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HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On August 23, 2006, at 1835 mountain daylight time, a Baker RV-3AB, N43EM, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near the Laramie Regional Airport (LAR), Laramie, Wyoming. A post impact fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot was fatally injured. The local flight departed approximately 1800.
According to an airport employee, prior to departure, the pilot was wearing a parachute and had declined fuel services. Another witness who spoke with the pilot prior to the flight stated the pilot's flight intentions were to practice aerobatics. One witness stated that the pilot announced his intensions to over fly runway 03 (8,500 feet by 150 feet, asphalt) and then depart the pattern to the north. The same witness also observed the accident airplane in bank angles near 90 degrees while in the traffic pattern. Several witnesses at the airport stated that the airplane was performing a low level pass down runway 03.
Both witnesses stated that at the departure end of runway 03, the airplane pitched up aggressively and rolled to the right. One witness stated that it appeared as if the left wing folded up and impacted the canopy. Another witness stated that airplane tumbled through the air and at that time, the wings did not appear straight. The airplane continued to roll, nosed over, impacted the ground in an upright attitude, and slid. According to law enforcement personnel, the airplane came to rest nose down, inverted, at the intersection of runway 03/21 and the alpha taxiway.
The pilot, age 44, held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land privileges, issued on May 31, 1985. The pilot also held a third class airman medical certificate issued on July 5, 2005. The certificate contained the limitations "must wear corrective lenses."
A review of the pilot's flight logbook indicated that the pilot had logged no less than 327 hours total time. The pilot began logging flight time in the accident airplane March 10, 2002. He had logged no less than 30 hours in the RV-3, all of which were logged in the accident airplane. The pilot successfully completed the requirements for a flight review on November 1, 2005, and received a tailwheel endorsement June 24, 2001. According to the pilot's logbook, he practiced aerobatics near LAR, in the accident airplane, on February 13, March 5, May 26, and July 26, 2006.
The accident airplane, a Vans RV-3AB (serial number 815), was manufactured by Bobby Baker in 1981. It was registered with the Federal Aviation Administration on a Special Airworthiness Certificate in an experimental category. According to the engine data plate, the airplane was equipped with a Lycoming O-320-E2D engine rated for 150 horsepower at 2,700 rpm. The engine; however, had been modified with a fuel injection system. The engine was also equipped with a wooden Prince Aircraft, two-blade, fixed pitch propeller.
The airplane was registered to and operated by the accident pilot, and was maintained under a condition inspection program. A review of the maintenance records indicated that a condition inspection had been completed on January 24, 2006, at an airframe total time of 500.9 hours. According to a statement submitted by the pilot's mechanic, the owner was informed "of the available spar modification and declined to install [the] modification."
The closest official weather observation station was LAR. The elevation of the weather observation station was 7,284 feet msl. The routine aviation weather report (METAR) for LAR, issued at 1853, reported, winds, 010 degrees at 5 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; sky condition, 12,000 feet scattered; temperature 25 degrees Celsius (C); dewpoint, 0 degrees C; altimeter, 30.19 inches.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The FAA inspector arrived on scene approximately 1200 on August 24, 2006. The accident site was located to the north, northwest of the alpha taxiway and the departure end of runway 03. A global positioning system receiver reported the coordinates of the main wreckage as 41 degrees, 19 minutes, 10.6 seconds north latitude, and 105 degrees, 39 minutes, and 59.9 seconds west longitude. The accident site was at an elevation of 7,278 feet mean sea level and the airplane impacted on a heading of 020 degrees.
The initial impact point, as identified by the inspector, was located to the south and west of the main wreckage. A segmented ground scar extended from the initial impact point (just south of the yellow taxi line), north to the edge of the taxiway. The ground scar consisted of blue and white paint transfer marks and an oily stain. A second ground scar, approximately 4 feet in length, initiated in the dirt at the end of the taxiway, and extended towards the main wreckage. Fragmented wood consistent with propeller blade material, torn metal, and plastic were located within the debris path.
The main wreckage consisted of the empennage fuselage and the left wing. The right wing separated from the airframe and was directly adjacent the main wreckage.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The autopsy was performed at the Ivinson Memorial Hospital on August 24, 2006, as authorized by the Albany County Coroner. The autopsy revealed the cause of death as blunt force trauma and severe burns.
