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On February 8, 2008, at 1018 Pacific standard time (PST), an experimental Wooters Lancair ES, N329BW, collided with terrain approximately 4 miles northeast of Albany Municipal Airport, Albany, Oregon. The private pilot in the right seat and the private pilot/owner in the left seat, as well as the passenger, were killed. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was being operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. A combination of visual meteorological conditions and instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight departed from McNary Field, Salem, Oregon, at 1010, and was destined for Klamath Falls Airport, Klamath Falls, Oregon.
A witness was working outside, about 2 miles west of the accident site. He heard an engine revving up and down repeatedly. He looked in the sky for an airplane while he continued to hear this sound, and then he saw the airplane come out of a cloud layer about 2,000 feet above ground level. As the airplane came out of the cloud layer, the right wing pitched down and the airplane was in a clockwise corkscrew pattern, at a descent angle of approximately 45 degrees. It continued this corkscrew pattern until going out of view of the witness. During the descent, the witness recalled hearing the engine running. The witness then heard the airplane impact the ground.
According to information provided by the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), the pilot seated in the right seat filed an IFR flight plan. Following departure, a pilot from the accident airplane contacted the Seattle ARTCC at 1006:58 and was cleared to climb to 13,000 feet msl. At 1012:40 the controller advised the airplane that there were earlier reports of moderate icing between 10,000 and 12,000 feet msl. A voice responded with the airplane call sign. At 1013:20, the controller advised that the icing reports were moderate-mixed icing. No response was received from the airplane and the controller queried him at 1013:40. The airplane responded at 1013:46 with the call sign. At 1017:43 an occupant of the airplane contacted the controller stating the airplane's call sign. At 1017:56 a transmission from the airplane stated, "…ah niner bravo whiskey we have (unintelligible) niner bravo whiskey." The controller advised the airplane that the transmission was not intelligible and at 1018:05 a transmission for the airplane reported, "…nine bravo whiskey we're an emergency situation niner bravo whiskey emergency (unintelligible)." There were no further transmissions from the accident airplane.
The airplane was assigned a discrete transponder code, and radar data obtained from the Seattle ARTCC showed that a target identified as the accident airplane was climbing through 10,400 feet msl at 1017. Radar contact and communication were lost with the airplane at 1018.
Pilot Seated in Right Seat
The private pilot, age 32, was certified to fly single-engine airplanes. He did not hold an instrument rating. According to interviews with the pilot's family, the pilot had undergone training for an instrument rating, but had not completed his written or practical tests. According to the pilot's family, the pilot had about 550 hours total flight time. The pilot held a second class medical that was issued on May 31, 2007. It did not have any limitations or waivers.
The pilot's family indicated that he flew often with the airplane's owner. Many times, the pilot would provide navigation and communication assistance, and the owner would fly the airplane.
Pilot/Owner Seated in Left Seat
The owner, age 51, was a private pilot and certified to fly single-engine airplanes. He did not hold an instrument rating. Copies of the owner's logbook showed that the owner had about 467 hours of flight time. The owner held a third class medical certificate that was issued on May 16, 2006, and there were no limitations or waivers.
The owner's first flight in the accident airplane was on June 13, 2007. At the time of the accident, he had recorded in his personal flight logbook about 107 hours flown in the accident airplane.
The experimental four-seat, low-wing, fixed-gear airplane, serial number (SN) LES-132 was manufactured in 2002. It was powered by a Teledyne Continental IO-550-N13B engine, and equipped with a Hartzell PHC-J3YF-1RF propeller. Review of copies of maintenance logbook records showed that the last conditional inspection was completed on December 15, 2006, at a total time of 169.6 hours. There was no conditional inspection noted in the logbook for 2007. Interviews with aviation maintenance personnel that had performed maintenance on the airplane, indicated that a condition inspection had been completed in 2007; however, no supporting documentation was supplied. The last maintenance (an oil change) noted in the maintenance records was dated October 6, 2007, at a total time of 229.7.
The closest official aviation routine weather report (METAR) was McNary Field. The following conditions were reported at 1003: wind from 180 degrees at 14 knots, gusting to 19 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, light rain, clouds were scattered at 2,900 feet, broken at 3,500 feet, and overcast at 6,000 feet, temperature was 42 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point was 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter was 30.29 inches of Mercury.
