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On August 14, 2012, about 1605 Pacific daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Fechtner KR-2 airplane, N37686 collided with terrain near Tehachapi Municipal Airport (KTSP), Tehachapi, California. The private pilot, the sole occupant of the airplane, sustained serious injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the forward portion of the fuselage and wings. The airplane was registered to the pilot and operated as a personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight that departed from KTSP approximately 30 minutes prior to the accident. No flight plan was filed for the flight.
The pilot reported that he had recently completed extensive work to the engine, and the purpose of the flight was to build time. The day prior to the flight, he had completed a 40-minute engine ground run. On the day of the accident, the preflight, engine run-up, takeoff, and climb were normal. He climbed the airplane to 12,500 feet and maneuvered in the area surrounding the airport for about 50-minutes. The engine ran well and all associated instrumentation readings were normal. The pilot then began a descent to the airport; he later reported that this was his last memory of the flight, and is unable to recall detailed events surrounding the timeframe of the accident.
A witness reported that he observed the airplane in a descending left turn near the airport and that the engine appeared to be sputtering. The airplane continued the descent until it impacted terrain.
At 1555, the recorded weather observation at Tehachapi was, in part, winds from 330 degrees at 10 gusting to 19 knots; temperature 34 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 29.97 inches Hg.
The airport is located in open mountainous terrain at an elevation of 4,001 feet. The pilot reported that the calculated density altitude at the airport during the timeframe of the accident was approximately 6,880 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located in an open field about 1/2-mile from the approach end of runway 29. The surrounding terrain was relatively flat with areas of grass and scrub brush. All major airframe, engine and system components were located in the immediate area of the main wreckage. Examination of the wreckage by an FAA inspector from the Van Nuys Flight Standards District Office revealed no evidence of a preimpact mechanical malfunction or failure with the airplane that would have precluded normal operations.
Prior to the flight the pilot affixed a GoPro camera to the leading edge of the airplane’s horizontal stabilizer. The camera was recovered from the wreckage and forwarded to the NTSB Vehicle Recorder Laboratory for data recovery.
The recovered SD memory card contained still pictures and movie files. The video of the accident sequence showed, in part, the airplane in a descent towards the airport. As the airplane approached the runway, it entered a left banked turn. The banked turn and descent increased and the airplane subsequently impacted terrain in a left wing down, nose-low attitude. Neither the pilot nor the cockpit instrumentation was visible from the camera.
The video further showed that the airplane’s engine appeared to be operational during the entire flight with no anomalies noted.