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On June 26, 2011, at 1450 eastern daylight time, a Luscombe model 8A airplane, N71687, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while performing a low-altitude aerobatic maneuver at a private airstrip near Farmdale, Ohio. The pilot sustained serious injuries. The passenger was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the private pilot, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, without a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local area flight that was originating at the time of the accident.
Several witnesses reported that the pilot had flown at least two flights earlier in the day, during which they observed the airplane perform several aerobatic maneuvers near the private strip. On the accident flight, the airplane was observed to enter a near-vertical climb shortly after liftoff on a southerly heading. The airplane continued in the near-vertical climb to about 300 feet above the ground before it turned to the left and entered a nose-down descent toward the runway. One witnesses described the aerobatic maneuver as a wingover or a hammerhead. Another witness stated that the airplane appeared to stall at the apex of the vertical climb, before it entered the left turn and nose-down descent. The same witness reported hearing the engine operate at a high speed during the descent. Several witnesses noted that the airplane impacted the grass runway as it was recovering from the dive on a northerly heading.
The pilot reported that he had completed two flights earlier in the day between Greenville Municipal Airport (4G1) and the private airstrip. He confirmed that he had performed aerobatic maneuvers near the private airstrip during the previous flights. The accident occurred during his first flight of the day with a passenger. The purpose of the accident flight was to take the passenger on a local area flight. The pilot remembered making an uneventful takeoff, but his next memory was being loaded into the ambulance following the accident.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot, age 38, held a private pilot certificate, issued on October 15, 2006, with a single engine land airplane rating. His last aviation medical examination was completed on July 5, 2005, when he was issued a third-class medical certificate with no limitations or restrictions. A search of FAA records showed no previous accidents, incidents, or enforcement proceedings.
The most recent pilot logbook entry was dated June 19, 2011. At that time, the pilot had accumulated 570 hours total flight time, of which 536 hours were as pilot-in-command. The logbook indicated that all of his flight experience had been completed in single-engine land airplanes, which included 483.3 hours in the same make and model as the accident airplane. He had flown 46.5 hours during the past year, 15.3 hours during the prior 6 months, 8.1 hours during previous 90 days, and 4.3 hours in the previous 30 days. The pilot's most recent flight review was completed in the accident airplane on March 27, 2010.
According to FAA records, the passenger, age 30, held an expired student pilot certificate that had been issued on May 02, 2007. The passenger reported having 29 hours of flight experience when he applied for the student pilot certificate. No additional pilot records for the passenger were recovered during the investigation.
The accident airplane was a 1946 Luscombe model 8A airplane, serial number (s/n) 3114. A 65-horsepower Continental Motors model A-65-8 reciprocating engine, s/n 4635368, powered the airplane. The airplane was equipped with a fixed-pitch, two blade, McCauley model CM7447 propeller. The tail wheel-equipped airplane had a certified maximum takeoff weight of 1,260 pounds and had been modified to utilize automotive fuel.
The accident airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate on July 19, 1946. The pilot purchased the airplane on July 11, 2006. A new tachometer was installed on October 29, 2004, at 1,341.5 hours total airframe time. The recording tachometer indicated 519.5 hours at the accident site. The airframe and engine had accumulated a total service time of 1,861 hours at the time of the accident. The engine had accumulated 614.5 hours since being overhauled on September 9, 1981. The last annual inspection of the airplane was completed on April 5, 2011, at 1,853.7 total airframe hours.
A postaccident review of the maintenance records found no history of unresolved airworthiness issues.
The nearest aviation weather reporting station was located at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport (YNG), Youngstown, Ohio, about 11 miles south of the accident site. At 1451, the YNG automated surface observing system reported: wind from 010 degrees at 6 knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 3,800 feet above ground level (agl) and a broken ceiling at 22,000 feet agl, temperature 23 degrees Celsius, dew point 13 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.00 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
A postaccident investigation confirmed that all airframe structural and flight control components were located at the accident site. A ground depression consistent with an initial impact of the right wing was located about 40 feet south of the main wreckage. The main wreckage was located along the eastern edge of the runway, and about 200 feet north of the runway 36 threshold. The wreckage was facing the southeast on a 140-degree heading. The main wreckage consisted of the entire airframe, flight controls, engine, and propeller. All observed structural component failures were consistent with overstress separation. Flight control continuity was established between the individual flight control surfaces and their respective cockpit controls. The throttle control was found in the full aft position and bent downward at a 90-degree angle. The mixture, primer, and carburetor heat controls were found in the full forward position. The magneto switch was found in the BOTH position. The fuel selector was found in the ON position.
The engine remained attached to the firewall. Internal engine and valve train continuity was confirmed as the engine crankshaft was rotated. Compression and suction were noted on all cylinders in conjunction with crankshaft rotation. The upper spark plugs were removed and exhibited features consistent with normal engine operation. Both magnetos provided spark on all leads as the engine crankshaft was rotated. There were no obstructions between the air filter housing and the carburetor inlet. The fuel supply line to the carburetor contained liquid consistent with automotive fuel. A fuel sample was free of any water or particulate contamination. The carburetor inlet screen was free of any particulate contamination. Mechanical continuity was confirmed from the engine components to their respective cockpit engine controls. The propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft flange. Both propeller blades exhibited lengthwise bends, blade twisting, leading edge gashes, and rotational scoring/burnishing.
The postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Following the accident, at the request of local law enforcement, the pilot agreed to provide a blood sample for toxicological testing. Toxicological testing completed by the Ohio State Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory identified no alcohol or drugs of abuse in the pilot's submitted blood samples.
On June 27, 2011, an autopsy was performed on the passenger at the Trumbull County Coroner and Medical Examiner Office located in Warren, Ohio. The passenger's cause of death was attributed to multiple blunt force injuries sustained during the accident.
The FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on samples obtained during the passenger's autopsy. No carbon monoxide or cyanide was detected in blood samples. The test results indicated that 111 mg/dL of ethanol was detected urine samples, 85 mg/dL of ethanol was detected in vitreous samples, and 56 mg/dL of ethanol was detected in blood samples.