CEN11LA012
CEN11LA012

On October, 8, 2010, about 1330 central daylight time, a Challenger II, light-sport airplane, N61328, impacted terrain following a loss of control near Easton, Kansas. The student rated pilot was fatally injured, the sole passenger received serious injuries, and the aircraft was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and the personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The flight originated from a private airfield around 1300.

There were no reported witnesses to the accident. A passer-by noticed the wreckage near a rural road, heard the passenger’s call for help, and notified authorities.

In an interview conducted by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the passenger stated that they departed the pilot’s property around 1300-1330, and was only airborne for about 10 minutes. The passenger added that the pilot expressed a concern about the wind and decided they needed to return to the airfield. During the turn back to the airfield, the passenger felt like they were losing altitude and may have encountered a downdraft. The pilot suddenly told him to “hang on” and activated the airplane’s parachute. The passenger further stated that he was sure the engine was running, but he could not recall the impact sequence and he estimated the airplane was about 350 feet above ground level, when they started the turn.

The responding FAA inspector reported that the airplane impacted the tops of several trees before coming to rest at the base of the trees. The aircraft was equipped with a ballistic parachute system, and the parachute was entangled with the tops of the trees. The inspector also reported that the fuel tank was about half-full of fuel. The inspector added that a part of the tail section was located about 75 feet from the main wreckage.

Examination of the wreckage revealed that the parachute had deployed; however, it appeared that the chute was not fully opened prior to the airplane impact with the ground. The airplane’s control cables/rods appeared intact and connected. The engine would rotate by hand, and appeared normal. A visual inspection of the drive belts, throttle cable, and carburetors did not reveal any discrepancies. The right section of the stabilizer/elevator, located away from the wreckage did not have any impact marks on its tube framing, and the fabric appeared in good shape. Two bolts holding the section on were broken, and were removed for further examination.

Both bolts were sent to the Safety Board Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C., for examination. The Materials Laboratory factual report noted that both bolts had “bending and a cupped fracture face, consistent with a bending overload event”.

The pilot’s flight log and airplane maintenance records were not located in the course of this investigation.

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