WPR10LA166
WPR10LA166

On March 17, 2010, at approximately 0830 mountain standard time, a Kjonaas VariEze experimental amateur-built airplane, N50894, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing following a loss of engine power near Casa Grande, Arizona. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was seriously injured. The owner/pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight, which had originated from Bisbee, Arizona, at approximately 0730, with the destination of Glendale, Arizona. A flight plan had not been filed.

The pilot called Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU) Air Traffic Control tower at approximately 0830, and reported that the airplane's engine had stopped running. He said that he was 25 nautical miles southeast of the airport; this was the last communication from the pilot. A search was initiated by Maricopa County Search and Rescue, and the airplane was located at approximately 1600. When the first rescue pilot landed his helicopter and approached the inverted airplane, he discovered the pilot was alive but trapped inside. While waiting for ground rescue and medical personnel, the pilot told him that he had run out of fuel and the engine had stopped running.

Two Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors examined the wreckage. They found that several trees had been topped approximately 75 yards from the wreckage. The airplane was found inverted with both wings and the canard broken from the fuselage. The main wish-bone landing gear assembly had separated from the fuselage. The wooden propeller was found in dry-rotted condition and displayed minimal damage. The fuselage and engine were covered with oil; there was a faint smell of auto fuel, but no signs of fuel spillage in the soil or surrounding area. Both fuel tanks had been compromised.

On March 22, 2010, a postaccident examination of the wreckage was performed at a salvage yard by two FAA inspectors and a representative from the engine manufacturer. They drained approximately 1/2 cup of liquid from the gascolator into a clean glass jar. The liquid consisted of approximately 95% rust-contaminated water and 5% clear fluid, which smelled like auto fuel. The gascolator screen was covered by approximately 25% debris and other contaminants. The bottom of the gascolator was rusted and contained a reddish sludge. The engine exhibited drive train continuity and no abnormalities were identified which would have prevented normal operation.

The FAA inspectors were unable to locate the airplane's maintenance records or pilot's flight log book. Family members reported to the National Transportation Safety Board's investigator-in-charge that the pilot's medical condition precluded an interview or having him provide a written statement.

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