ERA11LA014
ERA11LA014

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 9, 2010, at 1407 eastern daylight time, an Engineering and Research Corporation, Ercoupe 415-D, N89331, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground shortly after takeoff from Gwinnett County Airport-Briscoe Field (LZU), Lawrenceville, Georgia. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, witnesses reported that the airplane departed runway 25 at LZU, and sounded like it was "not producing full power." The airplane "oscillated" then banked left and struck a road with the left wing down.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for single-engine and multiengine land. His most recent third-class FAA medical certificate was issued on August 20, 2009. At that time, he reported 825 hours of total flight experience.

Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed entries from October 14, 2005 to October 6, 2010. As of the final entry, the pilot had accumulated 839 hours of total flight experience. According to the logbook, he accumulated 10.6 hours of total flight experience in the year prior to the accident, and 9.3 hours in the previous 30 days. Only one flight in the accident airplane was noted, which took place on October 3, 2010 (a 30 minute flight).

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The airplane was manufactured in 1946, the pilot purchased the airplane in June 2000, and it received its airworthiness certificate from the FAA in July 2000. It was a low-wing, single-engine airplane powered by a Continental C-85-12, 85-horsepower engine.

Examination of the aircraft and engine logbooks revealed the most recent annual inspection was completed on December 12, 2009, at a total time of 1960.4 hours and a tachometer time of 1828 hours.

According to the pilot's son, the pilot performed maintenance on the airplane due to a fuel problem. The pilot's son believed the problem was resolved and the pilot last flew the airplane about a week prior to the accident in the local area. He believed the last fueling occurred on October 6, 2010.

Witnesses reported to the FAA inspector that the pilot had removed the engine cowling prior to the accident flight and was performing maintenance on the engine.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Weather recorded at LZU, at 1406, included wind from 310 degrees at 6 knots, 10 miles visibility, sky clear, temperature 27 degrees C, dew point 9 degrees C, and altimeter setting of 30.05 inches mercury.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

Examination of the airplane by the FAA inspector revealed the airplane's left wing impacted a road and the airplane skidded about 12 feet into an embankment. It then continued about 60 feet and came to rest under a chain link fence, in a parking lot, resting on its nose.

The left wing was broken from the inboard attachments and bent slightly forward. The leading edge was compressed 36 inches from the tip, and displayed markings consistent with the initial impact with the road. The left aileron was intact and secured to the wing. The left rear spar was separated from the rear wing attachment.

The right wing was twisted upward from the rear, and the right aileron was intact and secured to the wing.

The wing fuel tanks were ruptured and evidence of fuel was present on the ground along the wreckage path. Fuel was also present in the main tank. The wings were placarded for auto fuel.

The tail section was intact and creased from impact forces. The left rudder was bent slightly at the bottom.

The nose section was crushed downward, and the left lower fuselage displayed impact damage forward of the wing spar.

Examination of the cockpit area revealed the mixture control was full rich, the carburetor heat was off, and the throttle control was noted in the approximate mid-range position. The primer was in and locked. The airspeed indicator displayed 45 miles per hour (mph), the magnetic compass indicated 250 degrees, and the vertical speed indicator displayed a 400 foot-per-minute (fpm) climb. The tachometer indicated 1828 hours, which was the same as recorded on the airplane's most recent annual inspection.

The engine remained attached to the fuselage, and the propeller remained attached to the engine. The propeller spinner displayed aft crushing damage to the propeller hub. The propeller blades were deflected rearward and displayed some chordwise scratching. The engine cowling was popped open at the top and the main fuel cap was missing.

The airplane and engine were transported to a secure salvage facility and further examined by representatives from Continental Engines, under the supervision of an FAA inspector. The examination revealed the nut on the bottom of the gascolator was not safety wired and was loose, allowing air into the fuel system. The gascolator bowl was heavily rusted and corroded. The carburetor bowl was rusted and corroded, and the float and needle valve were so corroded that they could not be removed from the carburetor. The fuel line from the wing fuel tanks to the fuel pump had been blocked off with a rubber hose, making the only fuel available to the engine, the six gallons in the header tank.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Gwinnett County Office of the Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the pilot on October 10, 2010.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Bioaeronautical Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot. No drugs or alcohol were detected during the testing.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A handheld Garmin GPS 396 was retained from the wreckage and sent to the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorder Laboratory for further examination. Examination of the data confirmed the airplane departed runway 25 and impacted the ground at 1407, about 1/2 mile from the departure end of the runway. No additional flights were captured on the unit.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

A query of fixed based operators at LZU revealed no records of the pilot purchasing aviation fuel at the airport.

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