On December 27, 2008, about 1739 eastern standard time, an experimental amateur-built Murphy Rebel, N616PM, was substantially damaged during a forced landing while practicing takeoffs and landings at Suwannee Belle Airport (9FL0), Live Oak, Florida. The certificated private pilot/owner/builder was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to a written statement submitted by the pilot, he performed a preflight inspection of the airplane, which included checking all five fuel sumps, "sticking" both fuel tanks, and "blowing" through the vents on the fuel tank caps. He determined that the left tank contained 15 gallons of fuel, and the right tank contained 8 gallons of fuel. He did not observe sediment or water in any of the samples he took from the fuel tanks, and the vents were free of obstructions.
After boarding the airplane, the pilot started the engine and observed one diagnostic trouble code (DTC) displayed by the engine's computer. The displayed code was "DTC1702." The pilot "cleared" the code from the computer's memory before he taxied to runway 20 for takeoff. For the takeoff, the pilot selected the left fuel tank, since it contained the greater amount of fuel, and selected the fuel return to the right fuel tank.
Once airborne, the pilot realized that the winds favored runway 02, so he maneuvered the airplane, and performed four takeoffs and landings utilizing that runway. The landings and subsequent takeoffs were all uneventful. During the fifth takeoff, when the airplane was about 150 feet above the ground and at an airspeed of 70 mph, the engine "sputtered," and the rpm dropped from 5,100 to between 3,300 and 3,000. The pilot responded by pitching the nose of the airplane down to maintain 65 mph, and began applying right rudder in an attempt to return to the runway. The pilot then decided that, given his altitude, he would not be able to return for landing, and instead continued straight ahead toward the only clear area without significant tree cover. The pilot activated the auxiliary fuel pump, and visually scanned the fuel selector and return controls, as well as the fuel pressure gauge, which indicated 28 pounds per square inch. While cycling the throttle, the pilot did not note any significant changes in the engine rpm until he nearly closed the throttle, and the engine speed then dropped to 1,500 rpm. The pilot also noted no electrical abnormalities, and confirmed that the ignition switch was in the "on" position.
As the airplane neared the ground, the pilot turned off all the electrical switches, closed the throttle, and turned off the auxiliary fuel pump and the fuel feeds. After clearing a large berm and several small trees, the pilot noted an airspeed of 55 mph, and a descent rate of 500 to 600 feet per minute. The pilot pulled the control stick nearly fully aft, and flared the airplane. The tail struck the ground first, followed by the right main landing gear, which impacted the ground "very hard, and folded." The airplane was substantially damaged during the landing.
According to the pilot, he held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. He reported that he possessed 243 total hours of flight experience, 63 hours of which were in the accident airplane make and model. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate was issued on April 20, 2008.
The airplane's most recent condition inspection was completed on October 31, 2008, and at the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated 95 total flight hours. The airplane was equipped with a Subaru EJ-22 automotive engine.
Following the accident, the pilot and two FAA inspectors examined the airplane and the engine. According to the inspectors, shortly after the accident, the pilot drained 14 gallons of fuel from the right fuel tank, and 5 gallons from the left fuel tank, in order to prevent the fuel from contaminating the ground. The inspectors examined a sample of the fuel, and found no water, and minimal debris.
A test run of the engine was performed in the pilot's hangar, with the propeller removed. Prior to starting the engine for the test, the pilot observed, and again cleared, the previously noted DTC. The engine started and ran to a limited rpm. After troubleshooting, it was determined that a ground/flight switch was set to the "ground" mode (this switch was used so send a signal to the engine's computer that the "wheel speed" was above 22 mph). Once the switch was toggled to the "flight" mode, the engine ran at a higher rpm, with no abnormalities noted. The engine was shut down, started, and run two additional times. Prior to each engine start, the same DTC was displayed, and the pilot cleared it.
When asked about the meaning of the specific DTC, the pilot stated that it was related to the engine's automotive installation, and related to "traction control." He stated that his understanding was that that DTC was advisory in nature, and had no effect on engine operation. He also stated that he observed this code frequently while operating the airplane, and that it usually appeared following an extended low-power approach.
The 1753 reported weather at Perry-Foley Airport (40J), Perry, Florida, located about 14 nautical miles northeast of the accident site, included calm winds, temperature 21 degrees C, dew point 15 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.20 inches of mercury.