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On June 1, 2013, about 1144 eastern daylight time, a twin engine single seat experimental, amateur built Wilson Cricket MC12 airplane, N2SZ, registered to and operated by a private individual, collided with power lines then the ground shortly after takeoff from Doylestown Airport (DYL), Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 local, personal flight. The airplane sustained substantial damage and the airline transport pilot was fatally injured. The flight originated about 1 minute earlier from DYL.
The manager of DYL who was familiar with the pilot and his airplane reported that the pilot trailered the airplane to DYL that day, arriving there before 1000. After arrival, the airplane was part of a static display of aircraft; the accident flight was the first flight of the day for the pilot from DYL. The manager did not witness the engine start but did witness the airplane being taxied to runway 23, and reported that the airplane rolled past midfield before becoming airborne. After becoming airborne he noticed it was in a shallow climb. Concerned that the airplane would not clear trees past the departure end of the runway he continued to watch the airplane and after it cleared trees, he diverted his attention. He also stated that the pilot usually flies off the ground quick, and confirmed the pilot did not make any distress call.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration inspector-in-charge (FAA-IIC), witnesses reported that shortly after becoming airborne, the wings were noted to be rocking back and forth.
A witness who was traveling southeast bound on Swamp Road (Route 313) reported seeing a small airplane flying very low swerving side to side flying in a northwesterly direction over Route 313. The witness who was located southeast of the accident site observed the airplane in the vehicle's rear view mirror flying lower and still swerving side to side but not as much as first. The individual reported thinking the airplane was going to impact at a nearby car dealership, and suddenly, observed the, "[airplane] veered sharply to the left and all I saw was a fireball." The witness also reported, "My son, who was with me heard the engine revving as if the pilot was trying to gain altitude."
Another witness who was driving southeast bound on Route 313 over the bypass reported the airplane was approaching his position flying in a westerly direction over Route 313. The witness reported to law enforcement seeing the wings rocking from side to side and descending. Another witness who was also driving southeast along Route 313 reported seeing the airplane flying at a low level. The witness thought the airplane would hit his vehicle as it "swooped down" towards him. The witness believed the airplane was low enough to pass under nearby traffic lights, and could not tell if the engines were operating but thought the propellers were spinning. The witness also believed the airplane may have been inverted when it passed his position.
Another individual reported to law enforcement seeing the airplane flying parallel to Route 313, and heard a sputtering sound. The witness continued to observe the airplane from his rear view mirror and noticed the airplane banked left. He then observed a fireball and proceeded to the scene in an effort to render assistance.
Yet another witness who was less than 200 feet southwest from the accident site reported to law enforcement hearing the airplane flying which he described as being very low. The witness reported the airplane flew in front of his position and as it passed him, it banked to the left and impacted the power lines. The witness also reported he did not hear any sputtering or see any smoke trailing the airplane.
One individual who was driving southeast bound on Route 313 reported that approaching the bridge over Route 611, he noted the accident airplane and made a comment to his daughter who was with him about the pilot doing stunts over the road. It then became apparent to him that the pilot was looking for a safe place to land. They approached the bridge and he noticed the airplane was descending while flying towards their vehicle. While on the bridge he parked his car as far to the right as possible and reported the airplane was flying towards them at a 45 degree angle and was floundering. During that time he heard full roar and then no sound from the engines, and reported the pilot was flying over Route 313 as if the pilot was attempting to perform an emergency landing. The individual noticed the nose pitch up straight in the air, followed by an immediate 90 degree roll to the left. He could see the bottom of the airplane and the wing barely missed their vehicle. The airplane then collided with the power lines causing sparks and an explosion. A portion of the airplane remained suspended, and the airplane then impacted the ground followed by a second explosion. The witness parked his vehicle, and went to the site to render assistance.
Bystanders, police and fire rescue personnel responded to the scene to render assistance.
The pilot, age 69, held an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate with airplane multi-engine land and rotorcraft helicopter ratings. At the ATP level he was type rated in a Sikorsky SK-76 helicopter, Beech BE-300 and Fairchild Swearingen SA-227 airplanes. He held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single engine land rating, and was issued a first class medical certificate with no limitations on May 13, 2013. On the application for the last medical certificate he listed a total time of 16,900 hours, and 100 hours in the last 6 months.
According to FAA Civil Aeromedical Division personnel, at the last medical examination the pilot was 71 inches tall and weighed 185 pounds.
The twin-engine, single seat, "T tail", tricycle gear airplane was built by a private individual from a kit in 1992 as model Cricket MC12 (Cri Cri), and according to FAA records was designated serial number 210013. It was certificated as an experimental amateur built airplane, and was powered by two 15 horsepower single cylinder 2-cycle PUL 212 engines and equipped with two wooden fixed pitch MC/AS 695200103 propellers. The airplane was also equipped with full span flaperons. The airplane's fuel tank is located in the cockpit forward of the seat, requiring placement of both legs directly over the fuel tank while seated.
Since the beginning of 1982 until about 1988, a company called Zenair sold kits for Cricket MC12. Personnel from Zenair reported they having no historical data concerning the Cricket MC12; therefore, no determination could be made whether the kit was provided by Zenair, or the original designer.
