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On May 29, 2010, about 1250 central daylight time, an Evektor-Aerotechnik AS, Sportstar Plus, light sport airplane, N121EV, registered to and operated by the pilot, impacted terrain while landing at Covey Trails Airport (X09), Richmond, Texas. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The local flight originated from X09 at an unknown time.
Witnesses saw the airplane on final approach to the runway at X09. The airplane was flying at a lower than normal altitude when it suddenly nosed down and impacted terrain about 400 feet short of the approach end of runway 36. The airplane came to rest upright and oriented on a heading of about 240 degrees. The cockpit canopy separated from the airplane during the impact and came to rest about 20 feet to the northwest from the main wreckage. Both of the airplane's fuel tanks were approximately one half full of gasoline, but there was no fuel spill, and no postimpact fire.
Witnesses immediately responded to the accident scene to give assistance. The injured pilot was conscious and told several witnesses and first responders that the cockpit canopy came open in-flight and he subsequently lost control before crashing.
The 76-year-old pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. The pilot also held an expired third-class medical certificate issued on March 27, 2006, however a current medical certificate was not required for flight in this type of airplane. The pilot’s personal logbook showed that he had 1,662.1 total flight hours with 530.6 hours in multi-engine airplanes and 1,131.5 hours in single-engine airplanes. The pilot’s total experience in the accident airplane type was estimated as 100 hours. The pilot’s most recent flight review was completed on March 23, 2010.
The airplane was an Evektor-Aerotechnik AS, Sportstar Plus, serial number 20081011. The low wing single engine airplane had tricycle fixed landing gear and a conventional tail. It was equipped with a 100 horsepower Rotax 912ULS engine, serial number 5 648 894, driving a Woodcomp “Klassic” 179-3-R three bladed composite propeller. The airplane had side-by-side seating for two persons. The cockpit area was enclosed on the top by a front hinged canopy with a rotating handle at the top rear of the canopy which latched onto the frame of the non-operating rear canopy.
The FAA Form 8130-14 showed that the airplane’s date of manufacture was November 1, 2007. The initial FAA special airworthiness certificate was issued on April 5, 2008, in the category of light sport airplane. FAA aircraft registry records show that the pilot purchased N121EV from Evektor Aircraft, Inc. on April 14, 2008.
The investigator-in-charge (IIC) reviewed the original aircraft maintenance records which showed that the most recent annual condition inspection had been completed on April 21, 2010, at a tachometer reading, and aircraft total time, of 99.5 hours. Another logbook entry showed that the airplane’s ending tachometer reading on May 26, 2010, was a total of 101.6 hours
The 1255 surface weather observation at Houston Executive Airport (TME), Houston, Texas, located 7 miles northwest miles of the accident site, showed the wind was calm, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 6,000 feet, temperature 33 degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 19 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.82 inches Hg.
The investigator-in-charge (IIC) performed an examination of the airplane on June 16, 2010.
There was substantial leading edge impact damage to both wings. Wrinkling damage to both wing upper skins was evident. The ailerons remained attached and did not appear to have obvious impact damage. The aft section of the empennage, horizontal stabilizer, and vertical fin, did not appear to be damaged.
Control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to both ailerons, and the elevator. Rudder control continuity was confirmed from the rudder to the middle section of the fuselage. Damage in the area of the pedals prevented an examination of control continuity in that area. The elevator trim tab remained attached and appeared to be in a neutral position.
The nose gear was collapsed rearward and had penetrated upward through the cockpit floor. There was upward crushing damage to the lower fuselage from the forward firewall to the empennage. Both main landing gear legs were partially collapsed to the rear, but remained underneath the wing. The inboard section of both flaps had impact damage from the right and left main landing gear legs which had collapsed onto the flap surfaces. The flaps remained attached at their forward hinge, but were observed to be hanging loose at about 90 degrees. The flap actuator mechanism had separated from the flaps. The exact position of the flaps at the time of impact could not be determined.
The engine components remained attached with slight crushing damage to some of the bottom surfaces of the exhaust system components and to the coolant heat exchanger. There was no other obvious impact damage to the engine or engine components. The oil reservoir appeared to be about half full. There was no evidence on the engine of lubrication distress or thermal distress. The left and right carburetors were inspected; all control arms and cables were found attached and in place. Throttle control continuity was confirmed to the cockpit. Both carburetor bowls were examined and clean uncontaminated fuel was noted in both bowls.
All spark plugs were removed and examined; they exhibited normal wear when compared to the Champion Check-A-Plug comparison card. Visual inspection of the heads of the pistons through the open spark plug holes was nominal and unremarkable.
The cockpit canopy latch handle and the latch hook on the top inside rear of the operating portion of the cockpit canopy were undamaged and appeared to operate properly. There were no witness marks on the latch handle assembly that would indicate a failure. When operating the canopy latch handle it felt as if it was operating normally. The centering pin to the left of the latch handle was undamaged.
On the rear canopy, the canopy latch tang was undamaged and remained firmly attached to the top inside rear canopy frame. There was no apparent damage to the centering fork which remained attached to the rear canopy frame.
Both the right and left forward canopy hinge clevis rod ends and both the right and left canopy hold open struts showed bending and separated fractures. The fractures were consistent with overload failures.
The upper fuselage area where the forward cockpit canopy hinges attach were examined. Both the right and left sides of the skin and other structures exhibited marks showing that the canopy hinge separated from the forward fuselage while rotating up and departing forward from the fuselage.
The examination of the airplane, the engine, and all components revealed no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operations.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, Houston, Texas, conducted the autopsy on the pilot on June 3, 2010. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries.
The Bioaeronautical Research Science Laboratory, FAA, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed a postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The report stated that tests for carbon monoxide and cyanide were not performed. No ethanol was detected in the blood, and no drugs were detected in the blood.