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On April 2, 2006, at 0945 eastern daylight time, a Just Aircraft, Highlander, N9085N, registered to and operated by G-Dawg LLC, as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed following a loss of engine power during climb after takeoff at a private strip in Walhalla, South Carolina. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was substantially damaged, and the private pilot received serious injuries. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.
According to the builder/owner of the airplane, the airplane was certified as a Light Sport Airplane (LSA) on March 28, 2006, and was being prepared for an air show in Florida. During the preparation of the airplane, the builder/owner stated that they noticed that a vacuum hose was loose when they were at the Oconee County Regional Airport, Clemson, South Carolina. They repaired the hose and the pilot flew the airplane around for an hour, and everything checked out "ok". The builder/owner stated that on the morning of the accident the pilot flew the airplane around again to check to make sure they had good "temperatures". Everything looked fine and the pilot landed the airplane. He took off again and after climbing to 100 feet AGL the engine began to sputter. The pilot landed the airplane and shut the engine down. The builder/owner stated that when the pilot started up the engine again he conducted 2 run-ups before take off, both run-ups sounded good according to the builder/owner. The pilot departed and the engine again began to sputter during the climb out.
A witness who was located across the lake from the airstrip heard the airplane take off. The engine started sputtering and he observed the airplane above the tree line adjacent to the lake. The airplane made a hard left turn but was "still on a level plane". The airplane went below the tree line and disappeared from his view. The witness heard "the engine race one last time before the sound of impact." The witness telephoned the 911 emergency services and reported the accident. The Oconee County Sheriffs department located the airplane down an embankment off of Duck Pond road, in Walhalla, South Carolina.
Review of information of file with FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on November 17, 2002, with ratings for airplane single-engine land and sea, instrument airplane. The pilot possess a third-class medical certificate issued on March 6, 2006, with the restriction, "must wear corrective lenses." The FAA airman's report revealed that the pilot had a total of 4,030 civil hours. The pilot's logbooks were not recovered for review, and the pilot reported 1,500 fight hours in make and model airplane.
The airplane was a Just Aircraft Highlander (serial number JAESC 0019), certificated light sport airplane. It was a two-seat, high-wing airplane of tubular aluminum and fabric covered construction with tail-wheel landing gear orientation. A Rotax 914UL engine powered Light-Sport airplane. The engine was an overhauled engine with 4.4 hours time since overhaul, and was rebuilt as an experimental engine. A Light-Sport Aircraft statement of compliance, and special airworthiness certificate was issued on March 28, 2006. The "production flight testing operating limitation for Light Sport Aircraft" was issued on March 28, 2006.
Examination of the wreckage by an FAA inspector revealed that the airplane collided with trees while descending, and eventually collided with the ground in a nose down attitude. The airplane was on a heading of 270-degrees magnetic. The spinner was crushed into the flange, and two blades remained attached to the three bladed-propeller assembly. The propeller blades revealed chordwise scoring. Flight control continuity was established to the primary and secondary flight controls. The engine assembly remained attached to the engine mounts, and was pushed back into the cockpit area. The cabin section of the airplane was crushed. Examination of the engine tachometer indicated five hours of engine operation. The throttle was in the full forward position, and the mixture lever was full rich. The fuel selector was in the "on" position.
Examination of the fuselage and empennage revealed wrinkles in the fabric covering the airframe structure. The main landing gears and tail wheel remained attached to the airframe. The main fuselage, vertical and horizontal stabilizers were not damaged. The rudder and elevators were not damaged.
The left wing was attached to the forward upper attachment point, and accelerated forward. The wing showed wrinkles in the fabric throughout the span of the wing. The aileron and flap remained attached to their attachment fittings. The left wing strut remained attached to the wing and the fuselage attachment point. The fuel tank was not ruptured, and the fuel cap had a tight seal. Examination of the fuel tank revealed fuel was present in the fuel tank.
The right wing remained attached to the rear attachment point, and was pushed aft. The wing showed wrinkles in the fabric throughout the span of the wing. The aileron and flap remained attached to their attachment fittings. The right wing strut remained attached to the wing and the fuselage attachment point. The fuel tank was not ruptured, and the fuel cap had a tight seal. Examination of the fuel tank revealed fuel was present in the fuel tank.
Examination of the engine revealed the gearbox showed impact damage that moved the propeller shaft back into the crankcase. The propeller shaft was unable to rotate due to the impact damage. The gearbox was removed and all mechanical parts moved freely. Due to the extensive damage to the gearbox, propeller shaft, intake system, air box, and sensors for the turbo control unit, the engine could not be test run.
Examination of the fuel pumps revealed that both pumps had a fine mesh screens on the inlet side of the pumps. The screens were found to have excessive debris build up. Examination of the debris revealed it appeared to be fiberglass fibers, and the fibers were consistent with the fuel tank construction materials. The airplane was not equipped with a fuel pressure gauge, thus the loss of fuel pressure could not monitored by the pilot.
The aircraft was released to Just Aircraft LLC on April 2, 2006.