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On July 19, 2010, about 1400 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built Texas Air Ventures Comp Air 8, N882X, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground during an aborted landing at Mt. Pleasant Regional Airport (LRO), Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The certificated commercial pilot was killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed for the flight that departed Merritt Island Airport (COI), Merritt Island, Florida, about 1200. The positioning flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to witnesses, at the time of the accident, the pilot was flying the first leg of a positioning flight with the intention of delivering the airplane to its owner in Holland, who had purchased the airplane about 3 months prior to the accident.
A witness, who worked for a fixed-base-operator at LRO, reported that the airplane was scheduled to overnight at the airport. He also witnessed the airplane on approach to runway 17, a 3,700-foot-long, 75-foot-wide, asphalt runway. The witness stated that the airplane looked "a little wobbly and unstable" before it touched down on the runway. The airplane then traveled off the right side of the runway on to a grass area, and was "swaying side to side" before he heard the engine power-up. The airplane became airborne again, and "went almost straight up, like it was performing an aerial maneuver and appeared to stall and then flipped over upside down and went straight into the ground…" He then observed smoke and fire coming from the impact site.
The pilot, age 29, held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land and sea, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. He reported 1,600 hours of total flight experience, with 300 hours during the previous 6 months, on his most recent application for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate, which was dated June 22, 2010.
The pilot flew the accident airplane on familiarization flight with a certified flight instructor for 5 hours during the day prior to the accident.
According to the flight instructor, they performed about 20 practice landings and the pilot "at first had some difficulty controlling the tailwheel, especially if the airplane bounced during landing;" however, he subsequently "got the hang of it" and the flight instructor was "very impressed" with how he handled the airplane. After the flight, the flight instructor felt that the pilot was capable of flying the airplane on the positioning flight; however, they made plans to conduct another familiarization flight the next day. The flight instructor did not have any further contact with the pilot and was not certain why the pilot elected not conduct a second familiarization flight.
The flight instructor did not recall how much total flight experience the pilot had accumulated. He recalled that the pilot did not have any prior Comp Air flight experience, and that his total turbine flight experience consisted of 14 hours, which were accumulated while ferrying a King Air 90. The pilot also informed him that he had flown "20 Atlantic and 1 Pacific crossings."
The pilot's logbook was not recovered; however, the pilot's father located the last page of the pilot's logbook, which had been torn out. The most recent entry was dated July 15, 2010. According to the "totals to date" section, as of July 15, 2010, the pilot had accumulated approximately 1,927 hours of total flight experience; which included 690.1 hours logged in the "turbine" column. In addition, the logbook depicted 1,053.1 and 1278.5 hours logged in the "complex" and "high performance" columns; respectively.
The six seat, high-wing, tail-wheel, turboprop airplane, serial number 0281020, was constructed primarily of composite material and was equipped with a Walter M601D series, 657 horsepower engine, with an AVIA 3-bladed constant speed propeller. According to the kit manufacturer, the kit was sold in August 2002.
According to FAA records, the airplane was issued an experimental airworthiness certificate on May 9, 2003. The airplane was purchased from the builder, by an individual, through a corporation, on March 25, 2010.
The previous owner/builder reported that the airplane had been operated for about 150 total hours at the time it was sold. He also reported that airplane's most recent condition inspection was signed-off during February 2010.
According to personnel where the airplane was maintained, all maintenance records were placed in the back of the airplane, to be delivered with the airplane to the new owner. The airplane had undergone a condition inspection during September 2009. After the airplane had been sold, work was performed which included the installation of a new heavy-duty elevator pitch trim motor and a new tail wheel assembly.
The airplane's maintenance records were not located and presumed destroyed during the accident.
The flight instructor, who flew with the pilot for 5 hours the day prior to the accident reported that the airplane performed well and that he did not experience any mechanical issues during the flight.
With regards to go-arounds, both the flight instructor and previous owner stressed the importance of re-trimming the airplane from the landing configuration, to avoid a dramatic pitch-up condition after engine power was applied.
The reported weather at LRO, at 1415, was: wind from 170 degrees at 13 knots, gusting to 18 knots; visibility 8 statute miles; clear skies; temperature 31 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 23 degrees C; altimeter 30.06 inches of mercury.
On-site examination of the airplane was performed by an FAA inspector. The inspector noted tire marks consistent with the accident airplane, about 1,000 feet beyond the approach end of runway 17, on the right side of the runway centerline. The tire marks continued for approximately 360 feet, before departing the right side of the runway. The airplane struck a runway light, and traveled an additional 50 feet on the grass before the tire marks were no longer visible. The airplane came to rest inverted about 300 feet from the right edge of the runway.
A postcrash fire consumed the majority of the airplane. The cockpit was destroyed. The pilot's seat frame was observed; however, its position could not be determined. Examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any preimpact malfunctions. The three-bladed propeller assembly separated from the engine and all three propeller blades displayed "s-bending" and chord-wise scratches.
The airplane's pitch trim actuator sustained significant fire damage and was removed for further examination, which was conducted at Comp Air, Merritt Island, Florida, under the supervision of an FAA inspector. The examination revealed that the pitch trim actuator was positioned in the landing, full nose-up position. The pitch trim motor could not be functional checked due to damage sustained in the accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on July 20, 2010, at the Medical University of South Carolina, Department Pathology and Lab Medicine, Charleston, South Carolina. The autopsy report indicated the cause of death as "blunt force injury of the head" sustained in an accident.
Toxicological testing performed on the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and alcohol.