NYC07LA022
NYC07LA022

On November 5, 2006, about 1135 eastern standard time, an amateur-built RAF 2000 GTX, N107TM, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain at Ridgely Airpark (RJD), Ridgely, Maryland. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. No flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to a witness, he saw the gyroplane make "a number" of low approaches to runway 30. On one occasion, the gyroplane landed, then "moments later," took off again. It subsequently climbed to an altitude of approximately 100 feet, and turned right, onto a downwind leg.

The pilot "then made a turn around the approach end of runway 30 and began a run which took him over his house, at which time he turned about 20 degrees to the right, toward the runway. He then turned about 20 degrees left to follow the general runway heading (300 degrees), paralleling the runway, and began a shallow dive to an altitude of approximately 60-75 feet."

The gyroplane maintained that altitude and heading for "a few seconds," then initiated a "very steep (45-degree) climb with an immediate turn to the right. The blade sound changed from the standard high pitch sound to [one] similar to that of a Bell Huey." The gyroplane "immediately began a pronounced roll to the right, to a semi-inverted position and struck the ground."

The witness also noted that after the impact, "a small cloud of vapor appeared and disappeared immediately," and that there was no fire.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, two additional witnesses confirmed the first witness account. In addition, "the engine was running at the time of impact," and all three propeller blades broke off about 6 inches from the hub.

The accident occurred during daylight hours, in the vicinity of 38 degrees, 58.2 minutes north latitude, 75 degrees, 52.0 minutes west longitude.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate, with airplane single engine land, airplane single engine sea ratings, as well as a "certificate limitation" for "experimental aircraft only: rotorcraft-gyroplane, RAF 2000 GTX." The pilot's latest FAA third class medical certificate was issued on July 27, 2005, and at the time, he indicated 250 hours of total flight time.

At the time of the accident, the gyroplane's tachometer indicated 180 hours of operation.

On March 23, 2007, the wreckage was examined by a Safety Board investigator, along with a member of the Popular Rotorcraft Association - Incident Response Team (PRA-IRT). The PRA-IRT representative was also a gyro-plane instructor, and had previously examined the wreckage at the accident site. The wreckage had since been moved to a farm, and when examined, consisted of numerous sections and individual parts that had been separated for transport.

The cockpit area had been mostly disassembled; however, there was upward crushing emanating from the left, lower side. There was no evidence of preimpact failure, and there was no evidence of the rotor having struck the rudder, horizontal stabilizer, or winglets. The hub did not exhibit any ground damage; however, when placed next to an exemplar model, the ends appeared to be bent upwards, about 15 degrees above normal cone. Both rotor blades exhibited upward deformation and compression-type buckling on the upper surfaces. One rotor blade also exhibited aft-bending, centered about mid-span.

According to the PRA-IRT representative, the upward coning was consistent with the rotor blades having lost rigidity due to low rpm.

Another RAF 2000 pilot, who had acquired the wreckage after the accident, stated that he had spoken to the accident pilot several weeks earlier. The accident pilot had stated that he was in the process of creating an air show routine, and it was believed, at the time of the accident, that the pilot was practicing that routine. The other RAF pilot and the PRA-IRT representative both spoke of the high quality workmanship of the accident gyroplane, and both believed that the pilot had about 300 hours of total flight time.

On November 6, 2006, an autopsy was conducted on the pilot by the State of Maryland, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore, Maryland. Toxicological testing was subsequently performed by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. No preaccident anomalies were noted.

Weather, reported at an airport about 15 nautical miles to the southwest, about the time of the accident, included calm winds and clear skies.

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