On August 10, 2009, at 1030 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur built, Pongracz, Nieuport 11, impacted terrain shortly after takeoff from a private grass strip in Brasstown, North Carolina. The certificated commercial pilot was killed and the airplane incurred substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was operated by a private individual, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a personal flight.

Witnesses stated to the responding Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) inspector that it was the pilot/owner’s initial flight with the airplane. They observed the airplane departing toward the south into rising terrain. The witnesses advised that the normal departure procedure for that grass strip was to depart toward the north, where the terrain descended. The airplane was observed to make a normal takeoff roll. The airplane became airborne and when it was about 300 feet above the ground, it pitched up and then went straight down. The airplane impacted the ground nose first, coming to rest on its back side in a pasture adjacent to the right side of the grass strip. A fire ensued immediately after impact. The airplane’s engine was heard to be at full power until ground impact.


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single engine land and multi-engine land with instrument airplane, and held a flight instructor certificate, with a rating for single engine land. The pilot’s last medical certificate was issued in July of 2008; a third-class. He reported a total of 500 flight hours at that time.

The amateur built airplane was issued an experimental airworthiness certificate on October 29, 2008. The single seat, bi-wing, airplane was of tubular structural with fabric skin design . The airplane was powered by a Volkswagen, VW835CC , 60 horsepower rated engine. At the time of the accident the airplane had accumulated less than 1 hour of total flight time and was on its initial flight.


The Andrews-Murphy Airport, Andrews, NC, located 11 miles northeast of the accident site, August 10, 2009, 1039 automatic surface weather observation was: wind calm, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 27 degrees Celsius ( C ), dew point temperature 21 degrees C and altimeter 30.25 inches of mercury.


Both blades on the wood propeller separated at the base of the crankshaft attachment point. Both wings of the bi-wing structure were bent and distorted from the impact forces. The cockpit section was crushed inward and distorted. The engine and cockpit area incurred thermo damage from the fire. Several sections of the airplane’s fabric skin were burnt away. Most of the empennage structure remained intact.

The responding FAA inspector established flight control continuity to all the flight controls. The engine exam did not reveal any discrepancies that would have prevented the engine from producing power.


The North Carolina Baptist Hospitals, Inc, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, conducted a postmortem examination of the pilot. The cause of death of the pilot was blunt forces trauma along with thermal injuries.

Postmortem toxicology tests were performed by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on specimens obtained from the pilot. The tests were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs. The tests were positive for acetaminophen.

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