propeller was splintered. The landing gear was observed in the down and locked position. The post impact ground fire destroyed the cockpit instruments.
Additional wreckage was located about 60 feet from the initial impact point. The FAA coordinator stated the continuity of the flight control system could not be verified because of the extensive fire damage.
The engine was found separated from the fuselage, and it was located about 30 feet from the initial impact point of the right wing. Based upon a visual examination of the engine's exterior, no evidence of any catastrophic preimpact mechanical malfunction was noted.
The FAA inspector reported that, based upon the distribution of wreckage and the ground scar signatures, it appeared that the airplane cartwheeled as it came to rest.
The FAA inspector reported receiving information from the accident pilot's family regarding the pilot's experience with his airplane. In pertinent part, the FAA noted the following:
The pilot had experienced a mishap with his airplane approximately 3 months before the crash. During the mishap, the airplane lost oil pressure. Then, the propeller went into an uncommanded flat pitch, and the pilot experienced a runaway propeller when the engine revved up. The pilot returned to the Santa Ynez Airport. He made a hard landing and the propeller struck the ground damaging its tips. Thereafter, the pilot shortened the propeller by 1.5 to 2.0 inches. The pilot also made additional repairs to his airplane. The next flight was the accident flight.
The Safety Board did not take custody of the wreckage, which was located on private property.