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On September 30, 2012, about 1630 mountain standard time, an experimental Air Creation, Tanarg, weight-shift control, airplane, N2751N, impacted terrain about 38 nautical miles north of Safford, Arizona on the San Carlos Indian Reservation. The sport pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The pilot, the sole occupant sustained fatal injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight. The airplane departed Safford Regional Airport (SAD), Safford, Arizona about 1600 with a destination of Show Low Regional Airport (SOW), Show Low, Arizona.
A family member in a similar airplane model was flying in loose formation with the accident airplane. The family member reported after clearing a ridge that the accident airplane dropped down to about 400 feet above ground level. The family member was positioned above and behind the accident airplane when the accident pilot made a radio transmission that the wind had become stronger and was making the airplane abruptly turn. The pilot added that he may attempt to land or abort the flight to SOW. Shortly thereafter, the accident airplane made a descending right turn and impacted the ground.
The airplane impacted a flat area at an elevation of 5,050 feet mean sea level, that was surrounded by mountainous terrain. The debris field was scattered in a 70 foot vicinity of the main wreckage. All major structural components were located within the wreckage debris area.
A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records revealed that the 50 year-old-pilot held a sport pilot certificate. An examination of the pilot’s personal logbook indicated he had amassed 78 flight hours since his initial training flight in May 2009. The most recent logbook entry was dated April 2011. The pilot had amassed his total flight hours in the accident airplane and in an Evolution Revo, a similar make and model.
The airplane was an experimental, weight-shift-control, Air Creation, Tanarg, serial number T05004. The airplane was equipped with a Rotax, 912UL, motor number 4406447. A review of the airplane’s maintenance logbooks revealed that the last entry was dated September 17, 2012 with an airplane total time of 566 hours. According to a FAA inspector, the standard 15 meter wing was replaced with a non-standard 12.5 meter wing about a month prior to the accident flight. The aircraft logbooks did not have an entry for the replacement of the wing.
The closest aviation weather observation station was located at SAD, which issued an automated surface weather observation at 1551 (about 40 minutes prior to the accident) reporting the following: the wind was variable at 3 knots; 10 miles or greater visibility; sky conditions clear below 12,000 feet, temperature 33 degrees Celsius; dew point minus 2 degrees Celsius; and an altimeter setting of 29.91 inches of mercury. An observation issued a 1651 (about 20 minutes after the accident indicated the wind was from 340 degrees at 9 knots, gusting to 22 knots; 10 miles or greater visibility; sky clear below 12,000 feet; temperature 34 degrees Celsius; dew point minus 3 degrees Celsius; and an altimeter setting of 29.91 inches of mercury.
Density altitude was calculated and ranged in the area from 6,003 to 6,135 feet during the time of the accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Gila County Medical Examiner in Globe, Arizona. The Forensic Pathologist reported that the cause of death of the pilot was due to blunt force injuries. Toxicological tests on specimens from the pilot were performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Medical Institute. Analysis revealed no carbon monoxide, cyanide or ethanol. The toxicology testing identified ranitidine, an over the counter medication that reduces stomach acid and is used to treat heartburn, in the urine. In addition, 0.0027ug/ml of tetrahydrocannabinol (marijuana) and 0.0054ug/ml of tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (marijuana’s primary metabolite) was detected in the pilot’s blood and 0.065ug/ml tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid was detected in his urine.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Following recovery, the airplane was examined at Air Transport in Phoenix, Arizona. The propeller assembly was removed and the engine was setup for a test run. A header tank was secured to the upper beam and a fuel line was attached to the airplanes fuel tank outlet line. The engine started with little hesitation and smoke was visible from each muffler assembly. The engine ran smoothly for approximately two minutes. Fuel was leaking at the attachment area of the fuel inlet line and the engine driven fuel pump. When the engine was shut down, fuel continued to leak.
The header tank was detached from the beam and relocated to the pilot’s seat, near the airplane’s fuel tank. The engine was restarted and ran smoothly for about one minute with no hesitations. No fuel leaked from the fuel pump inlet line attachment area. The fuel line was loose at the fuel pump attachment fitting and moved freely by hand. No other anomalies were noted during the engine run.
The wing assembly was disassembled and impact damage was noted throughout its internal structure. The trim actuator was found extended to nearly its full length. According to aircraft documents, the wing would be in the full forward position with the actuator extended to the full length. The full forward position increases maneuverability and speed and decreases pitch stability. The trim actuator motor was operated by use of an aircraft battery and no anomalies were noted.
A detailed report of the airplane examination is contained in the public docket for this accident.
According to the FAA inspector, this was the only make/model airplane to have the 12.5-meter aftermarket wing installed and electric trim modification. The inspector stated that the wing manufacturer does not recommend the model of wing that was on the airplane at the time of the accident because of controllability issues. The manufacturer added that with the wing in the forward trim position, an additional 15 knots is added to the stall speed equating to a speed of 60 knots. In turbulent air the wing will experience controllability issues and should be flown at slower speeds.
The FAA also stated that when the airplane wing was changed the airplane should have gone back to re-authorization. No documents were found to indicate any additional recertification for the Letter of Authorization.