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On May 23, 2010, at 0927 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built RV-8A, N456DG, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain in Sebring, Florida. The certificated private pilot was the sole occupant and was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight which originated at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (LAL), Lakeland, Florida, and was destined for the Sebring Regional Airport (SEF), Sebring, Florida. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
The accident airplane was part of a flight of six aircraft that were traveling from LAL to SEF to meet for breakfast. According to the pilots of the other aircraft, the accident airplane was the fourth to depart from LAL. Once in the SEF area, the accident pilot reported his position as "10 miles out," behind the first three pilots, on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). Around the same time, the pilot of a "twin commanche" reported his position as "inbound, ten miles to the south" and the pilot of a "cessna" reported his position as "inbound, eight miles to the north." The pilots of the first 3 of the original 6 aircraft landed at SEF and after taxing off the runway noticed the "twin commanche" where the accident airplane should have been in the traffic pattern. After all the aircraft landed at SEF, and the accident airplane did not arrive, airport personnel notified the pilots of an airplane accident in the vicinity of the airport.
Examination of radar data revealed the airplane flew in a relatively straight line toward SEF. The airplane initiated a slight descent when it was about 5 nautical miles from SEF, leveling off at 1,000 feet, at 13:16:40. At 13:17:52, the airplane performed a 200-foot climb over the next 24 seconds, followed by a rapid descent. The next and final radar hit indicated the airplane was at an altitude of 500 feet, about 200 yards (.13 nautical miles) from the accident site.
Additionally, radar data revealed the track of another airplane crossed the track of the accident airplane at the same altitude; however, they were separated by about one minute.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, as well as a repairman/experimental aircraft builder certificate. His most recent third-class Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical certificate was issued on January 7, 2009. At that time he reported 202 hours of total flight experience.
The pilot’s family was unable to locate the pilot’s logbook.
The pilot built the airplane from a kit purchased from Vans Aircraft in 2005. The airplane received its airworthiness certificate from the FAA on June 27, 2006. It was a low-wing, single-engine airplane powered by a Lycoming O-360-A1A, 180-horsepower engine.
According to performance specifications provided by the manufacturer, the cruise speed at 75 percent power was 203 miles per hour, and the stall speed for the airplane was 58 miles per hour.
At the time of this writing the aircraft and engine logbooks were not located.
Weather recorded at Okeechobee Airport (OBE), 29 miles to the southeast of the accident site, at 0928, included wind from 040 degrees at 7 knots, 10 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 2,000 feet, temperature 27 degrees C, dew point 22 degrees C, and altimeter setting of 30.02 inches mercury.
Examination of the airplane by a FAA inspector revealed the airplane impacted the ground in a wing-low attitude and came to rest on a heading 180 degrees from the initial impact point. The wreckage path extended about 300-400 feet from the initial impact point to where the airplane came to rest.
The leading edge of both wings sustained crushing damage, although damage to the right wing was more severe than the left wing. The fuselage and cockpit area sustained severe impact damage and no readings could be obtained from the instrument panel. Both fuel tanks were breached. The engine had separated from the airframe, and the propeller had separated from the engine. There was no post-crash fire.
The airplane and engine were removed from the accident site and transported to a secure facility for further examination. The engine displayed damage to the front right side and the underside. The crankcase incurred impact penetrations, and except for the right magneto and propeller governor, all accessory components sustained impact damage.
The propeller was separated from the engine aft of the crankshaft flange. One propeller blade exhibited torsional twisting, tip and leading edge damage and chord-wise abrasion. The opposite blade exhibited "S" type bending inward from the tip.
Partial disassembly examination of the engine by a representative of the engine manufacturer and an FAA inspector included removal of the valve covers, top spark plugs, and both magnetos. Rotation of the engine crankshaft was unobtainable due to the severity of impact damage.
Borescope examination of the engine's top end components and power section revealed no anomalies. The oil filter element and suction screen were impact separated and not located.
The carburetor was found impact separated from the manifold at the mount studs. The induction air box was separated and not located. No fuel stains were observed on the carburetor unit exterior. The carburetor fuel inlet screen was removed and found clean. No fuel was found remaining in the carburetor bowl.
The top spark plugs were examined and exhibited normal medium gray color combustion deposits. Spark plug wear was minimal and gap settings were normal. The bottom spark plugs displayed the same appearance as the top plugs when examined using a bore scope.
Both magnetos were removed and the right magneto was rotated by hand and produced spark from all towers. The left magneto was impact damaged which precluded field testing.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The State of Florida, District 10 Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the pilot on May 24, 2010. The cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma with a contributory cause of death as marijuana intoxication.
The FAA Bioaeronautical Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. Following were the results of the toxicological testing:
29 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Kidney
47 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Muscle
NO ETHANOL detected in Liver
3 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ISOPROPANOL detected in Liver
5 (mg/dL, mg/hg) METHANOL detected in Liver
1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-BUTANOL detected in Muscle
16 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-PROPANOL detected in Liver
1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-PROPANOL detected in Muscle
2 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-PROPANOL detected in Kidney
Notes: The ethanol found in this case is from sources other than ingestion.
Metoprolol detected in Liver
Metoprolol detected in Kidney
0.0726 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol (Marihuana) detected in Kidney
0.22 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol (Marihuana) detected in Lung
0.176 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in Kidney
0.0295 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in Lung
0.1047 (ug/ml, ug/g) Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in Liver
A review of the pilot’s driving record revealed no driving violations with the exception of an insurance coverage suspension in 2008.
The airplane's last fueling could not be determined, despite a review of airport fueling records and family interviews.