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On August 18, 2012, about 1023 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur built FW-190 ½ scale replica, N149AM, registered to a private individual, crashed near the approach end of runway 13 at Columbus Metropolitan Airport (CSG), Columbus, Georgia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal, local flight from CSG. The airplane sustained substantial damage, and the commercial pilot, was fatally injured. The flight originated from CSG about 1018.
An individual who spoke with the accident pilot before takeoff stated they never discussed how much fuel was on-board, nor did the pilot mention to him any malfunction of the aileron flight controls. Rather, the individual commented to the accident pilot about the short wing span and that the aileron flight controls must be “kind of touchy” to which the accident pilot said “yes a little touchy.”
The pilot was cleared to taxi to runway 24, and according to a transcription of communications, at 1018, the local controller cleared the pilot for takeoff left traffic runway 24, and advised him that the wind was from 290 degrees at 5 knots. The pilot acknowledged the takeoff clearance and left traffic instruction from the controller. The pilot remained in the traffic pattern for runway 24, and about 1020:42, the pilot advised the controller that he was turning left base for runway 24, to which the controller cleared the pilot for the option runway 24 and advised the wind was from 310 degrees at 5 knots. The pilot acknowledged the instructions from the controller at 1020:53, and about 1 minute 13 seconds later or at 1022:06, the pilot advised the controller he intended to land on runway 13, and, “…I’ve a little power loss.” The controller who was communicating with the pilot later reported during an interview with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector-in-charge that immediately after executing a touch-and-go landing for runway 24 or at a point located before the intersection of runways 6/24 and 13/31, the pilot turned right for downwind for runway 13.
Witnesses reported seeing the airplane when it was north of runway 06/24 and east of runway 13/31, turn onto the downwind leg for runway 13.
The transcription of communication further indicates that at 1022:22, the pilot advised the controller that he intended to land on runway 13, and again advised of a loss of engine power. The controller cleared the pilot to land on runway 13, and later reported observing the pilot turn onto a short left base.
One witness reported first seeing the airplane when it was near taxiway D4, and noted the airplane was about 200 to 300 feet above ground level, and banked to the left then flew over hangars flying towards the approach end of runway 13. The witness reported that to him the engine sounded as if it were operating on 3 cylinders instead of 4, and also described, “…engine was running rough not sputtering…” and that the engine did not seem to be developing full power. The witness did not notice any smoke trailing the airplane. Another witness heard the pilot announce of the CTAF “power failure” and ran outside.
Two witnesses who were outside on the ramp near the approach end of runway 13 reported that the airplane flew over their position between 250 and 300 feet above ground level, and one of the witnesses who is an airframe and powerplant mechanic described hearing a reduced power setting which to him sounded like the engine was operating between 1,200 and 1,300 rpm. The witness reported seeing the airplane bank to the left at what was described as nearly 90 degrees of bank, followed by the nose pitching down. The other witness reported that as the airplane neared the approach end of runway 13, the airplane was in a “pretty good turn to the left.” The witness noted that the left wing dipped down, followed by stall, the nose pitching down, and subsequent impact. No sputtering sounds or smoke was observed trailing the airplane by any witnesses.
A fixed base operator located on the airport near the approach end of runway 13 with a security camera positioned to their ramp recorded a portion of the uncontrolled nose low descent during the final seconds of flight. No components were noted separating from the aircraft during the nose-low descent.
The pilot, age 71, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a certified flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single engine, airplane multi-engine and instrument airplane. He held a third class medical certificate with limitations issued on April 14, 2011.
The pilot’s wife reported finding a pilot logbook which indicated her husband had accrued 13,000 hours flight time.
The single seat wood structured airplane was built by a private individual in 1996, as a ½ scale Focke-Wulf (Fw) 190, and was designated serial number M2649. It was powered by a 100 horsepower Continental O-200-A engine and equipped with a three-bladed composite propeller. It was equipped with a manually retractable main landing gear and fixed tail wheel. The flight control system for pitch and roll was controlled by push/pull rods, while the flight control system for yaw was controlled by cables. The fuel supply system consisted of a 13 to 14 gallon gravity fed fuel tank that connects via hoses and lines to the carburetor through components consisting of a fuel shutoff valve, fuel strainer, and electric fuel pump.
