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On August 27, 2009, about 1011 Pacific daylight time, a Taplin RV-6 experimental, amateur-built airplane, N43521, was substantially damaged following a loss of control and impact with terrain at the Orland Haigh Airport (O37), Orland, California. The flight instructor (CFI), who occupied the right pilot seat, and the commercial pilot undergoing instruction, who was the owner of the airplane and occupied the left pilot seat, were killed. The local instructional flight was being conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and no flight plan was filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight departed the Chico Municipal Airport (CIC), Chico, California, about 0950.
According to an individual who was one of the flight instructor's students, the flight instructor told her just before the accident flight that she was going to conduct a biennial flight review with the accident pilot. Records revealed that the flight instructor had conducted two previous biennial flight reviews with the accident pilot, the first on April 19, 2004, and the second on February 17, 2007.
One witness, who was located about 1,850 feet northeast of the accident site on an airport perimeter road, observed the airplane heading in a southeast direction at an altitude of about 350 feet. The witness reported, "The plane began to execute a right hand turn, and then rolled over so the top of the plane was facing east and the nose was pointing down. I then saw the nose barely try to pull up, and I waited for it to come up, but it never did."
Another witness reported that he heard the airplane crash just as he walked into his airport office, but didn't hear any airplane noise or engine noise prior to the crash. The witness stated that he then drove his truck to the accident site, and added that as he walked over to the wreckage, "I smelled a strong odor of avgas (aviation fuel)." The witness also added that he observed the pilot in the left seat with his shoulder harness on.
A third witness reported that he was walking southbound on the airport ramp about 50 yards to the south and east of the taxiway and runway. The witness stated that while talking on his cell phone, "…I heard a loud slapping explosion behind me to the north. I did not immediately recognize that an aircraft had crashed, because I did not see an aircraft approaching or departing, nor did I hear any engine/motor noise." The witness reported that as he approached the airplane he could smell fuel, and that the airplane was pointing northwest. The witness further reported that as he walked around the left side of the airplane, "I observed a pool of fuel forming under the left side of the cabin in front of the wing."
Certified Flight Instructor
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the certificated flight instructor, age 56, held an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane multiengine land rating. In addition, she held a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating, an airplane single-engine sea rating, and a flight instructor certificate for single and multiengine airplanes, and instrument airplanes. The flight instructor also possessed type ratings for CE-500 and CE-650 airplanes. She was issued a second-class medical certificate on May 27, 2009, with no limitations. According to information listed on the flight instructor's most recent Application For Airman Medical Certificate, she reported a total pilot time of 6,000 flight hours, with 480 hours in the previous 6 months.
Commerical Pilot Receiving Instruction
A review of FAA airman records revealed that the pilot receiving instruction, age 70, held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane ratings. He was issued a second-class medical certificate without limitations on June 15, 2009. A review of the pilot's personal logbook revealed that he had accumulated a total of 1,175 hours of flight time, 79 hours in make and model, 3 hours in the preceding 90 days, and no flight time recorded within the previous 24 hours. The pilot's most recent biennial flight review was conducted on February 17, 2007.
The 1992-model Taplin RV-6, serial number 162, was a low-wing, fixed conventional gear, experimental amateur-built airplane. The airplane was powered by a four-cylinder, direct drive, air cooled, horizontally-opposed, carbureted Lycoming O-320 engine (serial number L-5105-27), rated at 150 horsepower, and equipped with a two-bladed Hartzell propeller.
According to aircraft and engine logbooks, the airframe and engine underwent a conditional inspection on June 17, 2009, at a tach time of 193.6 hours. At the time of the inspection the engine's total time was listed as 4,183.6 hours, the time since its most recent overhaul as 1,747.9 hours, and an airframe total time of 441 hours.
According to a family member who provided a fueling receipt to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC), the pilot last fueled the airplane on August 3, 2009, at the Oroville Municipal Airport (OVE), Oroville, California. The fuel receipt indicates that the pilot fueled the airplane with 32.9 gallons of 100LL Avgas. The family member reported that after fueling the airplane the pilot flew back to CIC, a distance of about 21 nautical miles, and parked it in his hangar. The family member added that the pilot did not fly the airplane again until the day of the accident.
