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On June 26, 2011, at 1655 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Barracuda, N289DH, operated by a private individual, impacted terrain while on approach to land at the South Alabama Regional Airport (79J), Andalusia, Alabama. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged by impact forces and a subsequent postcrash fire. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight that was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated from 79J about 1625.
According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the airplane had been purchased by the pilot, who made arrangements with a ferry pilot to fly the airplane from Florida to Colorado. On May 6, 2011, the ferry pilot was on approach to land at 79J, when the airplane's left landing gear would not extend and the ferry pilot subsequently landed at 79J with the left landing gear retracted.
The airplane was repaired and at the time of the accident, it was being flown by the owner, who had flown about 2 previous hours in the airplane, which included about 1 hour, about 2 weeks prior to the accident. The purposed of the accident flight was for the pilot/owner to familiarize himself with the characteristics of the airplane, before continuing the ferry to Colorado.
Witnesses at the airport observed the airplane in the traffic pattern for runway 29, with all three landing gears extended and stated that the airplane appeared slow and in a nose-high attitude. One witness stated:
"…When the aircraft turned left base, I noticed the left wing drop dramatically. The engine at this point sounded as though it was advanced to full power very rapidly. The aircraft flipped over on its back and descended under power into the ground. A fireball rose from the trees and thick black smoke soon followed…."
The airplane collided with trees and impacted the ground, about 1/2 mile from the approach end of the runway.
The pilot, age 58, held a private pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single-engine land. The pilot's logbook was not recovered. He reported 350 hours of total flight experience, on his most recent application for an FAA third-class medical certificate, which was issued on December 8, 2009.
The two-seat, low-wing, retractable-gear airplane, serial number 289, was constructed of wood from plans, and issued an experimental special airworthiness certificate on July 17, 2008. It was powered by a Continental Motors IO-470K, 235-horsepower engine, equipped with a three-bladed Hartzell constant-speed propeller.
The airplane's maintenance records were reported to be onboard at the time of the accident and were presumed destroyed. It was estimated that at the time of the accident, the airplane had been operated for about 130 total hours.
According to the builder, the airplane had undergone a condition inspection about 2 months prior to the accident. At that time, the airplane's engine had been operated for about 1,200 hours. The airplane was not equipped with a stall warning system.
The airplane's total fuel capacity was 58 gallons. According to airport fuel records, the pilot purchased 27.51 gallons of 100-low-lead aviation gasoline on June 9, 2011, and 22.04 gallons on the date of the accident. The builder reported that the fuel burn during climbout at full rpm was 20 gallons-per-hour (gph), and he preferred to cruise at 55 percent power, which consumed 12 gph.
The reported weather at 79J, at 1656, was: wind from 40 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 6 miles in haze; temperature 36 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 19 degrees C; altimeter 29.92 inches of mercury.
On site examination revealed that the airplane impacted trees on a heading of about 280 degrees, before impacting the ground and coming to rest on a heading of about 265 degrees. Several freshly cut tree limbs of varied diameters were observed at the accident site, consistent with propeller strikes. All major portions of the airplane were accounted for; however, the airframe was consumed by a postcrash fire, which charred an approximate 50-foot area around the wreckage.
Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight controls to the cockpit. The landing gear was separated and the flap actuator jackscrew corresponded to the fully extended position.
The engine was intact and fire damaged. All accessories were separated except for the vacuum pump and propeller governor. The front portion of the No. 6 cylinder sustained significant impact damage. The crankshaft could not be rotated due to impact and fire damage. A borescope inspection of all cylinders revealed no abnormalities to the piston heads, cylinder domes, and valves. The top spark plugs were removed. Their electrodes were intact and displayed normal wear, when compared to a Champion Spark Plug comparison card. The fuel pump drive coupling remained intact and was located on the fuel pump accessory drive gear. The fuel pump drive shaft could not be rotated. The fuel pump was disassembled and found to be dry and heat discolored, with no internal damage present. The throttle and mixture controls remained connected to the fuel metering unit and were seized in the full open position. The fuel inlet screen was heat discolored, and absent of contamination. The magnetos were rotated; however, no spark was observed from any of their respective terminals. Subsequent disassembly of the magnetos revealed internal melting. The oil filter element and fuel manifold were absent of contamination.
The propeller hub remained attached to the crankshaft and the spinner was crushed. All three propeller blades were fire damaged. One propeller blade was twisted toward the direction of rotation. A second propeller blade was bent about 40 degrees toward the non-cambered side, near the hub. A third propeller blade was separated about 4 inches from the hub, and twisted toward the direction of rotation.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Montgomery, Alabama.
Toxicological testing performed on the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was positive for ethanol and N-propanol; however, it was noted that the samples tested had undergone putrefaction.