No airworthiness files for the accident airplane existed at the FAA Aircraft Registry located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Aircraft Registry did however have a registration file with the first document historically being an Affidavit of Ownership for Amateur-Built Aircraft from the builder which was dated April 29, 1996. The affidavit reflected the make, model, and serial number of the engine, which was the same engine installed at the time of the accident. Additional documents contained in the registration file consisted of a bill of sale to the accident pilot dated April 27, 2012, and an aircraft registration application in the accident pilot’s name dated June 12, 2012.
The builder/previous owner reported to NTSB that when the airplane was sold to the accident pilot, it was not equipped with a fuel quantity gauge. He initially reported that he did not give a fuel dipstick he made to the accident pilot when it was sold; however, he later stated that he did give the accident pilot the fuel dipstick. The builder/previous owner also reported that when he built it, a fuel sending unit was installed in the fuel tank; however, the sending unit never worked so he disabled it. When asked how he disabled it he reported he could not recall. The builder/previous owner was asked about stall speeds and reported the power-off stall speed with the landing gear down was 72 to 73 miles-per-hour (mph), and the typical approach speeds in the traffic pattern on the base leg was 100 mph, and over the runway threshold was 85 to 90 mph. He was also asked if he had ever performed spins in the accident airplane and he reported he had performed two. He indicated that during coordinated flight, the airplane stalled straight forward with, “good size buffet before the wing stalled”, and spins became, “very tight very quick.” Since building the airplane, he replaced the hour meter when the airplane total time was less than 100 hours. At the time of the sale, he estimated the airplane total time was between 140 and 150 hours. The maintenance records were reportedly given to the new owner/accident pilot at the time of the sale.
The maintenance records were not located during the postaccident investigation.
A surface observation weather report taken at the accident airport at 1051, or approximately 28 minutes after the accident indicates the wind was from 300 degrees at 8 knots, the visibility was 10 miles, clear skies existed. The temperature and dew point were 28 and 21 degrees Celsius, respectively, and the altimeter setting was 29.97 inches of Mercury.
The pilot was in contact with the Columbus Metropolitan Airport air traffic control tower at the time of the accident. There were no reported communication difficulties.
The Columbus Metropolitan Airport is a tower controlled facility and has 2 runways designated 6/24 and 13/31. Runway 24, which was the runway the pilot initially departed from is 6,997 feet long and 150 feet wide, while runway 13, which was the pilot’s intended runway is 3,997 feet long and 150 feet wide.
With respect to runway 24, approximately 1,638 feet of runway remain at the intersection of that runway and runway 13/31.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed on airport property in close proximity to the approach end of runway 13. Further examination of the accident site revealed an impact scar associated with the right wing and engine oriented on a magnetic heading of 258 degrees; the impact scar was located approximately 157 feet and 327 degrees from the approach end centerline of runway 13. The wreckage came to rest on a magnetic heading of 302 degrees magnetic.
Examination of the airplane revealed all components necessary to sustain flight remained attached or were in close proximity to the main wreckage. Structural damage was noted to the wings, front fuselage, cockpit, and empennage. Both ailerons remained attached, and the elevator remained connected to the horizontal stabilizer which was separated. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer which was also separated. Flight control continuity was confirmed for roll, pitch, and yaw from the cockpit controls to the bellcrank near each control surface attach point. The fixed portion of the windscreen was broken but did not exhibit any evidence of bird strike. Both main landing gears were symmetrically bent aft approximately 50 degrees consistent with being down and locked at the time of impact.
The fuel tank was separated and fully breached but there was no pre or postcrash fire noted on any components. Further inspection of the fuel tank revealed the remains of a fuel sending unit; however, the wire portion that would connect to a float was found to be cut near the sending unit housing. No obstruction of the fuel supply system was noted; the fuel shutoff valve was in the on position. A small amount of debris was noted adhering to the fuel outlet finger screen inside the separated fuel tank.
Examination of the cockpit revealed throttle, mixture, and carburetor heat control continuity from the cockpit to their respective attach points of the control shaft in the engine compartment. The carburetor heat control was extended ½ inch. The magneto switch which was in the both position tested satisfactory during postaccident testing, and the oil pressure indicator was reading 0. The recording tachometer needle was off scale low and read 112.5 hours.
