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On July 15, 2010, at 1330 central daylight time, an amateur-built Zenith CH701, N701KC, collided with the terrain following a loss of control while landing on runway 31 at the Iowa Falls Municipal Airport (IFA), Iowa Falls, Iowa. The commercial rated pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was substantially damaged. The personal flight was being operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The flight originated from IFA approximately 15 minutes prior to the accident.
The accident occurred during the first flight after the pilot had finished building the airplane. Several people witnessed the flight and accident. One of the witnesses was a flight instructor who had recently been flying with the accident pilot. This witness stated she saw the pilot taxi the airplane to the runway and heard the pilot perform the engine run-up which sounded “smooth.” She stated the pilot then began performing high speed taxi runs. At some point, she realized the pilot had not taxied back on the runway. She figured he had taken off so she began looking for him which is when she saw the airplane about a mile southwest of the airport in a spin. She stated the airplane went below the tree line then climbed back up. The airplane then entered a left downwind to runway 31 and the pilot made a radio call that he was coming in to land. The instructor stated that when the airplane was on final approach it was “washing side-to-side in slow flight” at which time the pilot added power and performed a go-around. The pilot turned downwind and made another radio call. She stated the airplane looked stable as it turned from base to final. On final approach at an altitude of about 200 feet above the ground, the airplane again looked unstable like it was in slow flight. She stated the engine noise decreased and the nose of the airplane immediately dropped along with the right wing. The airplane then entered a spin and impacted the ground.
The pilot, age 74, held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane ratings. The pilot’s last medical certificate was a second-class medical issued on March 8, 1991.
The pilot’s logbook indicated that as of March 1984, the pilot had accumulated a total of 755 hours of flight time. He did not fly again until December 2009, when he began flying with a flight instructor. He then accumulated 5.4 hours of instructional flight time which included a flight review dated May 26, 2010.
The pilot’s flight instructor stated the pilot stopped flying a number of years ago and she was giving him recurrent training in preparation for a flight review so he could exercise sport pilot privileges. She stated they flew a Cessna 152 and they spoke about the differences between that airplane and the Zenith 701 that the pilot had just built. She stated the pilot did a lot of research and they discussed the 701’s “…supposed inability of the elevator to work at slow airspeed without the propwash when the RPMs are pulled back.” She stated that because of this characteristic, they practiced stalls and landings using a higher than normal power setting.
The Zenith factory was contacted and there was no record that the pilot had flown in a CH701 when he visited the factory. No evidence was found to indicate the pilot had ever flown a Zenith CH701 aircraft prior to the accident.
The airplane was an amateur-built CH701, serial number 7-6580, which was built by the accident pilot. The two-seat, fixed-gear, high-wing airplane was designed for short takeoff and landing (STOL) operations. The airplane is equipped with fixed leading edge slats, full-length flaperons (combination flap and aileron), an inverted horizontal stabilizer, and an all-moving rudder (no vertical stabilizer). It was powered by a Rotax 912, 100-hp engine. The airplane met the limitations to be operated as a light sport aircraft.
The pilot purchased the airplane kit in December 2006. A construction log showed the first taxi tests were performed on March 10, 2010. The pilot’s flight instructor stated that several weeks prior to July 4th, the pilot inadvertently became airborne while performing high speed taxi tests. She stated the airplane was about 5 feet above the runway and the nose of the airplane dropped immediately when the pilot pulled back the power to get the airplane back on the runway. This resulted in a propeller strike, a broken nose wheel, and damage to the leading edge of the right wing.
At 1354, the automated weather observing system at the Waterloo Regional Airport (ALO), Waterloo, Iowa, located 45 miles east of the accident site, reported wind from 350 degrees at 6 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear sky conditions, temperature 27 degrees Celsius, dew point 16 Celsius, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.02 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a bean field in a nose down attitude approximately 600 feet from the approach end of runway 31. The airplane came to rest approximately 20 feet from the initial impact point.
The left side of the fuselage, cockpit, and the inboard section of the left wing sustained fire damage. Flight control continuity was established from the rudder and elevator to the cockpit. The flaperon continuity was established to the extent possible because of the impact damage. All three propeller blades were fractured at the propeller hub. One of the blades exhibited chordwise scratches.
Examination of the airframe did not reveal any failure/malfunction that would have resulted in the loss of control. A witness reported the engine was operating immediately prior to the accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on July 17, 2010, by the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner, as authorized by the Clinton County Medical Examiner. The autopsy findings included "multiple blunt force injuries."
The Federal Aviation Administration, Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. The toxicology report stated 11 percent Carbon Monoxide was detected in blood, 47(mg/dL,mg/hg) Ethanol detected in blood, 31(mg/dL,mg/hg) Ethanol detected in lung, 1(mg/dL,mg/hg) Methanol detected in lung, 1(mg/dL,mg/hg) Methanol detected n brain, 3(mg/dL,mg/hg) N-Propanol detected in blood, and 1(mg/dL,mg/hg) N-Propanol detected in lung. The report states that the ethanol was from sources other than ingestion. The report also indicated that Metoprolol was detected in the liver and blood. Metoprolol is commonly used for the management of high blood pressure and for other more serious cardiovascular conditions.