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On June 2, 2008, at 1412 central daylight time, a Robert Harms, Kitfox Series V experimental airplane, N40120 impacted terrain one-half mile northeast of the La Porte Municipal Airport (T41), La Porte, Texas. The commercial pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The local flight departed T41 at approximately 1355.
The pilot was flying with a potential buyer of the airplane, who was a pilot-rated passenger. The pilot was flying on behalf of the airplane's owner, who was not qualified to fly the airplane. After 10 to 15 minutes of flight, witnesses observed the airplane making a climbing left turn at approximately 1,000 feet when the airplane suddenly nosed over near vertical. The airplane impacted an open field at a near 45-degree angle and burned in post-impact fire.
Air traffic control radar data shows the airplane making a left hand turn and airspeed slowing from approximately 80 knots to 61 knots during the last 90 seconds of data. Altitude information was unreliable.
The pilot was the primary pilot for N40120 and had flown it with the owner for 45 minutes the morning of the accident. Prior to the morning flight, the pilot had not flown N40120 for approximately one year.
The 74-year old pilot occupied the right seat and held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land and instrument airplane. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical was issued on May 17, 2006, with the limitation of "MUST WEAR CORRECTIVE LENSES." According to Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 61.23 states a Third Class medical examination expires the 24th month after the month of the date of the examination shown on the certificate.
The pilot's logbook was destroyed by post-impact fire. The pilot reported 3,736 total hours on his last medical examination. His last noted flight review was May 26, 2006. According to Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 61.56 states a pilot must accomplish a flight review within 24 months of their last flight review in order to act as pilot in command.
PILOT-RATED PASSENGER INFORMATION
The pilot-rated passenger, age 55, occupied the left seat and held a private pilot's license with an airplane single engine land rating. His pilot certificate was issued January 27, 1988. His last third class medical examination was issued in May, 1987, with the restriction "Valid for 9 months following the month examined."
A review of the pilot-rated passenger's logbook indicated he had accumulated approximately 94 total flight hours between January, 1988 and March 29, 2008. He had accumulated approximately 90 hours between June 22, 2005, and March 29, 2008, in a Cessna 172 airplane that was registered in his name. His logbook did not indicate any time flown in any other airplanes after June 22, 2005. There was no record of when his last flight review had occurred.
The 2004 Harmes Kitfox Series V experimental airplane, serial number S9909-0215, was a high wing airplane with a fixed, tail wheel landing gear and was configured for two occupants. The airplane was powered by a four stroke, four cylinder, liquid cooled, gasoline engine. The engine was a Subaru 2.2L, rated at 135 horsepower and was driving a two-bladed fixed pitch Ivoprop propeller. The airplane was configured with a one-degree forward wing sweep.
According to the airplane's owner and builder, the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on November 15, 2007. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated approximately 165 total hours.
Kitfox Aircraft, LLC manufactures Kitfox Series V airplane kits. According to the weight and balance spreadsheet located on their website, the Series V kits have a maximum gross weight of 1,550 pounds. Kitfox Aircraft, LLC personnel indicated the Kitfox V gross weight limit of 1,550 pounds had been established as the structural limit at +6g and -3g and was the flight tested limit. N40120 was certified with a maximum gross weight of 1,711 pounds, an empty weight of 1,038 pounds and empty center of gravity (CG) of +8.4 inches.
According to weight and balance computations performed by FAA personnel, the airplane weighed 1,575 pounds and had a CG of 12.06 at the time of the accident. The kit manufacturer recommended CG range was 9.96 to 14.75.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located in a field adjacent to Avenue H, La Porte, Texas, approximately six-tenths of a mile northeast of the center of T41. The fuselage was located 16 feet west of the initial ground contact point aligned on a 180-degree heading. Linear ground scars consistent with propeller strikes were located near the initial impact point. Propeller blade one was attached to the propeller hub and was mostly splintered. Propeller blade two was attached to the propeller hub at an approximate 45-degree angle, consistent with clockwise rotation, and was mostly splintered.
The forward cockpit and engine were separated from the fuselage and located adjacent to the fuselage. The left wing structure was located on top of the fuselage and was aligned with the fuselage. Both the forward and aft spars were sheared. The right wing structure lay next to the fuselage on the right side with the forward spar bent aft 45 degrees and the aft spar sheared at the fuselage. The vertical stabilizer and rudder were bent 90 degrees to the right. All portions of the airplane exterior and portions of the fuselage, cockpit, wings and empennage structure were consumed by post-impact fire. There was no evidence found of in-flight fire.
