ERA12LA380
ERA12LA380

On June 2, 2012, about 1310 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur built CGS Hawk Arrow II, N443EP, registered to and operated by a private individual, was landed hard during a forced landing in a field near Monroe, Virginia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight from Lancaster County-Mc Whirter Field Airport (LKR), Lancaster, South Carolina, to New Market Airport (8W2), New Market, Virginia. The airplane sustained substantial damage, and the commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained minor injuries. The flight originated from LKR about 1010.

The airplane was recently sold, and the accident pilot was flying the airplane to its new owner in Pennsylvania. He had not previously flown the accident make and model airplane before the accident flight. The previous owner filled the fuel tanks on May 31st, resulting in a total fuel capacity of 22 gallons (21 gallons in the main tanks and 1 gallon in the header tank); however, he could not recall if he reset the on-board engine information system (EIS). Typically, he would reset the EIS to reflect the fuel load either after fueling or as part of his preflight check. The pilot repositioning the airplane to the new owner was advised by the previous owner that the fuel consumption rate in cruise flight at 4,400 rpm was approximately 4.0 gallons-per-hour (gph), but was also advised the fuel consumption increased with increase in engine rpm. Based on this information for fuel planning, the pilot took the basic fuel burn for cruise flight at 4,400 rpm, or 4.0 gph, and divided that rate by the total gallons on-board (22) resulting in a theoretical endurance of 5.5 hours. His first planned fuel stop was at 8W2 which was about a 3.5 hour flight; leaving about 2 hours of reserve fuel.

Before departure, the previous owner offered to show the accident pilot the function/operation of the EIS which included information pertaining to fuel including endurance, fuel totalizer, and fuel flow, but he declined the offer. The accident pilot later stated in the “Recommendation” section of the National Transportation Safety Board Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report that the EIS was not labeled as to what indication was being displayed, and, “fuel data should be displayed as part of the main display, or a sight gauge should be installed.” He also confirmed that before departure he did not visually inspect the fuel tanks nor did he perform weight and balance calculations.

The flight departed, and the pilot reported that he reduced power to 4,600 rpm when the flight was about 500 feet above ground level, then climbed at that power setting to 5,500 feet mean sea level (msl), which took about 10 minutes. While flying at that altitude he reduced power to 4,500 rpm, then after clearing Class B airspace, increased engine rpm to 4,600 and climbed to 9,500 feet. The climb to 9,500 feet lasted about 15 minutes. The pilot stated to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector-in-charge that during cruise flight to maintain level flight, he had to apply full aft elevator trim, slight aft pressure on the elevator flight control stick, and increase engine rpm by 200 from the intended cruise setting of 4,400 rpm.

About 2 hours 55 minutes into the flight while flying about 18 miles north of Lynchburg, Virginia, the engine began “sputtering.” He attempted to proceed to Lynchburg, but the glide ratio was less than anticipated. He contacted Lynchburg Regional Airport air traffic control tower and advised the controller that the engine had quit and he would be executing a forced landing.

The pilot further stated that he maneuvered the airplane towards an open field while descending between 60 and 65 miles-per-hour, added 30 degrees of flaps, and with full aft elevator trim inputted, flared to land on top of a hill; however, the airplane’s nose-up pitch did not increase beyond horizontal with aft elevator control input. The airplane impacted upsloping terrain about 5 to 7 feet below the hilltop crest. Additionally, in the “Recommendation” section of the National Transportation Safety Board Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report, he indicated that, “A warning in cockpit should be placed to indicate that a solo pilot cannot exceed 180 pounds with full fuel tanks as this will cause an excessively forward CG situation. The only warning is that solo flight, pilot is to use the front seat and not the rear.”

Postaccident examination of the airplane and accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed the airplane traveled about 40 feet after touchdown before coming to rest. Structural damage was noted to the bottom fuselage area. Examination of the four fuel tanks revealed no evidence of breach or rupture, and no residual fuel was noted. Approximately 2 cc’s of fuel were drained from the fuel system low point. Inspection of the engine revealed internal continuity with good cylinder compression.

Postaccident weight and balance calculations were performed using the aircraft empty weight (653 pounds), the lowest weight of the pilot per his interview (220 pounds), the weights of a full header and fuel tanks (6 pounds and 126 pounds) respectively, plus additional pilot reported weights of his backpack (30 pounds), 2 gallons of oil (14 pounds), a laptop computer (5 pounds), and miscellaneous documents (5 pounds), all of which were secured in the rear seat. The weight at the time of engine start was calculated to be 1,059 pounds, and the center of gravity (C.G.) was calculated to be 87.79 inches aft of datum. Taking into account all fuel consumed; the weight at the time of the accident was calculated to be 927 pounds and the C.G. was calculated to be 88.71 inches aft of datum.

Documents provided postaccident by the previous owner indicate the gross weight limit is 1,150 pounds and the C.G. range is 88.42 to 92.34 inches aft of datum; however, the current owner of airplane design (CGS Aviation) reports the design gross weight of the accident airplane (experimental amateur-built) is 990 pounds.

Following recovery of the airplane, the new owner turned on the aircraft’s battery and positioned the EIS to page 0, which reflects information pertaining to fuel consisting of endurance, fuel quantity (totalizer based on fuel used), and fuel flow rate. The EIS reflected the endurance to be “0:00”, the fuel totalizer to be “7.7”, and the fuel flow rate to be “0.0.” A picture of the screen was taken and provided to NTSB and FAA; it is contained in the NTSB public docket for this case. The owner also post accident checked the elevator flight control cable tension and reported no discrepancies.

A fuel flow chart depicting fuel consumption at various rpm settings reflect that for engine maximum red-line (5,500 rpm), the engine consumes 7.8 gph, and at the pilot-reported rpm setting for climb and cruise (4,600), the engine consumes approximately 5.4 gph. A copy of the chart is contained in the NTSB public docket for this case.

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