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On August 19, 2006, at 1921 mountain daylight time, a Stallings VariEze, N23HS, registered to the pilot, was destroyed when it struck terrain while maneuvering approximately 2 miles north of Loveland, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The local flight originated at Longmont Airport, Longmont, Colorado, at 1856.
According to a friend, the pilots told him they were going to practice aerobatics, specifically, "loops and rolls." One Larimer County sheriff's detective, who was working in his yard about 2 miles south of the accident site, said he saw the airplane fly over at low altitude. According to the sheriff's office, a witness driving along Taft Hill Road heard a "pop" and saw the airplane "spiraling in." Another witness, also driving along Taft Hill Road, said he saw the airplane making lateral "S" maneuvers before diving to the ground. Both witnesses said the airplane was at low altitude.
The accident occurred at dusk on the west side of Larimer Country Road (CR) 19 (Taft Hill Road or Wilson Avenue), between CR 57 and Trilby Road, at geographical coordinates 40 degrees, 28.064' North latitude, and 105 degrees, 06.942' West longitude. The GPS (Global Positioning System) altitude was 5,095 feet msl (above mean sea level), +/-18 feet. The first 9-1-1 call was received by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office at 1923.
The pilot, age 49, held a commercial pilot certificate, dated November 23, 1994, with airplane single-engine land and instrument ratings. He held a mechanic certificate, dated August 5, 1994, with airframe and powerplant ratings. He also held a second class airman medical certificate, dated April 23, 2003, with no restrictions or limitations.
Only one logbook belonging to the pilot was located. It contained entries from July 13, 2004 (about the time the pilot purchased N23HS), to September 15, 2004. The beginning and ending tachometer times were 417.3 and 445.9 hours, respectively, a difference of 28.6 hours, all of which was in N23HS. When the pilot applied for his most recent medical certification, he estimated he had logged 2,000 flight hours, and 25 hours in the previous 6 months.
The pilot-rated passenger, age 34, held a commercial pilot certificate, dated August 10, 2005, with an airplane multiengine land rating, and private pilot privileges in single-engine land airplanes. His first class airman medical certificate, dated January 6, 2006, contained no restrictions or limitations. On his application for medical certification, the pilot estimated he had logged 500 hours flight time, of which 100 hours was accumulated in the previous 6 months.
The pilot-rated passenger's logbook was located and made available for inspection. It contained entries from November 22, 2002 (when he began taking flying lessons), to August 1, 2006. As of that date, the pilot had recorded the following flight time:
Total time: 556.9
Single-engine, land: 516.9
Multiengine, land: 39.1
Actual instruments: 7.4
Simulated instruments: 64.4
Flight simulator: 50.7
Instruction received: 155.3
The pilot, who owned two Long-EZE airplanes, had logged the following in various experimental homebuilt airplanes:
Vans RV-6: 7.0
N23HS (s/n 922), a homebuilt model VariEze, was manufactured by Henry G. Stallings, and certificated in the experimental category on September 14, 1982. It was powered by a Continental O-200-A engine (s/n 69015-8-A), driving a Great American 2-blade, all-wood, fixed pitch propeller (s/n A1486). It had an empty weight of 748 pounds and a maximum gross weight of 1,110 pounds. Engine time-between-overhaul (TBO) was 1,800 hours.
The aircraft maintenance records were located by a family friend and made available for inspection. According to these records, the airframe was given a conditional inspection and the engine was given a 100-hour inspection on October 14, 2003, at a tachometer time of 412. At that time, the airframe had accrued 403.4 hours and the engine had accrued 3,182.4 hours, 522.4 hours since major overhaul.
The last engine major overhaul was on May 14, 1977, at a tachometer time of 2,660 hours. When the engine was installed in N23HS on September 9, 1982, it has accrued 114 hours since the major overhaul.
Weather recorded at 1915 by the Fort Collins-Loveland Airport (FNL) AWOS (Automatic Weather Observing Station) was as follows:
Wind, 170 degrees at 13 knots, gusting to 21 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles (or greater); sky condition 3,300 feet scattered, 4,800 feet scattered; altimeter, 30.21 in. of Hg.
A digital camera was recovered from the wreckage. An FAA inspector downloaded the data onto a compact disk. Examination of the data revealed four video clips of the pilot performing aerobatic maneuvers (rolls). It could not be determined when the video was taken because there was no date/time stamp on the video. However, it was taken by a rear seat occupant wearing khaki shorts. According to the autopsy report, the pilot-rated passenger was wearing khaki shorts.
A Garmin GPS 90 was also recovered from the wreckage, and was sent to the manufacturer. Although extensively damaged, data was transferred onto a compact disk and then downloaded onto topographical maps and satellite photographs. The data included position (latitude/longitude), time (UTC, Universal Time Coordinated), ground speed (knots), and true course.
Examination of the data and maps revealed takeoff acceleration began at 1856:33 from runway 12. The airplane turned north towards Terry Lake, west to Lyons, south to Red Hill, and then north to the west side of Loveland, where it flew between Flatiron Mountain and Mariana Butte. It then flew north to the accident site area. The last 1:30 minutes of the flight was expanded for examination. The last data point occurred at 1921:15 when the ground speed was 68 knots.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
NTSB was notified of the accident at 1945. The on-scene investigation bore no evidence of in-flight structural or flight control system failure/malfunction. Green lens fragments were found at the initial impact point. The ground scar was aligned on a magnetic heading of 073 degrees, arcing right to a magnetic heading of 090 degrees. At the end of the ground scar was the main body of wreckage.
The right wing was fragmented. The left wing remained attached to the fuselage. The canard separated from the airplane and bore leading edge crush damage. The wooden propeller was splintered.
The following instruments were strewn along the wreckage path and bore the following indications:
Altimeter: 5,120 feet
Kollsman window: 30.13 in. Hg.
Airspeed: 123 mph
Turn and Slip: 2x standard rate turn, Full right ball
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot-rated passenger, who was in the rear seat, was wearing a parachute that had not deployed. The pilot, who was in the front seat, was not wearing a parachute.
Autopsies on both pilots were performed at McKee Medical Center (MMC), Loveland, CO. According to the autopsy reports, both pilots' deaths were attributed to "multiple blunt force injuries due to severe deceleration forces," and their manner of death was termed "accidental."
A toxicological screen performed by both FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed no ethanol in the pilot's muscle and brain tissue, and no drugs in liver tissue. Carbon monoxide and cyanide tests were not performed. A toxicological screen conducted for the Larimer County Medical Examiner's Office was positive for diphenhydramine (an antihistamine used to relieve symptoms of certain allergies the common cold; to prevent and treat nausea; aid in relaxation and induce sleep), and acetaminophen (an ingredient found in over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol, and is used to relieve pain and reduce fever). The pilot-rated passenger tested positive for caffeine and theobromine (used to treat tapeworm infections).
Other than the Federal Aviation Administration, there were no other parties to the investigation.
The wreckage was released to Beegles Aircraft Service on August 20, 2006.