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On August 13, 2008, at 1415 eastern daylight time, an Ercoupe 415-C, N94339, incurred substantial damage when it collided with trees during takeoff from a private airstrip (Southern Dreams Ranch) in Arcadia, Florida. The certificated commercial pilot was killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was operated by the commercial pilot, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight.
A witness stated to a DeSoto County Sheriff's Office representative that the pilot routinely flew into the property from Venice, Florida, where he was based. On the day of the accident, the witness observed the airplane depart toward the west, from the measured 1,200-foot long grass strip, which veered to the left. During the takeoff, it appeared to the witness that the airplane encountered a downdraft, causing it to lose altitude. The witness added that it looked like the pilot attempted to reestablish a climb, but was unable to clear an oak tree, which was located about 50 feet past and 20 feet left of the runway. The airplane clipped the tree at an estimated height of 30 feet above the ground, entered an uncontrolled descent while impacting several pine trees, and came to rest inverted on the ground with a section of the left wing separating from the airplane.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He was issued a second-class medical certificate in March 04, 2005, with a limitation of must have available glasses for near vision. The pilot reported a total of 10,000 hours at the time of the last medical certificate application. The responding Federal Aviation Administration Inspector stated that a review of the pilot’s flight logbooks revealed that his last entry was April 16, 2002, with a total of 7,209 hours. The pilot’s last biennial review was on December 02, 2006.
The 1946 Ercoupe 415-C, serial number 1562, was being operated in the Light Sport Aircraft category. The airplane was powered by a Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM), O-200-A, 100-horsepower engine. Maintenance records provided by the responding FAA inspector showed that the airplane’s last annual inspection was on June 6, 2008, at a total time of 3,473 hours. A review of the airplane’s engine records by FAA and TCM personnel determined the engine had a total time of 1,885 hours since overhaul.
The closest official weather observation was at the Charlotte County Airport, Punta Gorda, Florida, 23 miles southwest from the accident site. On August 13, 2008, at 1353, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) recorded in part, winds at 250 degrees at 13 knots; visibility, 9 statute miles; sky clear; temperature 32 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 23 degrees C; altimeter 29.95 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the main wreckage showed the airplane’s top section of the cockpit area was crushed and the windshield broken and separated. The fuselage was twisted aft of the cockpit area. The cockpit area was partially separated and ripped open. The right wing leading edge was crushed with impact damage and bent aft toward the tail section of the airplane. A section beyond the left wing spar area separated and the leading edge was observed with impact damage similar to the right wing. The engine nacelle section was crushed aft and twisted toward the left. The propeller remained attached to the engine; both propeller tips were twisted and bent.
A wreckage examination was conducted by an FAA and TCM representative. There were no abnormalities or discrepancies noted that would have prevented the airplane and its systems from normal flight operations. A non-Technical Standard Order (TSO) electronic magneto (E-mag) was observed in the right magneto position of the certificated engine.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted under the authority of the Florida State Medical Examiner, Sarasota, Florida, on August 14, 2008. The cause of death for the pilot was attributed to multiple blunt force injuries. The autopsy report noted heart weight of 490 grams, "moderate to early severe atheromatous eccentric and concentric calcified stenosis” (up to 80% in the left anterior descending and right coronary arteries) and “a 1.5 x 0.7 x 1.0 cm focus of healed fibrosis of the left posterior lateral ventricular free wall midway between base and apex."
The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) conducted toxicological testing on specimens from the pilot. The tests were negative for alcohol. Ranitidine was detected in the blood and urine.