The left and right aileron control tubes, stabilizer control tube, and left and right flaperon control tubes were sheared and melted. FAA investigators found "no [anomolies] with flight controls or structures that would contribute to the accident."
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Office of the Medical Examiner of Harris County, located in Houston, Texas, performed an autopsy on the pilot on June 3, 2008. Cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma.
The FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. Testing results for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol were negative. The pilot tested positive for the following drugs:
7.438 (ug/ml, ug/g) Acetaminophen detected in blood
0.233 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tramadol detected in blood
Tramadol detected in urine
The pilot's most recent application for 3rd Class Airman Medical Certificate notes "Yes" for "Do you currently use any medication," and indicates "Benazepril 5mg/day; Inadamide 2.5mg/day; Centrum Silver Vitamin; Vitamin E." Under "Comments on History and Findings" is noted in part, "cataract surgery right eye...high blood pressure...back surgery...colon surgery removed cancer growth 2/24/1999..." Under "Visits to Health Professional Within Last 3 Years" is noted in part, "back pain-physical therapy 5/216/05...consult on back pain 6/12/06 more physical therapy."
The following information was extracted from the records maintained on the pilot by his orthopedic surgeon:
10/6/06 - A description of symptoms completed by the pilot noted, in part, "I had back surgery about three years ago. I had no back pain for about a year and a half. It has gradually worsened." Under "How do you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, the number "7" is circled. Under "current medications" is listed, in part, "Tramadol 50 mg tablet, 1 to 2 tablets 4 times a day."
The following information was extracted from the report of autopsy performed on the pilot:
Under "Cardiovascular System" is noted, in part, "The heart weighs 500 grams and has a normal distribution of right predominant coronary arteries with 50 percent atherosclerotic stenosis of the proximal left circumflex coronary artery and no more than 30 percent atherosclerotic stenosis of the remaining epicardial vessels. ... The left ventricular wall measures 2.1 centimeters, and the right measures 0.5 centimeters thick. ..."
The Office of the Medical Examiner of Harris County, located in Houston, Texas, performed an autopsy on the pilot-rated passenger on June 3, 2008. Cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma.
The FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. Testing results for Carbon Monoxide, Cyanide, and Ethanol were negative. The pilot-rated passenger tested positive for the following drugs:
Naproxen detected in urine.
Vitreous and urine were tested for the presence of glucose with regent strips and by enzymatic spectrophotometric analysis with the following results:
113 mg/dl Glucose detected in vitreous
44 mg/dl Glucose detected in urine
7.2% Hemoglobin A1C detected in blood
The pilot-rated passenger's last application for 3rd Class Airman Medical Certificate was dated May 22, 1987, with the restriction "Valid for 9 months following the month examined." The passenger indicated "No" for "Do you currently use any medication" and "No" for "Diabetes." There was no entry for "Heart or vascular trouble."
The following information was extracted from the report of autopsy performed on the pilot-rated passenger:
Under "Scars" is noted, in part, "There is a midline sternal scar overlying the chest..."
Under "Cardiovascular System" is noted, in part, "The heart weighs 680 grams and has a normal distribution of right predominant coronary arteries with 90 percent atherosclerotic stenosis of the left anterior descending coronary artery and 70 percent atherosclerotic stenosis of the mid circumflex coronary artery. There are three coronary artery bypass grafts that originate at the root of the aorta and anastomose to the proximal left anterior descending coronary artery, distal left anterior descending coronary artery, and lateral branch of the left circumflex coronary arteries. The bypass grafts are probe patent. The myocardium is dark red, tan, and heterogeneous with a focal 3 centimeter gray-white scar in the lateral left ventricular wall in the distribution of the lateral branch of the left circumflex coronary artery. The left ventricular wall measures 1.6 centimeters, and the right measures 0.4 centimeter thick. ..."
According to the pilot-rated passenger's wife, he had a heart attack in 1984 at age 31 and had open heart surgery approximately ten years ago. He was also taking Naproxen for pain, as he had a history of broken bones. He was also a diabetic, which was "under control" through the use of insulin.