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On May 12, 2007, about 1810 mountain standard time, a homebuilt experimental Sheely RANS S-12XL, N6641K, departed controlled flight and collided with terrain during the initial climb from a private airstrip in Pinetop, Arizona. The pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The local personal flight was originating at the time of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.
In a written statement, a witness said that he observed the pilot perform a preflight run-up and subsequent takeoff. He noted that the airplane appeared slow as it made a left turn onto the crosswind leg of the traffic pattern. He then witnessed the airplane descend to the terrain below. Another witness, who lived adjacent to the airport, stated that he observed the airplane depart to the south. Shortly thereafter, the airplane made a left turn to the east. The left wing dipped and the airplane began a downward spiral, which continued 180 degrees until it impacted terrain.
Immediately following the accident, a sheriff's deputy spoke to a relative of the pilot. The relative stated that he had previously flown in the accident airplane and provided about 50 hours of flight instruction for the pilot. Based on his familiarity with the handling characteristics of the airplane and the pilot's capabilities, the relative opined that the accident was a result of "pilot error."
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the pilot did not hold a pilot certificate, nor did he have a medical certificate. According to personnel from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Aero Sports Connection (ASC), and United States Ultralight Association, Inc. (USUA), the pilot was not registered as either a pilot or flight instructor with their association; the USUA did have records that the pilot was a registered member.
According to the pilot's wife, the pilot had accumulated about 300 hours of flight in the accident airplane, of which 250 hours originated from the same airstrip. She noted that he had been flying over the course of 2 to 3 years, and did not believe that he needed a license to fly the airplane.
The RANS S-12XL single engine kit airplane, serial number 04000917, was completed in 2000 and sold to the pilot in May 2005. The airplane was outfitted with two seats. The fuselage was constructed of welded chrome-molybdenum steel tubing, with an aluminum boom and pre-sewn Dacron skins. The airplane's specifications were provided by the kit manufacturer and listed the following performance information, which pertained to it being equipped with a Rotax 912 UL engine (4-cylinder, 80 horsepower):
Maximum air speed at maximum takeoff weight: 100 miles per hour
Stall Speed at maximum takeoff weight: 42 miles per hour
Weight Empty: 575 pounds
Maximum weight including pilot and passenger: 1,100 pounds
Fuel capacity: 9 gallons
The FAA records indicated that the previous owner/builder had successfully accomplished both Phase One and Phase Two of the experimental operating limitations, with the later completed on October 9, 2000.
No maintenance records were located for either the airframe or engine. According to the FAA inspector who visited the accident site, the pilot performed the maintenance on the airplane.
At the time of the accident the airplane held a suspended registration. The accident pilot had sent in incomplete registration paperwork on May 17, 2005, and the registration was placed on suspension after a discrepancy report from the FAA to the pilot was returned as "undeliverable."
The closest weather observation station was in Show Low, Arizona, located about 7 miles northwest of the accident site. At 1750, the station was reporting scattered clouds at 12,000 feet above ground level (agl) with surface winds from 220 degrees at 9 knots. No unusual meteorological phenomena were reported by the station or observed by witnesses to the accident. Witnesses reported that the wind conditions were less than 10 knots.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL
An autopsy was performed by the Navajo County Sheriff's Office of the Medical Examiner. The autopsy report concluded that the death was the result of injuries sustained in the accident. The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted a toxicological examination. The report was negative for cyanide, volatiles (ethanols), and carbon monoxide. The examination revealed that .021 ug/ml of Diphenhydramine, in conjunction with Ibuprofen, was detected in the pilot's blood; Quinine and Diphenhydramine was detected in the pilot's urine.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT
The accident site was located adjacent to the pilot's residence in an open field in the area of Morgan Flat. In character, the meadow was flat, surrounded by pine and juniper trees. The wreckage was located at an estimated 34 degrees 12 minutes and 12 seconds north latitude and 109 degrees 54 minutes and 00 seconds west longitude, at an elevation of about 7,050 feet mean sea level (msl).
According to a sheriff's deputy, the wreckage and ground scars were consistent with the airplane impacting the terrain in a nose-low, almost vertical attitude.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
According to the FAA inspector who responded to the accident, the Rotax 912 engine was detached from its mounts. Removal of the spark plugs revealed that they were similarly light tan and grey in coloration, which he stated was consistent with normal operation. Upon manual rotation of the propeller, thumb compression was obtained on all cylinders. Both carburetors contained fuel and the floats moved freely.
The airplane was equipped with a Warp Drive 3-bladed composite propeller. One blade had sheared off about 10-inches from the root.
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 a full fuel capacity of 5 gallons, 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.
Per FAR Part 103, the aircraft would not be considered an ultralight. There were no FAA exemptions for the accident aircraft.