At 0953, the weather observation facility at the Oroville Municipal Airport (OVE), Oroville, California, located about 28 nautical miles (nm) southeast of the accident site, reported wind 260 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 40 miles, sky clear, temperature 25 degrees Celsius, dew point 11 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter reading of 30.07 inches of Mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector responded to and examined the accident site. The inspector reported the wreckage came to rest between runway 33/15 and the east parallel taxiway, and to the north of intersection "N". The inspector further reported that based on the crush signatures in the wreckage and the ground scars, the airplane appeared to have descended almost straight down at nearly a 30-degree angle, impacting terrain nose first, then with both wings and exposing both fuel tanks. The inspector stated that the debris pattern was forward and to the left about 100 feet, and that the airplane left a mark in the hard packed terrain about 1 to 2 feet behind the trailing edge, and then moved forward about 4 feet.
The inspector reported that all control surfaces were frozen in place, the flap control rod was broken on both sides, and both main landing gear had collapsed. The inspector revealed that he observed the throttle control, mixture control, and carburetor heat control in the full forward position, and that the ignition was in the ON position. The inspector stated that while the wooden propeller was mostly intact, "The right side showed damage, but appears to have been caused by the impact and not by rotational forces."
The inspector reported, "I asked the Sheriff deputies if they observed any fuel or smell and they all agreed that there was no fuel smell when they arrived about ten minutes after the accident."
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On August 31, 2009, at the authorization of the Glenn County Sheriff-Coroner, Willows, California, an autopsy was performed on the pilot undergoing instruction. The cause of death was listed as "multiple trauma." The autopsy also revealed "up to 70% obstruction involving the left anterior descending coronary artery by arteriosclerotic coronary artery disease" with "no evidence of infarction."
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the commercial pilot by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Team CAMI, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated that the specimens tested negative for ethanol, were not tested for carbon monoxide and cyanide, and that quinine was detected in liver.
On August 31, 2009, at the authorization of the Glenn County Sheriff-Coroner, Willows, California, an autopsy was performed on the flight instructor. The cause of death was listed as "multiple trauma."
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the flight instructor by the FAA Forensic Toxicology Team CAMI, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated that the specimens tested negative for ethanol, were not tested for carbon monoxide and cyanide, and were negative for drugs.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
On September 14, 2009, an examination of the engine and airframe was conducted at the facilities of Plain Parts, Pleasant Grove, California,
The examination of the Lycoming O-320 engine, serial number L-5105-27, revealed that it had remained attached to the airframe at all engine mounts. There was no evidence of catastrophic or mechanical malfunction. Mechanical continuity was established throughout the engine and valve train when the crankshaft was rotated manually by hand using the wooden propeller. Thumb compression was noted on all four cylinders in proper firing order. The cylinders were examined internally using a lighted borescope. No evidence of detonation or foreign object ingestion was observed. Both magnetos were removed from their respective mounting flanges. When rotated by hand both magnetos produced spark at all towers. No anomalies were noted with the engine that would have precluded normal operation.
An examination of the airframe revealed that both left and right wings, which remained attached to the fuselage, were observed bent and buckled. Both left and right ailerons and flaps remained attached to their respective mounts, and both left and right fuel tanks were breached. The leading edges of both wings were crushed aft and upwards.
The airplane's empennage remained intact. Flight control continuity was established throughout the airplane to all primary flight control surfaces. The left and right rudder cables remained attached to the rudder pedal assembly. The left and right rudder cables remained attached to the rudder and tail wheel assembly. The elevator torque tube was separated from the cockpit controls and was consistent with overload. The left aileron torque tube remained attached to the left control stick. The right aileron torque tube was separated from the right control stick and was impact damaged. The left and right flap rods were separated from the flap bar to the flaps. The area of the separation was consistent with overload. No anomalies were noted during the examination of the airframe that would have precluded normal operation.
A handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) was located at the accident site and sent to the Safety Board's Vehicle Recorders division in Washington, D.C. The recovered data indicated that the airplane had performed a 4-turn spiral to the left over the airport prior to impact. The data further revealed that at 1011:21, the airplane was at an altitude of 549 feet above ground level with a ground speed of 58 miles per hour, and on a track of 292 degrees true.