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On March 11, 2010, about 1323 mountain standard time, an experimental North American P51D, N514NH, collided with a hangar at Stellar Airpark, Chandler, Arizona. Hirani Oil Arizona LLC was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The certificated commercial pilot was killed; the airplane sustained substantial damage by impact forces and post crash fire. The local personal flight departed Chandler, about 1300. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
Witnesses observed the airplane make a low pass; then they saw it make a climbing left turn to stay in the traffic pattern for landing. They observed the landing gear down as the airplane approached midfield on the downwind leg. One of the witnesses thought that base and final appeared normal. Another thought that the descent rate on final was high. The airplane bounced three times, and yawed to the left. During the bounces, the wings rocked with the oscillations increasing each time, reaching up to 40 degrees. The left wing was low on the last touchdown. The power increased, and the airplane appeared to level off. It maintained about 5 feet of altitude, and was yawed about 30 degrees to the runway.
An instructor pilot (IP) for the P-51, who was also familiar with the accident airplane and pilot, observed the landing. He noted that the approach for landing on runway 17 appeared normal. On short final, it appeared that the pilot closed the throttle in an attempt to land very close to the approach end of the runway. The pilot had done this on previous occasions so that he could exit the runway at an intersection rather than go all of the way to the end. The sink rate was greater than normal, and the main landing gear wheels contacted the runway before the flare was completed.
The IP pointed out that the pilot liked to sit very low in the cockpit, which the IP felt reduced his forward visibility and depth perception.
The airplane bounced up about 20 feet after touchdown, and the nose pitched up about 20-25 degrees. The IP thought the airplane stalled at this point, as the left wing dropped down about 20 degrees, and the airplane turned several degrees to the left of the runway heading. It appeared that the pilot took proper corrective action to regain control; he lowered the nose to about a level flight attitude, leveled the wings, and added power.
As the airplane regained flying speed, it settled to the runway while still heading toward a hangar complex. It departed the east edge of the runway, crossed the grass infield, and the perpendicular taxiway. At this point, the left main tire appeared to blow as it crossed a curb. The two main landing gear wheels rolled along the ground about another 100 feet. The airplane continued to accelerate, and it appeared that the pilot was attempting to attain flying speed to fly out of the situation. It briefly became airborne before colliding with a large rock and fence post. It continued in the same general direction across a parking ramp, and then collided with a large hangar door post, which instantly stopped it.
The IP noted that engine performance appeared to be normal. He heard the engine go to idle on short final, and stayed at or near idle power when the airplane stalled following the initial touchdown. He pointed out that the airplane did not yaw left appreciably during the nose down pitch change, which indicated to him that the propeller was turning at or near normal idle rpm. The engine noise level then increased to a higher power sound during the aborted landing attempt, which he estimated at 3,000 rpm. It maintained this normal high power setting until colliding with the fence. It then increased to an abnormally high rpm, which he opined could be due to the propeller gearbox becoming uncoupled or separating. This would unload the engine, and allow it to increase far beyond the normal 3,000 rpm maximum. The sound stayed at this high level until the airplane collided with the hangar door; engine sounds simultaneously ceased.
The airplane fragmented after hitting the fence, and caught fire immediately after colliding with the hangar.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the 54-year-old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine and multiengine land.
The pilot held a third-class medical certificate issued on February 23, 2009. It had no limitations or waivers.
An examination of the pilot's logbook indicated that the last entry was August 26, 2008. As of that date, the pilot had an estimated total flight time of 4,890 hours. He logged 28 hours in the last 90-day period; 6.9 were in the P-51. He had an estimated 49.5 hours in this make and model; 36.6 of the previous 12 months’ 208 hours were in the P-51. He completed a biennial flight review in December 2008.
FAA records indicated that the pilot had owned the airplane since April 2007.
The airplane was an experimental North American P-51D, serial number 44-84850.
No logbooks were recovered for the airframe and engine. The pilot’s mechanic informed the FAA inspector that the airplane had a total airframe time of 3,104 hours at the last annual inspection. He completed an annual inspection April 9, 2009. The engine was a Rolls-Royce V-1650-7 rated at 1,695 horsepower. Time since major overhaul was 491 hours.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Maricopa County Coroner completed an autopsy, and ruled the cause of death as smoke inhalation and thermal burns. The Forensic Toxicology Research Team, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot.
Analysis of the specimens contained no findings for cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs.
The report noted 20 percent carbon monoxide detected in blood.