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On March 18, 2008, about 1215 mountain standard time, an experimental Jenkins RV-7A, N742MJ, collided with terrain at Winslow, Arizona. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certificated private pilot was killed. The airplane sustained substantial damage to all components. The local personal flight departed Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport (KINW) at 1205. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
In an interview with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, a family member of the pilot stated that they had observed the pilot take off. The airplane climbed until it was behind a building, and then the airplane went straight down. According to the witness, "the engine sounded like it sputtered, then like he gunned it, then the plane went straight up, and that's when he did the loopdy loo, then hit the ground." The inspector identified the "loopdy loo" to be a nose-low longitudinal roll. The witness saw the airplane roll so that she was looking at the top of the wings and cockpit of the airplane as it disappeared behind buildings.
According to the family member, this was the second time the pilot had flown the airplane. When the pilot returned from the first flight, he stated that there was something wrong with the engine, and that it was leaking oil. The pilot then removed the engine from the airplane, brought it to his garage, and took it apart. He told the witness that the bearings were okay, and then stuck a pen into a hole and stated that he saw where the oil was going. He then screwed a plug into the hole, and put the engine back together.
In an interview with the Winslow Police Department, a witness stated that they observed the airplane from their residence, about 1 mile from the accident site. The witness first saw the airplane coming out of the west. It was about 500 feet above the ground, in an estimated 90-degree bank. Then the nose of the airplane dropped down, and the airplane went straight down. The airplane was over the taxiway, near runway 29/11. According to the witness, "it was like either he [the pilot] wasn't working or the plane wasn't working."
An FAA inspector interviewed a line service technician at the airport. He reported that this was the first takeoff of the day for the airplane, and he had seen the pilot taxi out to the runway just before it crashed. He witnessed the airplane fly about 700-800 feet above the runway. Then it nose-dived into taxiway alpha, almost perpendicular to the ground. The witness reported that the engine was very loud during the dive, and the pilot made no effort to recover from the dive.
FAA investigators noted and photographed a substance similar to the smell and consistency of oil near the accident site. They found a trail of this substance that continued from the door of hangar number six along taxiways to the runway. According to FAA records, N742MJ was housed in hangar six at the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport.
A review of FAA airman records revealed that the 84-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on February 21, 2007. It had no limitations or waivers.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge obtained the aeronautical experience listed in this report from a review of the FAA airmen medical records on file in the Airman and Medical Records Center located in Oklahoma City. The pilot reported on his medical application that he had a total time of 1,500 hours with 3 to 4 hours logged in the last 6 months.
The accident pilot built the experimental RV-7A, single engine kit airplane, serial number 71128. The airplane was equipped with a Lycoming IO-360 engine, which was also built by the accident pilot.
According to the FAA, inspectors had looked at the airplane on January 31, 2007, with the intent of certificating it in the "Experimental Amateur Built" category. An airworthiness certificate was not issued at the time, and the FAA provided the pilot with a list of 44 discrepancies revealed by their inspection.
The FAA representatives who had inspected the airplane provided written reports of this inspection. They reported that the pilot seemed confused and had a hard time hearing and understanding their findings. According to their reports, the pilot "admitted to having problems remembering his left from his right." All of the inspectors explained the discrepancies they found to the pilot, but reportedly they all later agreed that it was "questionable if [the pilot] fully understood what had been communicated to him."
On February 18, 2007, the FAA received a fax from the pilot containing his corrective actions to the list of discrepancies they had originally provided. The inspectors found that they could not issue an airworthiness certificate due to the seriousness of some of the discrepancies, as well as some of the unacceptable corrective actions provided.
A designated airworthiness representative (DAR) issued the special airworthiness certificate on November 23, 2007. Phase one of the experimental operating limitations applied for the airplane.
The closest official weather observation station was at KINW. An aviation routine weather report (METAR) for KINW was issued at 1156. It stated: winds from 340 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 21 knots; visibility 10 miles; skies clear; temperature 12 degrees Celsius; dew point -8 degrees Celsius; altimeter 30.18 inches of mercury.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.
Analysis of the specimens for the pilot contained no findings for tested drugs. They did not perform tests for carbon monoxide or cyanide. The report contained the following findings for volatiles: 16 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in muscle.
The report noted that putrefaction was present in the specimens.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
A Safety Board investigator examined the airframe and engine, which were severely fragmented. Remains of all flight controls were within the wreckage, and the investigator established aileron control continuity. There were multiple fractures within the torque tubes; the fracture surfaces were angular and irregular. Recovery personnel cut the right outboard torque tube. The investigator did not establish control continuity to the elevator and rudder surfaces due to the extent of the damage. A portion of crushed control torque tube remained attached to the elevator bellcrank.
The investigator noted that the engine was highly fragmented, and separated from the engine mount. The wreckage included all four cylinders. All four pistons and connecting rods remained attached to various pieces of the separated crankshaft.
The investigator observed that one of the two propeller blades separated from the propeller hub. The separated blade was bent forward throughout the span of the blade. The investigator noted chordwise scratching on the forward side of the blade with numerous nicks and gouges. The other propeller blade remained attached to the propeller hub. The outboard portion of this propeller blade tip separated. The remainder of the propeller blade exhibited chordwise scratching, blade twisting, and leading edge gouging. The crankshaft propeller flange remained attached to the propeller hub.