A document from Zenair (kit seller) indicates that the gross weight of the Cricket MC12 airplane with the PUL engines is 380 pounds (design weight is actually 170 kg or approximately 375 pounds). The document also indicates that the single engine rate of climb is 200 feet-per-minute (FPM), and at 420 pounds gross weight, the climb rate with the PUL engines is 1,000 FPM with both engines operating.
Documents submitted to the FAA by the builder indicated that the empty weight was 195 pounds, and using a pilot weight of 180 pounds, the airplane without fuel weighed 375 pounds, which corresponded to the maximum design gross weight. The builder stipulated the gross weight to be 420 pounds.
According to FAA records, the pilot purchased the airplane on December 6, 2002; no maintenance records were located.
A weight and balance document dated July 20, 2008, indicates the combined weights on each main and nose landing gears, plus subtractions and additions for equipment and 3.0 pounds of "nose weight." The airplane empty weight with the additions and subtractions was approximately 220 pounds.
A surface observation weather report taken at DYL at 1154, or approximately 10 minutes after the accident indicates the wind was variable at 4 knots, the visibility was 10 statute miles, and the cloud condition was not reported. The temperature and dew point were 29 and 21 degrees Celsius, respectively, and the altimeter setting was 30.00 inches of Mercury.
Based on the altimeter setting of 30.00 inches of Mercury, the pressure altitude was approximately 314 feet.
The DYL Airport is a public-use airport located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, owned by Bucks County Airport Authority. It is an uncontrolled field equipped with a single 3,004 foot long by 60 foot wide asphalt runway designated 5/23. The common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) is 122.975 MHz, and is not recorded.
On the date of the accident, the Bucks County Airport Authority, Doylestown Pilot Association, and Leading Edge Aviation sponsored an open house (Tenth Annual) at DYL showing antique, experimental and other airplane static displays. The event was open from 1000 to 1500 hours.
The DYL airport has a security camera that is mounted about 12 feet above ground level on the middle of the terminal building, and at the time was pointed to the southwest. The security camera recorded approximately 8 seconds of the accident flight at DYL; the video did not depict the point of rotation or the accident sequence. Review of the recorded video segment revealed the airplane first came into view while airborne several feet off the runway. The video depicted the airplane flying just above the runway about the same altitude as first viewed until reaching a taxiway located about 2,100 feet down the runway. At that point the video depicts the airplane beginning to climb with the wings rocking to the right and then back to wings level while continuing in a climb and then disappearing from view. No smoke is noted trailing the airplane.
Automotive fuel is not available for purchase at DYL; the airport only sells 100 low lead and Jet A type fuels. The pilot did not purchase fuel from DYL that day.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed at the intersection of PA Route 611 Bypass (Easton Road) and Route 313 in Doylestown, PA. The wreckage was located on the southeast portion of the intersection in the foliage on the shoulder of Route 611. The approximate coordinates of the main wreckage were 40 degrees 19.85 minutes North latitude and 075 degrees 08.12 minutes West longitude. That location when plotted was located about 2,788 feet and 278 degrees straight line distance and direction from the departure end of runway 23.
Examination of the accident site by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector-in-charge revealed the "T-tail" was suspended among electrical wires above the resting position of the wreckage. The wings and pilot seat were on the ground in an upright position directly below the suspended "T-tail". The nose containing both engines with attached propellers was located on the ground inverted on a storm drain approximately 10 feet southwest of the wing section, and the fuel tank was separated and located on the ground in an upright position approximately 12 feet north of the wing section. The section of fuselage between the pilot's seat and the "T-tail" section suspended in the wires was not present and was consumed by the postcrash fire. The foliage on which the pieces landed had been burned but the tall reed grasses between the three aircraft pieces were intact with no evidence of burning. The left wing and leading edge of the vertical stabilizer had witness marks from striking electric wires, but the right wing had no damage. The rest of the wreckage had burned with evidence of fire on the tail hanging from the wire.
Further examination of the airplane following recovery revealed the separated fuel tank was ruptured and did not contain any fuel. Rudder and stabilator control cables and push rods were broken as a result of the separation of the "T-tail"; however, there was no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction. Flaperon and flaps control authority was confirmed. Evidence of wire strikes were noted on the left wing and leading edge of the vertical stabilizer.
Examination of the cockpit revealed both throttle levers were in the retarded position; however control cable continuity from each throttle lever to the carburetor of each engine could not be determined due to melted control cables associated with the postcrash fire. The throttle mechanism at each carburetor was noted to operate satisfactory. Each engine master switch was in the off position.
Examination of both engines which remained attached to the engine pylons revealed fire damage to both, though rotation of each propeller by hand revealed both engine powertrains rotated freely with good compression noted in each cylinder. Fire damage to the spark plugs wires was noted. Both propellers exhibited heat damage; the left propeller was not fractured, while both blades of the right propeller were fractured.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot was transported by ambulance from the accident site to the Doylestown Hospital for transport via helicopter to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; however, the life flight helicopter was at the DYL Airport taking part in a static display. The pilot was redirected by ambulance to the DYL Airport where he was airlifted by helicopter to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for treatment of his injuries. The family withdrew care and placed him on do not resuscitate (DNR) status; he died while hospitalized on June 2, 2013.
