ERA10LA206
ERA10LA206

On April 4, 2010, about 1337 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Center X-5, N25761, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain after departure from a private field in Ghent, New York. The certificated private pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was destined for Pittsfield Municipal Airport (PSF), Pittsfield Massachusetts. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a witness, who was also a friend of the pilot, the pilot initially departed from Kline Kill Airport (NY1), Ghent, New York, and landed on a 1/2-mile long private field to attend a lunch gathering. After lunch, the pilot and a passenger departed for a brief sightseeing flight, and then returned to the same field. About 45 minutes later, the pilot boarded the airplane with another passenger, with the intention of departing the area.

The witness watched as the pilot checked the flight controls and throttled the engine up and down prior to the takeoff. The pilot then taxied the airplane to the end of the field, and began the takeoff roll immediately after he reached the end of the field. As the airplane climbed, it slowed until it appeared to "hang in the air," before it banked left, pitched down, and impacted the ground. The witness reported that the engine sound was smooth and continuous through the climb, and until impact. The airplane impacted the ground "hard," and immediately caught fire.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

A review of FAA airman records revealed that the pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land, airplane single engine sea, and instrument airplane. None of the pilot's flight logs were available for review. The pilot's most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on May 8, 2009, and he reported 3,200 total hours of flight experience on his application. On the application the pilot also answered “No” to the question “Do You Currently Use Any Medication?”, and answered “No” regarding “Mental Disorders of Any Sort, e.g., Depression, Anxiety, etc.” The pilot did report his history of orthopedic surgical procedures on his left knee and right shoulder following injuries during “extreme sports.”

Review of the pilot’s personal medical records revealed that he had sustained a number of musculoskeletal injuries from outdoor activities and extreme sports; a low back injury after falling from a horse in November 2008; a remote right shoulder injury and a ruptured tendon in his left knee from a downhill skiing accident in February 2009. He also had a history of gouty arthritis. Dating back to 2007, the pilot received prescriptions for the narcotic oxycodone as treatment for gout and his various musculosketal injuries. He was given prescriptions for oxycodone in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The pilot's personal medical records also showed that he had a history of panic attacks starting in August of 2008, and reported sadness and depression. On October 7, 2008, he was first given a prescription for sertraline, an anti-depressant, and the anti-anxiety agent lorazepam was prescribed in June of 2009.

Review of pharmacy records dating from November 2006 through February 2010 were obtained from a single pharmacy chain showing that the pilot had prescriptions filled for the narcotic oxycodone twice in 2006, three times in 2007, twice in 2008, four times in 2009 and none in 2010. The pilot placed a call to his primary care provider on March 23, 2010, requesting a prescription for oxycodone for his gout. The request for oxycodone was denied, and the office recommended the pilot use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent until he could be seen in the office. The last prescription filled for the pilot by the pharmacy chain that supplied medication records occurred on May 20, 2009. Whether the pilot subsequently obtained narcotics from other sources is unknown.


METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The 1354 recorded weather at PSF, located about 16 nautical miles east of the accident location, included winds from 290 degrees, varying from 240 degrees to 310 degrees, at 7 knots, gusting to 19 knots, clear skies, 10 miles visibility, temperature 18 degrees C, dewpoint 3 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.43 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the wreckage at the scene, with assistance from the New York State Police. The initial impact point was a ground scar about 6 feet long by 2 feet wide, located about 1,600 feet southeast of the point where the airplane initiated its takeoff. The magnetic heading from the takeoff point to the initial impact point was about 120 degrees. The main wreckage came to rest about 10 feet from the initial impact point, oriented roughly 020 degrees magnetic. The airplane displayed extensive impact and post-impact fire-related damage. The majority of the wreckage contained within a 50-foot diameter area around the initial impact point, with the exception of the left main landing gear, which was located about 300 feet northwest of the main wreckage. Flight control continuity was traced from both control sticks to the respective flight control surfaces. A small adjustable wrench was found in the wreckage in the area of the cabin, though its pre-impact position could not be determined.

The engine was located at the forward portion of the wreckage, and the propeller flange had separated from the crankshaft. One propeller blade displayed 180-degree tip curling beginning about 2/3 of its span from the blade root, while the opposite blade displayed s-bending and chordwise scratching. The engine accessory section was heavily damaged by impact and fire, and was not examined.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Autopsies were performed on the pilot and passenger by the St. Peter's Bender Laboratory, Department of Pathology, Albany, New York. The cause of death for both occupants was "multiple traumatic injuries."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot and passenger.

Toxicological testing for the pilot revealed the presence of ethanol in the blood, urine, and liver with concentrations of 57 mg/dL, 66 mg/dL, and 70 mg/dL, respectively. Federal Aviation Regulations prohibit operation of aircraft with a blood alcohol/ethanol level greater than 40 mg/dL. The samples exhibited evidence of post-mortem putrefaction; however, the pilot’s Serotonin Metabolite Ratio (SMR), a measure useful in differentiating between pre-mortem ethanol consumption and post-mortem ethanol production was measured to be 4436 pmol/nmol. An SMR result greater than 15 pmol/nmol was consistent with alcohol consumption at some point in the 16 hours prior to death.

Oxycodone, an opiod narcotic used to control continuous, chronic pain, was detected in the pilot's blood, urine and liver, with the level in the blood quantified as 0.235 µg/mL. Normal therapeutic levels of Oxycodone in blood were considered to be between 0.013 and 0.099 µg/mL. Oxycodone was known to impair mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of hazardous tasks.

Sertraline, a prescription anti-depressant used to treat significant depression and in the management of anxiety/panic attacks, was detected in the pilot's blood at a level of 0.112 µg/mL. Normal therapeutic levels were considered to be between 0.010 and 0.200 µg/mL.

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