ERA09LA356
ERA09LA356

On June 18, 2009, about 1907 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built Chris Mitchell Titan Tornado II S, N259CM, was substantially damaged following a loss of engine power and impact with terrain near Chadbourn, North Carolina. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. The non-certificated pilot was killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The flight originated at a private, residential airstrip in Chadbourn at the time of the accident.

Witnesses reported that the pilot taxied the airplane to the end of the grass airstrip, where he performed an engine run-up; all seemed normal with the engine. Immediately after takeoff, a reduction in engine power was observed. Power then increased, followed by another power reduction and the airplane stopped climbing. The pilot initiated a right-hand turn back toward the airstrip. One witness reported that the engine completely lost power. While in the turn, the witnesses observed the airplane stall and enter a spin at about 100 feet above ground level, from which it impacted the ground.

One of the witnesses owned the airstrip where accident airplane was hangared. He stated that he was a close friend of the pilot. He could not provide any details on the inspection history of the airplane or the total flight time of the pilot, however he did state that the pilot was using automotive gasoline in the airplane. He thought that the engine had been recently removed and repaired due to cylinder cracks.

An inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) visited the accident site and examined the wreckage. The wreckage came to rest in an open farm field. He reported that the airplane impacted the ground at a steep angle and there were no ground scars observed outside the radius of the wreckage. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the rudder and elevator to the cockpit. The ailerons remained connected to each other; however the aileron push/pull tube was broken from impact with the ground. One blade of the wooden propeller was splintered; the other blade was undamaged. The engine could be rotated freely by hand. Residual fuel in the fuel filter appeared clean and no contaminants were noted. There was no fuel in the carburetor bowl; however the engine remained inverted overnight prior to the examination. The air filter was clean and the spark plugs were normal in appearance. The smell of fuel was apparent in the area of the main wreckage and the ground was oil-soaked under the engine. The fuel shut-off valve was found in an intermediate position (not on or off) and there was no detent for the handle.

The engine was shipped to the Jabiru USA facilities in Shelbyville, Tennessee for a test run. The examination was conducted by the NTSB Investigator-in-Charge. The engine was installed on a test stand and plumbed with a fuel source. The numbers 1 and 3 spark plug leads required changing due to impact damage.

The engine started on the first attempt. White smoke was initially observed from the exhaust, which cleared in two to three seconds. The engine ran smoothly and without hesitation. A total of four engine runs were performed, each approximately two to three minutes in duration. A peak engine speed of 2,830 RPM was achieved with normal oil pressure readings. The engine examination did not reveal any evidence of a malfunction or failure.

The aircraft maintenance records and pilot logbook were not recovered for inspection. According to FAA records, the pilot accumulated a total of 27 hours flight time, all in the accident airplane. A search of FAA records revealed no airman certificates or a medical certificate.

Postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The cause of death was listed as, “Multiple blunt force injuries secondary to airplane crash.” The autopsy report noted that the pilot “was exposed to aviation fuel during the prolonged extraction.”

Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicology report was negative with the exception of ethanol detected in the vitreous (28 mg/dL) and blood (27 mg/dL). No ethanol was detected in the urine.

The pilot’s wife was interviewed following the accident. She reported that her husband had a routine day of the accident and that he was in good health. He was not taking any medications and had not consumed any alcohol prior to the accident. She described her husband as a “non-drinker.”

The 1859 weather observation for Whiteville, North Carolina (CPC), located about 6 miles southeast of the accident site, included the following: sky clear, surface winds from 170 degrees at 6 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, temperature 30 degrees Celsius, dew point 22 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.86 inches of mercury.

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