Toxicology was performed by the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (CAMI Reference #200600198001). Tests for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs were negative.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Airframe and Engine Examination
The wreckage was relocated to a hangar in Greeley, Colorado, for further examination. The recovered wreckage was examined by the National Transportation Safety Board (Safety Board) investigator-in-charge (IIC) and a representative of Lycoming on September 1, 2006.
The fuselage, to include the cabin area, and instrument panel, was charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire. The Plexiglas for the canopy was entirely melted and the metal frame was crushed and wrinkled. The interior of the cabin, to include the instrument panel, flight controls, engine controls, and seat, exhibited extensive thermal damage.
The left wing, to include the aileron and flap, remained attached to the airframe and exhibited thermal damage. A diagonal crease started 12 inches outboard from the wing root and extended aft, ending 36 inches outboard from the wing root. The left aileron was slightly wrinkled and the flap was unremarkable. Control continuity to the left aileron was established.
The empennage, to include the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, elevator, and rudder remained attached to the fuselage and exhibited thermal damage. The left side of the horizontal stabilizer and elevator was unremarkable. The vertical stabilizer was bent left 80 degrees, initiating at the fuselage. The top ten inches of the rudder was bent 90 degrees to the left. The right side of the horizontal stabilizer and elevator was crushed. Control continuity to the elevator and rudder was established.
The right wing, to include the aileron and flap, separated from the airframe and exhibited thermal damage on the inboard portion of the wing. The wing was buckled slightly at midspan and the top outboard portion of the wing exhibited a circular dent, consistent in shape and size with the fuselage canopy. The right aileron and the flap were unremarkable Control continuity to the right aileron was established.
The engine assembly, to include the propeller, exhibited impact and thermal damage. One propeller blade separate from the hub and the second blade was splintered and exhibited thermal damage. The top spark plugs were removed and exhibited normal signs of combustion and operation. The engine was rotated through at the propeller and continuity and tactile compression was verified. The fuel screen and all injectors were clear of any contamination. Both magnetos were thermally damaged and could not be functionally tested.
On September 5, 2006, the right wing and spar were examined by the Safety Board IIC and a Safety Board aerospace engineer. Examination revealed the right wing failed in a positive (upward) direction. The lower spar cap at the failure location exhibited deformation in an upward and aft direction. The failed cap members exhibited signs consistent with a tension overload. The upper spar cap members exhibited significant compression buckling evidence near the failure. The aft three cap members and spar web exhibited deformation in an aft direction. No evidence of compliance with Vans Service Bulletin (SB) 96-3-1 or FAA Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) ACE-99-10 was observed on the accident airplane.
Weight and Balance
The most recent maintenance weight and balance calculation was performed on January 17, 2006. The pilot's weight, based on his most recent airman medical certificate, was 159 pounds. At the time of the accident, it was estimated the airplane weighed between 1,048 pounds (30 pounds of fuel) and 1,088 pounds (70 pounds of fuel). According to Van's Aircraft, the gross weight for aerobatic operations is 1,050 pounds and the gross weight for the non-aerobatic operations is 1,100 pounds.
On March 25, 1996, Van's Aircraft, Inc., issued SB 96-3-1 with regards to main spar modifications and continuance of aerobatic flight. It states "All RV-3 and RV-3A builders and pilots with pre-RV-3B wing designs who wish to continue to fly these aircraft in the aerobatic category must, before further aerobatic flight, either complete the applicable Change Notice or incorporate the RV-3B wing design."
"Pilots should perform no aerobatic maneuvers and limit flight G loads to a maximum 4.4 G's (Utility Category). This limitation should be reflected in the Operating Limitations for the aircraft as well as the airframe logbook until such a time that appropriate modifications have been completed. Unmodified aircraft must display an "Aerobatic Limitations" placard referencing the Operating Limitations of the aircraft."
On November 24, 1998, the FAA issued a SAIB ACE-99-10. In this SAIB, the FAA outlined the recommendations issued by Van's with regards to wing spar modification and performance of aerobatics. The SAIB went on to address recommended operating limitations for aircraft with and without the modifications such as airspeeds, gross weight, and G limits.
Parties to the investigation included Lycoming Engines, and the FAA represented through airworthiness and operations inspectors from the Denver Flight Standards District Office. The wreckage was released to a representative of the insurance company on December 14, 2006.