On June 8, 2009, about 1640 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built, Lightning, N130DS, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees while attempting to land following loss of engine power at the Transylvania County Airport (3NR3), Brevard, North Carolina. The certificated flight instructor and a private pilot were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the instructional flight that was conducted under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The airplane was owned and built by the private pilot, and was based at 3NR3.
According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, a witness observed the airplane depart 3NR3 between 1430 and 1500. A witness at the Oconee County Regional Airport, Clemson, South Carolina, located about 40 miles south-southwest of 3NR3, reported that the airplane was practicing touch-and-go landings at the airport between 1530 and 1600. At 1630, witnesses at 3NR3 heard a pilot from the airplane contact the airport's Unicom operator. One witness observed the airplane fly over the airport from the south, and enter the left downwind leg of the traffic pattern for runway 9, a 2,903-foot-long, 50-foot-wide, asphalt runway. The witness stated that the airplane was at the normal traffic pattern altitude and that the engine sounded normal. The witness then went indoors and noticed that he did not hear any further communications from the airplane over the Unicom frequency.
A witness, located in the vicinity of the accident site, stated that he observed the airplane in a left turn. The engine was "spitting and sputtering" and then quit. The airplane descended behind some trees, which was followed by a "loud thud."
A witness, driving in her car, stated that she observed the airplane make a "very sharp left turn." It then "began to roll left and right, then it dove straight down into tress and broke apart." She could not hear any sounds associated with the airplane.
Examination of the wreckage by an FAA inspector revealed that it impacted in a heavily wooded area, about 1/4 mile from the runway. The airplane struck an 80-foot tall tree, about mid-span, before coming to rest inverted. The right wing separated and was located approximately 15 feet from the tree. The empennage was separated and remained attached to the airframe via cables. Fragments of a composite propeller blade were located at the accident site. The airplane was equipped with a Jabiru 3300cc engine, which was impact damaged.
Both the left and right wing fuel tanks were damaged. The fuel selector was found in the left tank position. Witnesses who observed the airplane shortly after the accident reported that they observed fuel leaking from the left wing.
Further examination of the engine and flight controls by a Safety Board investigator did not reveal any evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions.
The flight instructor, age 63, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor's certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine and instrument airplane.
He reported 7,270 hours of total flight experience, on his most recent application for an FAA second-class medical certificate, which was issued on October 2, 2008. In addition, he had accumulated about 70 hours in the accident airplane.
The private pilot, age 59, held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land.
He reported 216 hours of total flight experience, on his most recent application for an FAA third-class medical certificate, which was issued on April 1, 2004.
Review of the private pilot's logbook revealed that at the time of the accident, he had accumulated about 260 hours of total flight experience, which included about 30 flight hours in the accident airplane. All 30 hours were flown with the flight instructor.
According to maintenance records, the airplane's most recent condition inspection was performed on January 8, 2008, at zero total hours in service. At the time of the accident, the airplane had been operated for about 73 hours.
An autopsy was performed on both pilots, on June 11, 2009, by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. According to the autopsy reports, both pilots sustained multiple blunt force traumatic injuries.
Toxicological testing was performed on the both pilots by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicological testing on the flight instructor was negative for drugs and alcohol. Toxicological testing on private pilot revealed:
"0.134 (ug/ml, ug/g) DULOXETINE detected in Blood
DULOXETINE detected in Urine
0.135 (ug/ml, ug/g) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL (MARIHUANA) detected in Lung
0.0032 (ug/ml, ug/g) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL (MARIHUANA) detected in Blood
0.1409 (ug/ml, ug/g) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL CARBOXYLIC ACID (MARIHUANA) detected in Urine
0.1113 (ug/ml, ug/g) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL CARBOXYLIC ACID (MARIHUANA) detected in Liver
0.0115 (ug/ml, ug/g) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL CARBOXYLIC ACID (MARIHUANA) detected in Lung
0.0101 (ug/ml, ug/g) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL CARBOXYLIC ACID (MARIHUANA) detected in Blood"
Staff at the pathology department where the autopsies were conducted indicated that the private pilot’s blood specimen submitted to the FAA was collected from the chest cavity.
The private pilot had a history of “stable post-traumatic stress syndrome requiring no medication or therapy” documented in his FAA medical records. The private pilot's wife stated that he had no recent changes in his health or mood. She further stated that private pilot had not displayed any evidence of depression, and that he was "passionate" and "enthusiastic" about aviation.
A weather observation taken at an airport located about 11 miles northeast of the accident site, at 1654, reported variable winds at 6 knots, gusting to 18 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling 4,000 feet overcast, temperature 22 degrees Celsius (C), dew point 17 degrees C, altimeter 30.02 inches of mercury.