Examination of the engine following recovery of the airplane revealed crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity. Differential cold cylinder compression testing using 80 psi revealed the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 cylinders registered 52, 62, 28 and 32 psi, respectively. Leakage in the exhaust was noted during testing of the No. 3 cylinder while leakage in the crankcase was noted during testing of the No. 4 cylinder. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft but 2 blades were sheared. The carburetor was impact separated, and the fuel inlet fitting was broken at the carburetor. The fuel inlet screen was clean. Disassembly inspection of the carburetor revealed about 3 drops of fuel and a small amount of debris inside the carburetor bowl. No water was detected in the drops of fuel when checked using water finding paste. Further inspection of the carburetor revealed the accelerator pump rod was fractured, the float moved freely, and the needle valve and seat tested satisfactory with up and down movement of the float. The position of the throttle plate at impact was consistent with being in nearly the full open position. The exhaust system components were crushed in several areas but inspection of the non-crushed areas revealed no obstructions.
The air induction system was free of obstructions. Inspection of the components of the lubrication system revealed ferrous and non-ferrous particles in the oil suction screen. The oil suction screen housing also contained ferrous and non-ferrous particles. The oil pump gears were satisfactory but the interior surface of the oil pump housing exhibited scratches consistent with hard particle passage. The oil tank which was crushed and breached was drained and found to contain approximately 8 ounces of oil admixed with water. RTV type sealant was noted in the gear-train area of the engine, and also on the threads of the oil tank drain plug.
The left magneto remained tightly secured to the accessory case and was timed to specification on the data plate (24 degrees before top dead center), while the right magneto remained connected by one stud/nut while the opposite side mounting flange was broken. During hand rotation of the crankshaft, spark was noted at all spark plugs connected to the left magneto with the exception of the No. 4 bottom lead which exhibited impact damaged. The right magneto was rotated by hand and produced spark at all towers. Inspection of the spark plugs revealed the No. 1 top plug exhibited excessively eroded center and ground electrodes, while the remainder of the plugs exhibited normal wear when compared with the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug chart. Operational testing of the spark plugs as received was performed on a spark plug test machine. The testing was performed using 80 psi, which revealed all spark plugs exhibited a weak spark with the exception of the No. 3 top and bottom, and No. 1 bottom plugs which exhibited a normal spark during testing.
All cylinders were removed and no erosion of the pistons was noted. Also, although the gaps of 2 of the 3 upper rings of some cylinders were nearly aligned, none of the cylinders exhibited all gaps of the upper 3 rings in alignment. Following removal of the cylinders, no discoloration was noted to any of the connecting rods.
Examination of the propeller revealed two blades were sheared near the hub while the remaining blade remained connected in the hub.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by the Division of Forensic Sciences, Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The cause of death was listed as “massive blunt traumatic injuries”.
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens of the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated the results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs of abuse.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
As previously reported, the pilot purchased the airplane on April 27, 2012, and by the previous owner’s account, he flew it back to his home base (CSG Airport). A document located in the wreckage associated with the accident airplane indicating date, tachometer time, pilot name, and flight duration, documented 4 separate entries all with the accident pilot’s initials beginning with the first entry dated April 27, 2012, to the last entry dated May 18, 2012. The first entry flight duration was 2.3 hours and was consistent with the pilot’s purchase and subsequent flight to the CSG Airport. Fuel records from a fixed base operator at the accident airport associated with the pilot’s name indicate 6.60 gallons of 100 low lead fuel purchased on April 28, 2012; the request was for a top off of the fuel tank. No determination was made as to whether the airplane was fueled before or after the next logged airplane operation on the same day lasting 0.5 hour tachometer time. The next documented airplane operation occurred on April 30, 2012, and was recorded to last 0.3 hour tachometer time. The last documented airplane operation occurred on May 18, 2012, and was recorded to last 0.2 hour tachometer time. The ending tachometer time was recorded to be 112.3 hours, and as previously reported, the tachometer time postaccident was recorded to be 112.5 hours.
FAA Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) CE-09-35, titled Carburetor Icing Prevention contains a chart that depicts temperature, dew point, and the icing probability. Based on the temperature and dew point about the time of the accident (82 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively), the conditions were favorable for serious icing at glide power. The SAIB indicates that the sign of carburetor icing in an airplane equipped with a fixed pitch propeller is a drop in engine rpm, which will be accompanied by engine roughness.