LAX07LA023
LAX07LA023

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 28, 2006, about 1300 Pacific daylight time, a Moyes Dragonfly unregistered airplane, descended into terrain during the initial climb from a private airstrip in Brentwood, California. A private individual, who was the owner, was operating the unregistered aircraft under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane was destroyed. The private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. The local area flight was originating at the time of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator interviewed the owner of the aircraft several days following the accident. He stated that accident pilot contacted him earlier in the day. During the conversation the pilot made arrangements to go to the owner's property and fly the accident airplane, as well as several hang gliders. The owner noted that this was common, as the pilot was a good friend and had flown the airplane on numerous occasions. In the early afternoon, the owner stepped outside of his house and shortly thereafter witnessed the accident. He was positioned about 100 feet directly behind the airplane.

The owner stated that he observed the pilot begin the departure roll. He was departing to the west-northwest on the owner's grass field that was regularly utilized as an airstrip. The airplane quickly became airborne after about a 30- to 40-foot ground roll, which was earlier than he expected. The airplane subsequently settled back to the ground and bounced hard. It became airborne again and was in a shallow climb with an airspeed of about 50 miles per hour, which the owner noted was very slow. The pilot began to erratically move his left hand, which the owner thought was consistent with him trying to secure his hat, as if it were about to fly off. He additionally noticed that the pilot's body also began to fidget.

The airplane momentarily leveled off after reaching about 100 feet above ground level (agl). Several seconds later the nose dropped, and the airplane dove toward the ground in a past-vertical attitude. During the entire accident sequence, the owner heard the engine operating at what he believed to be a maximum power setting. He described the descent to be consistent with the pilot "not flying anymore."

The owner added that the standard departure procedure from his property consists of a steep climb, due to noise considerations for the surrounding neighbor's houses. He thought the pilot's movements were very unnatural and noted that normally the pilot must stay still with their left hand remaining in contact with throttle control and their right hand keeping a constant aft pressure on the control stick. He recalled that the wind conditions were calm and the sky was clear.

PILOT INFORMATION

A review of the airmen records maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) disclosed that the pilot held a private pilot certificate with rating for airplane single engine land. His most recent third-class medical certificate was issued without limitation on May 20, 2005.

No personal logbooks of the pilot were recovered. The owner of the aircraft reported that the pilot had amassed about 25 hours in the accident aircraft.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The unregistered high-wing monoplane had a tail wheel configuration with an open cockpit. The airframe and fuselage were constructed of aluminum tube framework reinforced by struts and wire bracing. The aircraft was equipped with two seats. The wing, stabilizer, and the three axis control surfaces were covered by premanufactured sails.

The Dragonfly's flight manual listed the following performance information, which pertained to it being equipped with a Rotax 582 engine (2-cylinder, 65 horsepower), rather than the one installed on the accident aircraft, the Rotax 912 (4-cylinder, 80 horsepower):

Maximum air speed at maximum takeoff weight: 56 miles per hour
Stall Speed at maximum takeoff weight: 28 miles per hour
Weight Empty: 496 pounds
Maximum weight including pilot and passenger: 992 pounds
Maximum fuel weight: 33 pounds

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Office of the Sheriff, Contra Costa County Coroner's Division, Martinez, California, completed an autopsy on October 30, 2006. The Medical Examiner attributed the cause of death to be, "multiple blunt-force injuries." The reported noted that there was no evidence of the pilot having a cutaneous insect sting or bite. The Forensic Services Division of the Contra Costa Country Sheriff, performed toxicological testing from specimens of the pilot. The results of analysis of the specimens were negative for alcohol and tested drugs.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 103 titled Ultralight Vehicles, in part states that an aircraft is considered an ultralight if it weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight, does not exceed 5 gallons of fuel, does not exceed 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight, and has a power-off stall speed that does not exceed 24 knots calibrated airspeed.

A search for the Moyes Dragonfly revealed that the aircraft's empty weight was greater than 254 pounds and fuel minimums exceeded 5 gallons (information was obtained from the kit manufacturer's website: http://www.moyesamerica.com). Per FAR Part 103, the aircraft would not be considered an ultralight. There were no FAA exemptions for the accident aircraft.

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