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On April 2, 2010, about 1835 eastern daylight time, a Lopez experimental, amateur-built light sport Jabiru J250, N464PP, was substantially damaged following an impact with trees and power lines during a forced landing following loss of engine power near Middletown, Delaware. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private pilot was killed, and one passenger received serious injuries. The flight originated from Cambridge-Dorchester Airport (CGE), Cambridge, Maryland about 1750.
According to personnel at New Garden Flying Field (N57), Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania, the pilot purchased 11.97 gallons of 100 low lead aviation fuel at 1424. The pilot reported at that time that he and his spouse were flying to Cambridge Dorchester Airport (CGE), Cambridge, Maryland, for lunch. The pilot pumped his own fuel and did not request any assistance.
The pilot’s spouse observed the fueling of the airplane at New Garden Airport. She stated that she watched her husband fuel both tanks to capacity and that she is certain that both tanks were full of fuel. She climbed the ladder to verify the tanks full. Also, both cockpit fuel gauges indicated full after the fueling was complete.
When the engine started to lose power, she recalled that “something didn’t sound right” and her husband remarked, “She wants to quit.” Her husband to trying to restore power, but the engine eventually quit completely and got quiet; the propeller was not turning. When the engine quit, there was no smoke or loud banging noises. She stated that her husband did not switch tanks since they always operated with all fuel tank switches “on.”
She and her husband did not have any conversation about the possibility of carburetor ice.
At 1835, a witness observed the accident airplane about 150 to 200 feet above ground level (AGL), east of Summit Airport, Middletown, Delaware. The propeller was “stopped vertically,” and the flaps appeared to be fully extended. He followed the airplane until it was out of sight, and drove past the airport and did not see an airplane on the field. He parked his truck and ran into the woods to look for the airplane. He found the wreckage inverted, and noted that there were two occupants inside. Two bystanders told him they had already called 911.
Another witness observed the accident airplane heading in a northeasterly direction, “at an altitude of 150 feet, and falling.” He also noted that the propeller was not turning. He did not see the airplane crash.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with single engine land privileges issued on October 8, 1997. According to his logbook, he had recorded about 449 hours total flight time, including about 62 hours in the J250.
According to maintenance logbook records, a condition inspection was accomplished on the airframe and engine on July 18, 2009, at 97.7 hours total time.
The 1855 weather observation for Wilmington, Delaware (ILG), located 11 miles from the accident site, included the following: sky clear, surface winds from 180 degrees at 11 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, temperature 13 degrees Celsius, dew point 8 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.17 inches of mercury.
According to FAA Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) CE-09-35, based on the recorded temperature and dew point about the time of the accident, the conditions were favorable for serious carburetor icing at cruise power setting.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
An inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the accident site and examined the wreckage. The airplane impacted trees and power lines, with the main fuselage still suspended in the power lines. The wings and empennage remained attached to the fuselage. The forward section of the airplane, consisting of the engine, propeller, cowling, firewall, and instrument panel, separated and was found about 25 feet away from the main wreckage.
After recovery from the accident site on April 3, 2010, the wings, fuselage, and empennage were stored outside, on a flatbed trailer. The engine, firewall, instrument panel, and nose gear were stored in a metal shipping container.
The wreckage was examined at a storage facility in Clayton, Delaware on June 29, 2010. The vent lines from the wing tanks to the trailing edge line openings were unobstructed. The right tank fuel selector valve was in the “on” position. The left tank fuel selector valve was in the “off” position. The pedestal-mounted fuel selector switch was found near, but not in, the “off” position. About 2 gallons of fuel was drained from the left fuel tank. A small amount of granular debris and white fibers were found in the drained fuel. The right fuel tank was dry of all fuel. Neither tank was breached. The fuel tank filler caps were in good condition. The fiberglass header fuel tank was broken from its mount and breached. No fuel or debris were found in the tank. Two fuel lines that were connected to the header tank were found broken away at the tank mounts. Inside the rubber lines were debris with the appearance of fine, dried grass. The open ends of the lines were exposed to the elements during wreckage storage. The in-line fuel filter was disassembled and the paper element was examined. The interior of the filter and the filter element were clean.
Flight control continuity was confirmed from the aerodynamic surfaces to the cockpit controls. The electrically-operated flaps were found extended about 10 degrees.
Both seat belt/shoulder harness assemblies remained attached at their mount points and both buckles were unfastened.
The propeller hub and spinner remained attached to the crankshaft flange and the wooden propeller blades were broken off and splintered at the blade roots. The propeller was turned by hand and internal engine continuity was confirmed to the aft-mounted starter gear. One spark plug was removed from each cylinder; the electrode surfaces were normal in color and wear. As the crankshaft was manually rotated, suction and compression were observed on all cylinders. The electric fuel boost pump was energized with a battery and the pump motor operated. A fuel line was reattached to the engine driven fuel pump and the open end of the line was inserted into an open container of aviation fuel. The starter was energized with a battery and the engine started and ran for about 30 seconds, until the fuel source was depleted. The engine ran smoothly and without hesitation.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot’s last application for airman medical certificate (third class) was dated July 16, 2007, and noted a height of 71 inches, a weight of 282 pounds, the use of propranolol, furosemide, ramipril, hydrochlorothiazide, and losartan for blood pressure control, and a blood pressure of 150/92.
Postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Forensic Sciences Center, Wilmington, Delaware. The autopsy report noted the cause of death as “multiple blunt force injuries,” and documented heart size of 550 grams with 90 percent occlusion of the left anterior descending coronary artery. The pilot’s spouse stated that the pilot did not snore at all.
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicology report was negative for ethanol, cyanide, carbon monoxide. The following drugs were detected: amlodipine in the kidney and liver, propranolol in the kidney and liver, diphenhydramine in the liver, and 0.027 ug/ml diphenhydramine in the blood.
The capacity of the left and right wing fuel tanks were 18 gallons each. The fuel burn rate was estimated to be about 5.5 gallons per hour. The pilot’s spouse estimated that the airplane was operated about 1.6 hours after the fuel tanks were filled.