ERA12LA386
ERA12LA386

On June 8, 2012, approximately 1645 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Dogbee gyroplane, N1481, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Wrens, Georgia. The certificated student pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

One of the witnesses to the accident was also a gyroplane pilot, and knew the accident pilot personally. He stated that he arrived at Wrens Memorial Airport (65J), about 1500, and began to unload his gyroplane from the trailer. The accident pilot had arrived before him, and was also unloading his gyroplane and assembling the rotor for flight. The witness stated that the accident pilot seemed to be in good spirits prior to the flight. After assembling their aircraft and conducting preflight inspections, both pilots departed 65J and flew “around the airport” for around 5-10 minutes before departing to the north to overfly nearby fields. The second pilot stated that he was flying approximately one-quarter mile behind, and around the same altitude as, the accident gyroplane. The two pilots were in radio contact, and the second pilot stated that the accident pilot’s transmission was “loud and clear” during a radio check.

A set of transmission lines was located between the airport and the fields the pilots intended to fly over, approximately three-quarters of a mile northwest of 65J. A set of lower, overhead lines was located about one-tenth of a mile past the transmission lines along the gyroplanes’ route of flight. The second pilot stated that, at their cruising altitude of around 400-500 feet, both gyroplanes were “plenty high” to avoid the transmission lines. After crossing over them but prior to reaching the set of overhead lines, the accident gyroplane began a descending left turn, which continued until ground impact. The second pilot described the turn as “normal” and “smooth,” and stated that as he watched the accident gyroplane, he “expected it to straighten out.” He watched as the gyroplane continued turning and descended to the ground, and stated that a post-crash fire immediately ensued. The second pilot did not observe any anomalies, nor receive any radio calls from the pilot indicating a problem, prior to impact. He further stated that accident gyroplane stated that the accident gyroplane was “well above” the overhead lines and he did not believe the turn immediately preceding the impact to be an evasive maneuver.

A second witness was located on a road adjacent to the accident site. He reported seeing the accident gyroplane fly over the field at an altitude between 50 and 70 feet, with a second gyroplane following approximately 200 yards behind and at a slightly higher altitude. He stated that the accident gyroplane was approaching, and level with, a set of overhead lines which ran perpendicular to its direction of flight. Before reaching the lines, the gyroplane made a steep, 180-degree left turn and impacted the ground. The witness stated that the gyroplane appeared to be "almost on its side" as it turned.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector responded to the accident site. He stated that the gyroplane came to rest near the edge of a plowed cotton field, approximately 20 feet from a wooded area. Most of the structure was consumed by post-impact fire. The main rotor was separated from the airframe, and was found suspended in a nearby tree. The engine and two of the three propeller blades remained intact.
The gyroplane was recovered to a secure location, where a further examination of the wreckage was conducted. Two of the four rotor control rods exhibited signs of failure at impact; the other rods were consumed by post-crash fire. The throttle was observed in the aft position. The engine was rotated by hand at the propeller flange, and continuity was confirmed to each of the two cylinders. The spark plugs were removed and exhibited normal wear. Cyclic and rudder control continuity could not be established due to fire damage.

The pilot held a student pilot certificate, which was issued in May 2010. The pilot’s flight logs could not be located after the accident, and the pilot’s flight experience could not be determined.

The accident gyroplane was built by the pilot, and was issued an FAA Airworthiness certificate on March 22, 2012. The gyroplane was equipped with a Rotax 503 DCDI, 50-hp engine, a 3-bladed, composite Warp Drive propeller, and Sport Copter rotor blades. No maintenance logs could be located.

The 1655 weather observation at Thomson-McDuffie County Airport (HQU), located about 20 nm north of the accident site, included winds from 120 degrees at 6 knots, 10 miles visibility, broken cloud layers at 7,000 feet and 8,000 feet, temperature 29 degrees C, dew point 15 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.04 inches of mercury.

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Division of Forensic Sciences on June 9, 2012. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries.

The FAA’s Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing on the pilot. No carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, or drugs were detected in the samples provided.

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