On June 20, 2010, at 2007 central daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built Drone Pulsar III, N47PD, sustained substantial damage when it impacted a bean field during an aborted landing from runway 18 (4,001 feet by 75 feet, asphalt) at the Carmi Municipal Airport (CUL), Carmi, Illinois. The commercial pilot received fatal injuries. The 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight departed from CUL as part of a four airplane formation flight. The flight of four airplanes was in the process of landing at CUL when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. No flight plan was filed.

The pilot of the fourth airplane in the flight reported that the airplanes were in a practice formation flight. After they departed from CUL, they joined in an echelon formation. He reported that they flew for about 40 minutes before they returned to CUL for landing. They flew over the runway at CUL and did a formation left break using 5-second intervals in order to land in trail on runway 18. The first two airplanes, which were Cessna 172’s, landed uneventfully. The third airplane in the formation was the Pulsar III. The pilot of the fourth airplane, a Piper PA-28, reported that the accident airplane appeared to be fast and was floating down the runway prior to touching down. The second airplane had not taxied off the runway yet and the accident airplane was closing in on its position. The PA-28 pilot reported that the accident airplane aborted the landing and “made a go-around maneuver.” He reported that the Pulsar III lifted off the runway abruptly with an unusually high nose attitude. The PA-28 pilot stated, “When he pitched up, the Pulsar seemed to stall and torque roll to the left.” The airplane impacted the ground about 300 feet east of runway 18.

Witnesses on the ground reported that they heard a squeal, like brakes being applied, followed by an increase in engine noise as though the pilot had advanced the throttle. One witness observed the airplane lift from the ground and enter into a left arcing turn before impact with the terrain.

The PA-28 pilot reported that the pilots had flown 3 – 4 formation flights in the past. The pilots briefed the flights before takeoff and debriefed when they returned. He reported that the accident pilot had been flying for about 7 – 8 years and had flown the accident airplane to Florida, Michigan, and “all over.” He reported that the accident airplane did not have any problems that he knew of.

The 62-year-old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine land and airplane instrument ratings. He held a third class medical certificate. His total flight time was about 980 hours with about 327 hours in make and model.

The accident airplane was an amateur-built Drone Pulsar III which received its special airworthiness certificate in June 2002. The engine was a 100-horsepower Rotax 912S. The maintenance logbooks indicated that engine and airframe had 327 hours of total time as of May 2009.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the airplane at the accident site. The flight control surfaces were connected to the control cables. The composite propeller blades were all sheared from the propeller hub.

An autopsy of the pilot was conducted on June 21, 2010, at the White County Coroner’s Office Morgue Facility in Carmi, Illinois. The autopsy revealed evidence of multiple blunt force injuries. A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. The results of the tests were negative for all substances tested.

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