The NTSB provided a subpoena to Temple University Hospital personnel to obtain admission blood and urine specimens. Those specimens were submitted as directed by the subpoena to the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory (FAA CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for testing. Additionally, specimens obtained during autopsy were also submitted to the FAA Bioaeronatical Sciences Research Laboratory for testing.
A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by the City of Philadelphia Office of the Medical Examiner. The autopsy report indicated the cause of death was "Thermal Burns and Inhalation Injuries", with 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 90 percent of his body. The report also indicated that he sustained fractures of 4 right ribs, and comminuted fractures of the left humerus. No other fractures were reported.
Forensic toxicology testing was performed on admittance specimens from Temple University Hospital and also of specimens from the postmortem examination by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Forensic toxicology testing was also performed by the City of Philadelphia Office of the Medical Examiner.
The toxicology report by FAA CAMI indicated that cyanide testing was not performed, and the results were negative for carbon monoxide and volatiles. Unquantified amounts of etomidate, midazolam, and morphine were detected in the submitted blood specimens, while midazolam and morphine were detected in the submitted liver specimen.
The toxicology report by the City of Philadelphia Office of the Medical Examiner revealed the result was negative for cocaine, volatiles, and carbon monoxide, while unquantified amounts of lidocaine and midazolam were detected in the cardiac blood specimen. Additionally, 340 ug/L of morphine was detected in the cardiac blood.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Postaccident weight and balance calculations were performed using the empty weight of 220 pounds and the weight of the pilot at his last medical less than 3 weeks earlier (185 pounds). The zero fuel weight was calculated to be approximately 405 pounds, and because the fuel amount at takeoff could not be determined, no determination could be made as to the gross weight at engine start. At the calculated zero fuel weight, the airplane was 30 pounds over the design gross weight, but was 15 pounds under the builder designated gross weight.
The Koch Chart in the FAA safety publication FAA-P-8740-2, titled density altitude, provides increases in takeoff distance and decreases in rate of climb performance for airplanes that do not have an airplane flight manual or Pilot's Operating Handbook. Based on the temperature and pressure altitude about the time of the accident, 84 degrees and 314 feet respectively, the expected increase in takeoff distance would be approximately 25 percent, and the expected decrease in rate of climb performance would be 20 percent. Using data from the previous pilot's account of takeoff roll distance of 415 feet, and climb rate of 1,200 FPM, the takeoff roll distance would have increased approximately 104 feet, and the climb rate would have decreased 240 FPM. Using the same chart and reported single engine climb rate at gross weight as depicted by the kit builder revealed a decrease of 40 FPM. No determination could be made as to the amount of decrease in single engine climb rate for any weight above the maximum design gross weight.
Information Concerning Flight Evaluation of the Cricket
"Zenair Cricket News" newsletter No. 5, from fall of 1982, which contains an account from a pilot who had flown the Cricket, indicates that at 25 pounds less than the design gross weight, or 350 pounds, the PUL engine equipped Cricket was airborne in 415 feet and climbing at 1,200 FPM. The pilot also indicated that by remaining within the allowable gross weight, the airplane was, "…a remarkable performer on single engine. At 340 pounds, I have climbed the bird from 2,000 to 3,000 [feet] at 250 [feet-per-minute, and maintained 85 mph level at 3000 feet using full power on the good engine."
Previous NTSB Investigations Involving Cricket Airplanes
A review of NTSB's data base from 1982 revealed a total of 5 previous accidents involving Cricket airplanes dating back to 1982. Of the five accidents, four involve a MC12 and the last involves a MC15. A review of the accidents involving the MC12 airplanes revealed one (identified as NTSB investigation CHI83FA370), in which the pilot wrote an article reporting the circumstances of his accident. The pilot indicated in the article that after takeoff and the having achieved the climb angle, the left engine quit with a resulting yaw to the left. He lowered the nose, however the airspeed deteriorated to stall and the wing dropped. He retarded the right engine and applied forward control resulting in an immediate ground contact. He also relayed that, "…for ten seconds a vulnerability exists. If an engine fails, your options are very limited…."
Review of the three other accidents involving a MC12 identified by NTSB Case #'s (DEN84FTE01, FTW92LA140, and CHI06LA164) revealed one of the accidents (FTW92LA140) occurred during a forced landing following total loss of power from the left engine while on approach; the airplane had the same horsepower engines as the accident airplane. The report did not indicate the airplane weight at the time of the accident; therefore, no determination could be made whether the airplane was being operated above the design gross weight at the time of the accident.
One accident involving a MC15 (LAX95LA309) occurred during a forced landing because the pilot was unable to maintain single engine flight following total loss of power from the left engine. The MC-15 contains the same wing span, wing area, and wing aspect ratio as the MC12, and the MC15 had the same horsepower engines as the accident airplane. The report did not indicate the airplane weight at the time of the accident; therefore, no determination could be made whether the airplane was being operated above the design gross weight at the time of the accident.