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On September 3, 2007, at 1534 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Starduster Too, N5462, was destroyed during collision with trees and a postcrash fire after takeoff from Ryan Field (7KY2), Verona, Kentucky. The certificated commercial pilot/owner and passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
During interviews with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, several witnesses said the pilot was giving rides to members of a wedding party that had gathered for a rehearsal dinner event, and that the accident flight was the third flight performed by the pilot.
The witnesses remarked that during the passenger swap after the second flight, the engine sounded "rough," and was "popping" and "sputtering." One witness said that as the airplane began its taxi for takeoff, the engine "sputtered again and almost stalled," before it ran smoothly again. Another witness communicated with the pilot by handheld radio. He also heard the popping sound and discussed it with the pilot. They both believed the sputtering was the result of a fouled spark plug, and the pilot announced he would "burn it off."
The witness said a "blackish/gray smoke puffed" from the exhaust during taxi, and that the pilot performed a magneto check prior to takeoff. The pilot announced that the airplane "sounds good" over the radio and began the takeoff roll.
The description of the takeoff, and a sharp, left descending turn into trees was fairly consistent among all of the witness statements. One witness stated that the airplane started to turn left before the engine stopped running, and the airplane "nosed over" into the trees. Another said, "...the nose suddenly pitched 90 degrees straight up..." then the airplane rolled left, hung in the air, and then "plunged" straight down and out of view.
One of the guests was a critical care nurse who responded immediately to the scene. As she administered first aid, the pilot stated that the airplane "started to veer to the left and then inverted, [and] while inverted veered right and crashed into the woods." The pilot only described the event, he did not explain it.
The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multi-engine, and a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. According to FAA records and a union representative for the pilot's employer, the pilot had accrued an estimated 8,700 total hours of flight experience, of which 50 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane. His most recent first-class FAA medical certificate was issued in July 2007.
According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1972, but a determination of total aircraft hours could not be made. The aircraft logbooks were reportedly onboard the airplane at the time of the accident and were consumed by fire. FAA records further showed that at various times throughout its early history, the airplane was restricted from aerobatic flight in the Operations Limitations published by the FAA for the airplane.
A previous owner of the airplane said it was a "one-off," that there were no others like it, and he estimated that the airplane had accrued 950 total aircraft hours at the time of the accident. He further stated that the airplane was later certified by the FAA for "unlimited" aerobatic flight, and was "certified" plus or minus 12 g's.
At 1552, the weather reported at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, 15 miles north, included visibility 10 miles, clear skies, and winds from 320 degrees at 5 knots. The temperature was 34 degrees Celsius, and the dew point was 7 degrees Celsius. The density altitude was about 3,200 feet.
Wreckage and Impact Information
The FAA inspector examined the airplane at the site on September 4, 2007, and all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The initial impact point was in treetops above the wreckage. The wreckage was contained at the point of ground contact, and was completely consumed by fire. Control cable continuity was established from the cockpit area to the flight control surfaces. The engine and propeller were mostly intact. One propeller blade was bent aft, and the other was mostly undamaged.
The Lycoming IO-360-A4A MOD engine was examined under the supervision of the FAA inspector. The engine was "experimental" due to modifications that were made after it left the Lycoming Engine factory. The crankshaft could only be rotated through approximately 15 degrees of travel due to impact damage. Disassembly of the engine revealed no evidence of preimpact anomalies or deficiencies. All rotating parts were intact and showed nominal wear. The magnetos were destroyed by fire, as were the fuel tank and fuel selector.
Medical and Pathological Information
The pilot received serious injuries and died 30 days after the accident, The pilot was unable to give any additional information to investigators other than what was said to initial responders to the accident scene.
The passenger received fatal injuries.
According to FAA Advisory Circular AC-20-27D, Certification and Operation of Amateur-Built Aircraft:
"…..FAA inspections of amateur-built aircraft have been limited to ensuring the use of acceptable workmanship methods, techniques, practices, and issuing operating limitations necessary to protect persons and property not involved in this activity."