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On October 17, 2010, at 1435 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur-built, Bobo Loehle 5151, N838B, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees in Southern Pines, North Carolina. The certificated private pilot was seriously 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 another pilot who was flying in formation with the accident airplane, both airplanes had departed an airport in Carthage, North Carolina, and were enroute to a private airstrip in Maxton, North Carolina. The pilots were communicating with each other on a common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). About 10 minutes after departure, the accident pilot reported on the CTAF that his "wings were fluttering and he was losing control of the airplane." The pilot told him to "ease the power and try to land on the road below." He then observed the accident airplane in a slow, banking turn. According to the pilot, it appeared the accident pilot was trying to make it the road, but he "couldn't keep control" of the airplane. The pilot noted that the wings were "fluttering" in an up and down direction.
Another pilot was flying in the area at the time of the accident and recognized the accident pilot's voice on the radio. He reported hearing the accident pilot state, "[his] wings were fluttering really bad and there was a bad vibration in the aircraft." He heard another pilot instruct the accident pilot to reduce the airplane power and land on the road below. The accident pilot then stated, "I have no control." There were no further transmissions from the accident pilot.
A witness, who was also a military helicopter pilot, observed the accident airplane at an altitude of 300 feet above the ground flying toward him "making a loud, banging noise." The airplane appeared to make a hard right turn when it was about 30 feet above the trees. The right wing dropped and the airplane descended vertically into the trees at a 70-80 degree nose-down attitude.
A second witness first observed the airplane about 100 feet above the trees, "making severe maneuvers." The airplane banked hard to the right on the west side of the road below while "drifting downward." The airplane then crossed back over the road in a left bank and "appeared to stall." The witness reported the ailerons were "fluttering," before he lost sight of the airplane below the tree line.
A third witness observed the airplane while driving in his car. He stated the airplane was traveling the same direction he was and both wings were "bouncing up and down in unison quickly." The witness stated that the airplane flew straight for about 6 seconds and then banked at about a 30-degree angle to the right. The airplane completed a 180-degree turn and then banked to the right again. The witness stated this turn was "very tight and the airplane began losing significant altitude," beginning at an altitude of about 300 feet. The airplane completed several 30-degree right turns, while losing significant altitude. The witness stated during the last turn, the airplane "rolled and went nose first into the ground." The witness additionally reported that it appeared the pilot "had no control over the airplane at that point."
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on March 15, 2010. At that time, he reported 498 hours of total flight experience.
Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed entries from December 29, 2002 to October 13, 2010. During that time, the pilot logged approximately 548 total flight hours, 36 of which were in make and model of the accident airplane. The pilot's first flight in the accident airplane occurred on September 29, 2009.
An interview with the pilot revealed he had no memory of the accident.
The airplane was a low-wing, single-engine airplane, designed as a replica of a WWII North American P-51 "Mustang." It was constructed from a kit, by the previous owner, and powered by a Rotax 503UL-2V, 50 horsepower engine.
According to the pilot, he purchased the airplane new and had just completed flying the 40 hours of flight time required by the FAA for the experimental airplane Phase 1 flight test phase. He intended to sell the airplane in the near future.
Examination of the airplane and engine logbooks revealed the initial condition inspection was completed on September 28, 2009, and the airplane received its airworthiness certificate and operating limitations on that date.
The most recent inspection performed on the airplane was the Phase 1 condition inspection completed on October 1, 2010, at a total aircraft time of 40.2 hours. According to the entry, the following work was completed during the inspection: "...all controls inspected and lubed...cut out inspection holes on outer wing correctly. Wood and fabric inspected."
This inspection was the final entry in the logbooks.
Weather recorded at Moore County Airport (SOP), 4 miles to the northwest of the accident site, at 1435, included calm wind, 10 miles visibility, clear skies, temperature 24 degrees C, dew point minus 1 degree C, and altimeter setting of 30.05 inches mercury.
Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed the airplane was constructed primarily of wood and fabric. The wood frame of the right wing was "shattered" into multiple wood fragments but came to rest adjacent to the fuselage. The right wingtip displayed ground impact damage. The left wing remained primarily intact but separated from the fuselage at the spar attachment. The leading edge of the left wing displayed damage consistent with terrain impact. Both ailerons remained attached to their respective wing attachment points and flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the aileron flight controls.
Due to the severe impact damage, the source of the control malfunction reported by the pilot could not be identified.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
A handheld Garmin GPS 95XL was retained from the wreckage and sent to the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorder Laboratory for further examination. No data could be retrieved from the device due to damage sustained during the accident.