LAX08LA231
LAX08LA231

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On July 18, 2008, at an unknown time, an experimental Nichols Rans, Inc., S-14, N923GN, collided with terrain about 1 mile east of the Benson Municipal Airport (E95), Benson, Arizona. The pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certificated commercial pilot was killed; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The cross-country flight departed Marana Regional Airport, Tucson, Arizona, at an unknown time, with a planned destination of Benson Municipal Airport before continuing to Idabel, Oklahoma. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed.

A 911 call came into the Benson Police Department Dispatch Center about 1300 mountain standard time (MST), from a local area resident who had been driving to the airport the day of the accident. He and a companion in the car noticed a tail sticking up from behind a hill adjacent to the road. They went to investigate the site, and found the airplane and pilot.

According to the new owner of the airplane, he had purchased the airplane on eBay, and had hired the accident pilot to fly the airplane to his location in Oklahoma. The day the airplane crashed, the pilot was embarking on the first leg of the flight. The National Transportation Safety Board was provided with a receipt for 8.00 gallons of fuel purchased at 1120 from Marana Airport on the day of the accident.

AIRPLANE INFORMATION

The experimental airplane was a 1993 Nichols Rans, Inc., S-14 Airaile, N923GN, serial number 0393064. The airworthiness certificate was issued on January 5, 2007. A 2-cycle Rotax 582 DCDI engine, serial number 5236656, had been installed on the airplane. On May 5, 2007, ownership of the airplane was transferred from the builder/owner/pilot, to the owner of record at the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who then sold it on eBay.

According to the Rans S-14 specification sheet (http://www.rans.com/s14spec.html), the engine will burn 5.75 gallons per hour at an 85-percent power setting, with a fuel capacity of 9 gallons. The endurance is 1.56 hours of flight time, with a range of 148 miles.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

According to the United States Department of Transportation, National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO), Phoenix Aeronautical Sectional Chart, Benson Municipal Airport (E95) is approximately 50 nautical miles east-southeast of Marana Regional Airport (AVQ).

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors responded to the site and stated that the accident area was flat desert terrain. They noted that the impact appeared to be a "low velocity and high angle impact." The airplane impacted the ground in left wing nose low attitude before coming to rest inverted. The FAA inspectors found a witness mark that matched the shape of the wing about 10 feet behind the main wreckage, and was about 18 inches deep. The left wing exhibited about 3 feet of crush damage from the wing tip inboard toward the fuselage. The right wing remained intact with minor impact damage. The nose of the airplane was crushed inward, and the tail boom was bent in a downward about 30 degrees from its normal position.

According to the FAA inspector, both wings contained fuel that was draining out of the vent, and soaking the earth beneath the wings of the airplane. They were also able to establish flight control continuity between all of the control surfaces, and the flap position was "10-20." Engine oil was also observed draining from the out of the engine when the airplane was righted. According to FAA records, the registration certificate for the airplane had been terminated.

An engine teardown inspection was not completed.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Cochise County Office of the Medical Examiner completed an autopsy for the pilot on July 22, 2008. The autopsy listed the cause of death as blunt force injuries as a result of an airplane crash. The FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot. Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and volatiles. The report contained the following findings for tested drugs:

0.05 (ug/ml, ug/g) Nordiazepam detected in urine
0.011 (ug/ml, ug/g) Nordiazepam detected in blood
0.072 (ug/ml, ug/g) Oxazepam detected in urine
Oxazepam not detected in blood
0.084 (ug/ml, ug/g) Temazepam detected in urine
Temazepam not detected in blood
0.0511 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol (Marihuana) detected in blood
1.3028 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol (Marihuana) detected in lung
0.0323 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in blood
0.0448 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in lung
0.4514 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in lung

The pilot’s most recent application for a second-class Airman Medical Certificate indicated a NO answer in response to the following questions:
Do You Currently Use Any Medication?
All items under MEDICAL HISTORY, including specifically:
1. Mental disorders of any sort (depression, anxiety, etc.)
2. Substance dependence or failed a drug test ever; or substance abuse or use of illegal substance in the last 2 years.

FAA medical records recorded that, in 1976, the pilot satisfactorily completed a Signal Light Test required because of defective color vision.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A global positioning system (GPS) handheld unit found in the wreckage, a Lowrance Airmap 100, serial number 518363, was shipped to the Safety Board vehicle recorder laboratory in Washington, D.C., for download. Visual examination revealed no significant damage, and the unit was started with no abnormalities. The Safety Board engineer downloaded the data via the serial port using GPS Utility v4.88 and Delorme Topo USA v5.0. Seventy-one user defined waypoints and one trail were downloaded from the GPS. The recorded trail data contained latitude and longitude information only, with no date or time stamps recorded.

Further inspection of the GPS unit revealed that the trail data was updated by "time" with an update rate of 3 seconds. The recovered data using the GPS Utility included the 71 waypoints and the one trail point. Data recovered via Topo USA had no waypoint information, but did include 1,113 trail points. The trail points began at a latitude/longitude position fix that corresponded to Marana Regional Airport. The unit did not record date and time stamps so no airspeed or altitude points were available. The recorded trail data only contained latitude and longitude information. The data points showed a downwind departure from another airport, and then stopped just short of the approach end of the runway, near the airport where the accident had occurred. The final GPS position location fix placed the airplane at 31.995016 north latitude and 110.348607 west longitude at the accident site. The distance between the two airports was approximately 50 nautical miles, with the accident airport east-southeast of the departure airport. The pilot had not filed a flight plan, and fueled the airplane about 2 hours before the wreckage was discovered, but it is not clear what time he departed for his flight.

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