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HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On September 15, 2007, about 1445 eastern daylight time, a Bellanca 17-30A, N8260R, was substantially damaged during a forced landing, after it experienced a loss of engine power while in cruise flight near Dallas, Georgia. The certificated private pilot was killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed West Georgia Regional Airport (CTJ), Carrollton, Georgia, destined for Cobb County Airport (RYY), Marietta, Georgia. The personal flight was conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
During a telephone interview, the owner of the airplane stated that he purchased it in September 2005. The airplane was involved in a landing mishap on November 5, 2005, and was brought to CTJ for repairs, where it remained until the day of the accident. On the day of the accident, the owner and accident pilot flew to CTJ in a Cessna 182. The accident pilot intended to fly the accident airplane to RYY, while the owner followed in the Cessna. The accident pilot conducted a pre-flight inspection and engine run-up in the airplane, and then attempted to takeoff. The airplane became airborne momentarily; however, the pilot aborted the takeoff, because he felt the engine "miss." The owner and accident pilot subsequently sampled the two fuel tanks located in each respective wing, and discovered water was present in all four tanks. The airplane was also equipped with a fuselage tank, which was empty. After they both felt comfortable that they had drained all the water from the fuel system, the accident pilot again attempted to takeoff.
The accident airplane accelerated and climbed to an altitude of 5,000 feet without incident. The owner departed in the Cessna about 2 minutes later, and climbed to an altitude of 3,000 feet. Both pilots maintained radio communication during the flight. As they approached RYY, the accident pilot began a normal decent and passed below the altitude of the Cessna. Approximately 15 minutes after takeoff had elapsed, the accident airplane turned back to the south. The pilot reported that he experienced an engine failure, and was going to attempt an emergency landing at what appeared to be an old runway.
The pilot attempted to land on a former drag racing strip; however, the airplane struck trees, and came to rest inverted in a wooded area, on a magnetic course of 260 degrees, about 9 miles southwest of RYY.
A witness near the accident site stated that he heard the engine "sputtering and backfiring," before it stopped completely. He then heard the engine restart and run "rough," as it descended into trees.
The pilot, age 36, held a private pilot certificate, with an airplane single-engine land rating. He reported 364 hours of total flight experience, which included 75 hours in the preceding 6 months, on his most recent application for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate, which was issued on July 7, 2004.
According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1972. According to maintenance records, at the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated approximately 2,660 total hours of operation, and the engine had been operated for about 290 hours since it was overhauled. The accident flight was the airplane’s first flight since its most recent annual inspection, which was performed on April 4, 2007, and included a test flight.
A weather observation taken at RYY, at 1445, reported: wind from 340 degrees at 12 knots; visibility 10 statue miles; sky clear; temperature 26 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 10 degrees C; altimeter 30.15 inches of mercury.
Trees at the accident site were about 75 feet tall, and a debris path that was about 75 feet long, extended through the trees on a course of 230 degrees, to the main wreckage.
The airplane was primarily of wood construction, covered by fabric. All major portions of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. The left wing was separated at the root, and only the inboard 4 feet of the right wing remained attached to the fuselage. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder and elevator controls to the mid-cabin area. Aileron continuity was not confirmed due to the impact damage sustained to both wings. The engine remained attached to the fuselage. The propeller was separated at the crankshaft mounting flange and located just forward of engine. The 3-bladed propeller did not exhibit damage consistent with rotation during the impact sequence.
The airplane was recovered to a storage facility in Griffin, Georgia, for further examination. The engine was rotated via a battery connected to the starter. Crankshaft and valve train continuity were confirmed through the accessory section. Thumb compression was attained on all cylinders, except for cylinder number 6, which sustained impact damage to the exhaust valve assembly. In addition, both magnetos produced spark from all of their respective leads, and a borescope inspection of each cylinder did not reveal any catastrophic failures. The spark plugs were removed. Their electrodes were intact and gray in color. The mixture control cable was damaged; however, it remained attached at the mixture control lever and firewall.
The fuel selector was in the left main tank position. The engine-driven fuel pump drive coupling was intact and the fuel pump rotated freely. The airplane's fuel tanks were compromised; however, through the use of water finding paste, water was identified in the engine-driven fuel pump, fuel control inlet screen, and fuel manifold.
No other discrepancies, which would have precluded normal engine operation were identified.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on September 17, 2007, by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Division of Forensic Sciences. The autopsy report identified the cause of death as "blunt force chest trauma."
Toxicological testing was conducted on specimens obtained from the pilot at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with no anomalies noted.