Records obtained from Data Transformation Corporation (DTC) showed numerous logons under the name of the pilot that filed the IFR flight plan. The first login was at 1832 on February 7 and listed a departure time of 0700 on February 8. At 2247, the pilot filed a flight plan from Salem to Salt Lake City International Airport, Salt Lake City, Utah, with a departure time of 0915 PST. At 0920, the pilot filed a route from Salem to Klamath Falls, with a departure time of 0935. Records showed that the pilot logged onto DTC a total of ten occasions from the first logon attempt to the last. The longest logon duration was the last one at 12 minutes. The average duration of the logons was about 5 minutes. The records included airman's meteorological information (AIRMETs) for icing, turbulence, and mountain obscuration.
The night prior to the accident, the owner contacted a flight service station via telephone and requested a standard weather briefing for a departure the following morning at 0730. In summary, the weather briefer asked the caller if the flight would be using visual flight rules or IFR. The caller indicated IFR. The forecast was for marginal visual flight rules to visual flight rules conditions in the morning that were to improve by late morning. There were AIRMETS for icing, turbulence, and mountain obscuration. The caller requested the cloud tops but the briefer advised that that forecast information was not available. At the end of the briefing, the briefer advised the caller to call back in the morning for updated weather information.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a flat farm field, and the wreckage was confined to the impact area. All control surfaces remained attached to the airplane structure. There was minimal leading edge damage to the wings and horizontal stabilizer, and the engine was buried in approximately 3 feet of soft muddy terrain.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Linn County Medical Examiner completed autopsies on the pilots. The cause of death for both occupants was attributed to massive blunt force traumatic injuries. The Federal Aviation Administration Forensic Toxicology Research Team performed toxicology testing on specimens for both pilots. The right-seated pilot's results were negative for volatiles and all tested drugs. The pilot/owner's toxicology results were negative for volatiles, and drug testing was positive for citalopram, n-desmethycitalopram, and di-n-desmethylcitalopram.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The wreckage was recovered and examined by investigators at a secure storage facility. The airplane sustained substantial damage due to impact forces. The elevator and rudder trim tabs moved freely. The control tubes from the joystick controls to the control surfaces were fractured into multiple pieces. The rudder cables remained attached at the rudder pedals and at the control attach point to the empennage. The rudder cables had been cut during recovery but movement was obtained from the rudder control surface, forward to the cable separation. The flaps were free to move and appeared in the retracted position.
The engine sustained impact damage. The spark plugs were removed and the electrode wear was normal to worn-out when compared to the Champion Check-A-Plug AV-27 chart. The gapping was similar. The crankshaft was rotated, and thumb compression and valve continuity was obtained on all cylinders. Both magnetos mounting flanges had fractured. The right magneto had impact damage to the housing and internal components. The drive could not be rotated. The left magneto drive was rotated by hand and the impulse coupling engaged. Spark was produced at all leads. The oil filter was dated October 6, 2007, at a total time of 229.7. The filter element did not contain any metal flakes.
Examination of the airframe, engine, and system components, revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction.
The airplane was equipped with a Chelton navigation system; the two display units were reviewed at the Safety Board's Recorder Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Review of the data obtained from the units showed that the accident flight power-on time was approximately 28 minutes. Through most of the flight, the engine revolutions per minute (rpm) were 2,600 rpm. They decreased to 2,000 rpm at 1018:04 and 14 seconds later the final reading showed 1,600 rpm. During the last portion of the flight, the descent rates increased to 10,000 feet per minute, and the indicated air speed showed an increase from 100 knots to approximately 160 knots. The last 45 seconds of data showed great fluctuations in the recorded data and performance numbers for ground speed, heading, track, rate of climb, pitch, bank, and vertical acceleration.
According to FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 91-51A, "The most hazardous aspect of structural icing is its aerodynamic effects. Ice can alter the shape of an airfoil. This can cause control problems, change the angle of attack at which the aircraft stalls, and cause the aircraft to stall at a significantly higher airspeed. Ice can reduce the amount of lift that an airfoil will produce and increase drag several fold."