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On August 4, 2009, about 1515 mountain standard time, a Boeing E75 biplane, N5195N, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Happy Jack, Arizona. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot was killed and his passenger/owner sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The cross-country flight originated from Cottonwood, Arizona, about 30 minutes prior to the accident. The pilot's planned destination was Holbrook, Arizona.
According to local law enforcement, the passenger reported that the airplane "would not gain altitude' and that "they were trying to catch some thermals but still unable to gain altitude." The passenger further stated that he thought they were about 1,500 feet above ground level when he began to look at maps trying to help the pilot navigate. He added that the pilot and he decided to turn around and then he continued looking down at maps.
Information provided by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that in a post accident interview, the passenger reported that during cruise flight, the airplane was at an altitude of about 1,700 feet above ground level. The pilot “decided to turn around because the airplane was not gaining altitude.” The passenger stated that his head was down looking at a chart as they turned and when he looked up, “they were going down fast and then he blacked out.”
There were no known witnesses to the accident sequence.
The pilot, age 70, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. A third-class airman medical certificate issued January 26, 2009, with a limitation stating the pilot, "must wear corrective lenses." Review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had accumulated a total of 668.4 hours of flight time of which 4.6 hours were in the previous 90 days and 1.5 hours in the previous 30 days in the accident make/model airplane. The pilot's most recent flight review was conducted on January 1, 2008, in the accident make/model airplane.
The two-seat biplane, serial number (S/N) 75-5960, was manufactured in 1943. It was powered by a Lycoming R680-B4E engine, rated at 225 horsepower and equipped with a Sensenitch fixed pitch wooden propeller. The aircraft maintenance logbooks were not located during the investigation.
A review of recorded data from the Sedona Airport, Sedona, Arizona automated surface observation station, located about 15 miles northwest of the accident site, at an of elevation 4,830 feet, revealed at 1509, conditions were wind from 200 degrees at 3 knots, gusting to 15 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 37 degrees Celsius, dew point 7 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.13 inches of Mercury. Using the reported accident site elevation and nearest weather data, the density altitude at the accident site was calculated to be about 10,681 feet msl.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site by local law enforcement personnel revealed that the airplane came to rest in an open field at an elevation of 6,692 feet mean sea level. All major structure and flight control components were present at the accident site. Wreckage debris was contained within approximately 50 feet of the main wreckage.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Coconino County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on the pilot on August 5, 2009. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was "multiple injuries.”
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, test results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and tested substances. See toxicology report for specific parameters.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Examination of the recovered engine and airframe was conducted on August 13, 2009 at the facilities of Air Transport, Phoenix, Arizona.
Examination of the airframe revealed that the right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were bent downwards about mid-span. The left horizontal stabilizer was intact. The left elevator was buckled and bent throughout. The trim tab remained partially attached to the left elevator. The fuselage was buckled throughout. The upper and lower left wings were heavily damaged and buckled throughout. The upper wing was partially separated about midspan. The lower left wing was partially separated about mid span. The upper and lower right wings were intact. The lower right wing exhibited leading edge compression and buckling throughout its span. The outboard leading edge and wing tip of the top right wing was buckled and compressed aft.
Flight control continuity was established throughout the airframe to all primary flight control surfaces.
No mechanical anomalies with the airframe were noted.
The engine, a Lycoming R680-B4E, was separated from the airframe. The engine tubular mount structure was severely deformed and bent. The intake and exhaust system was intact and impact damaged. The forward spark plugs and propeller were removed. The engine crankshaft did not rotate when using a hand tool attached to the crankshaft. Two cracks on the forward part of the crankcase were observed originating from the crankshaft outward to the number 2 and 9 cylinders. The crankcase structure immediately surrounding the crankshaft was crushed aft. The magneto, starter, and generator were removed from the engine accessory section. Multiple cracks were observed on the internal portion of the crankcase inside the magneto's mount pad.
Removal of the number four, seven, and nine cylinders allowed for a visual examination of the internal components of the engine. All of the connecting rods and master rod were intact and appeared undamaged.
The carburetor remained partially attached to its mounting flange. The mixture and throttle levers were intact. The mixture lever moved from stop to stop by hand and no anomalies were noted. The throttle lever moved from stop to stop freely by hand, however, partial engagement of the throttle plate lever arm was noted. The throttle lever linkage and lever arm were impact damaged and bent. The throttle lever arm was removed and examined. The throttle arm engagement teeth were observed worn on throttle body side. The carburetor was disassembled. Residual fuel was observed within the carburetor float bowl. The fuel appeared to be free of debris with an extremely small amount of water present. The residual fuel was tested using water finding paste and had positive results. The metal float was intact and undamaged. The venture was intact and undamaged. The carburetor fuel screen was free of debris.
The wooden Sensenitch propeller remained attached to the crankshaft propeller flange. One propeller blade was splintered opposite direction of rotation just outboard of the blade root. The other blade was splintered aft near the blade root.
No mechanical anomalies were noted with the recovered engine that would have precluded normal operation and production of power.