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On October 3, 2008, about 1500 Alaska daylight time, an experimental light sport (E-LSA) homebuilt Challenger II airplane, N7511J, sustained substantial damage when it collided with tree-covered terrain following a loss of control while maneuvering, about 5 miles northeast of Chugiak, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, when the accident occurred. The non-certificated pilot died at the scene. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local area flight. Witnesses reported that the accident airplane departed from the Birchwood Airport, Chugiak, about 1455.
During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on October 7, a helicopter pilot that was inbound to the Birchwood Airport reported that he saw the accident airplane's departure from Runway 19L. He said that just after the accident airplane became airborne, it began to "porpoise" which continued during climb. The helicopter pilot said that just after takeoff, the airplane turned left, while still very low, and flew over an area of hangars and buildings on the northeast side of the airport. In a report to the NTSB, the helicopter pilot wrote, in part: "At one time we thought he was going to hit one of the buildings due to a steep dive. We continued our approach and the aircraft was last observed heading northbound."
Witnesses reported to responding emergency crews that just before the accident they saw the airplane flying northbound, about 100 feet above the trees. The witness said that as it continued northbound, the engine noise increased, and the nose pitched down. The witness said that the airplane's nose continued to pitch down until the airplane descended nose first into dense woods.
The pilot did not hold an FAA pilot or medical certificate, nor was he required to while operating an E-LSA airplane as a student pilot.
No personal flight records were located for the pilot, and the aeronautical experience listed on page 3 of this report was obtained from the pilot’s flight instructor.
During a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on October 7, the flight instructor that had been providing primary flight instruction to the accident pilot reported that he had been flying with the pilot from November 11, 2006, until June 15, 2008. The flight instructor also noted that he had originally built the accident airplane from a kit, and as part of the sale agreement between himself and the accident pilot, he would teach the pilot how to fly the airplane. According to the flight instructor, the pilot had received 19.2 hours of flight instruction in Challenger II airplanes, but he had not progressed to a point where he could endorse the pilot for a solo flight. He added that the pilot frequently struggled with pitch control of the Challenger II airplane during takeoff, landing, or when engine power was increased or decreased. The flight instructor also noted that the flight characteristics of a Challenger II airplane with one occupant, compared to two occupants, are very different.
The flight instructor told the NTSB IIC that he had refused to fly with the pilot in the accident airplane until after the regularly scheduled annual inspection was completed on the airframe and engine, which was due July 31, 2008. The flight instructor said he was unaware if the accident pilot had ever complied with the scheduled annual inspection, but he assumed not, since the pilot had not called to schedule more flight training in his airplane.
The airplane was built by the original owner from a kit, and was issued an FAA experimental airworthiness certificate with experimental limitations on July 15, 2007.
The airplane had an aluminum tube frame that formed the fuselage structure. The nose of the airplane was formed by a fiberglass nose cone. The fuselage, rudder, and horizontal stabilizer were enclosed by Ceconite-covered fabric. The wings had aluminum tube frames with loose-fitting, canvas-like fabric material. The airplane was designed with two tandem seats in the cockpit, with the pilot’s seat in front.
The airplane was equipped with an aft-mounted, pusher, Rotex 503, 52 horsepower engine.
No maintenance records or construction build records were located for the airplane. No weight and balance data for the airplane was located.
The closest weather reporting facility was the Birchwood Airport, about 5 miles southwest of the accident site. At 1456, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) was reporting, in part: Wind 260 degrees at 3 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few at 3,000 feet, 3,700 feet scattered, 4,800 feet broken; temperature, 43 degrees F; dew point, 30 degrees F; altimeter, 29.35 inHg.
The airplane was not equipped with a radio.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board IIC, and an FAA airworthiness inspector from the Anchorage Flight Standards District Office, Anchorage, Alaska, examined the wreckage at the accident site on October 3.
All of the airplane's major components were found at the main wreckage site. A path of wreckage debris, from an area of broken trees to the wreckage point of rest, was on a magnetic heading of approximately 190 degrees. (All heading/bearings noted in this report are oriented toward magnetic north.)
The airplane’s fuselage was discovered inverted, and the fiberglass nose section was crushed and buckled inward. The primary crush zones extended from the fiberglass nose cone back to about the aft passenger seat area, which encompassed the pilot's cockpit area. The cockpit area was obliterated by impact damage. The instrument panel was crushed and twisted under the fuselage.
The wings remained attached to the fuselage, and both were extensively distorted. A portion of the airplane’s right wing and right aileron was suspended from a tree, adjacent to the main wreckage site.
Due to impact damage, continuity of the flight control cables and push-pull tubes could not be established.
The propeller hub assembly remained connected to the engine crankshaft. Both wooden propeller blades were broken about mid-span, and each had leading edge gouging.
There were no preaccident mechanical problems discovered with the airplane's engine or flight controls during the NTSB IIC's on-scene wreckage examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted under the authority of the Alaska State Medical Examiner, 4500 South Boniface Parkway, Anchorage, Alaska, on October 5, 2008. The cause of death for the pilot was attributed to blunt force, traumatic injuries.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) did a toxicological examination on November 4, 2008, and was negative for alcohol or drugs.
The Safety Board released the wreckage, at the accident site, to the owner's representatives on October 3, 2008. The Safety Board retained no parts or components.