NTSB Identification: NYC99FA100
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On May 2, 1999, about 1740 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Pitts S-1S, N29GS, was substantially damage when it impacted terrain near Westtown, New York. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological condition prevailed for the personal flight that departed Orange County Airport, Montgomery, New York, destined for Lincoln Park Airport, Lincoln Park, New Jersey. No flight plan was filed, and the flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
A witness flying with the accident pilot, but in a separate airplane, stated that they departed Lincoln Park, about 1600, and flew directly to Orange County. Because of low fuel and "windy" conditions, the accident pilot elected not to conduct aerobatics training en route. Both airplanes landed at Orange County, taxied to parking, and the pilots went to get something to eat.
The accident airplane was refueled, and both airplanes taxied to runway 1 for the return trip to Lincoln Park. Approximately 1/4 of the way back to Lincoln Park, the accident pilot felt conditions had improved, and wanted to practice her "sportsman" aerobatic routine for an up coming competition. The airplanes then diverted approximately 10 miles to the west of their course to a practice area near Pine Island, New York.
Because the witness did not refuel at Orange County, he elected not to engage in aerobatics. Instead, he stayed about 1/4 of a mile to the east, and watched the accident pilot practice. The accident pilot entered her aerobatic sequence approximately 3,500 feet msl, and completed several maneuvers before entering a spin to the left.
The witness stated that in the past, the accident pilot had "been having trouble with her spin entries," but this entry, "was the cleanest" he had ever seen her perform. After 1 1/4 turns, the airplane's rotation started to slow, but approximately two turns later, the rotation accelerated. About seven turns into the spin, the witness received a radio transmission from the accident pilot. In that transmission she stated "'I can't get out [of the spin]' or something to that effect." At this point, the witness transmitted for the accident pilot to let go of the flight controls, and attempt a hands off recovery.
Because of the change in rotation after 1 1/4 turns, and the airplane's "extreme" nose down position, the witness thought he saw the accident airplane transitions from a standard spin to an inverted spin.
Approximately 50 feet before impact, the witness noticed that the descent rate, and rate of rotation of the airplane had slowed. In addition the nose of the airplane was recovering from a vertical down position.
After the accident, the witness preformed a pass at 200 feet agl, and tried to establish radio contact with the accident pilot. Damage to the airplane looked minimal, and he felt the accident might be survivable. He momentarily thought about landing near the accident site, but all the fields in the area had been worked, and the dirt roads in the area were narrow with drainage ditches on both sides.
After deciding not to land, the witness established an orbit 700 to 800 feet agl, and reported the accident. He then made visual contact with an emergency vehicle attempting to locate the site. The pilot got the driver's attention, and then directed him to the accident. The witness estimated that 15 minutes elapsed from the time of the accident until emergency personnel arrived. After emergency personnel were on scene, and with 7 gallons of fuel onboard, the witness elected to divert to Sussex Airport, Sussex, New Jersey.
The accident happened during the hours of daylight. The wreckage was located 41 degrees, 19.774 minutes north latitude, 74 degrees, 28.669 minutes west longitude, and about 400 feet elevation.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single engine land rating. Her latest third class medical was dated May 18, 1998. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed, that as of November 30, 1998, she had logged a total of 950 hours of total flight experience, and 127 hours of aerobatic experience with approximately 80 hours of that in the accident airplane. Her logbook showed an entry for a biennial flight review on November 30, 1998, in the accident airplane. After November 30, 1998, there were no entries.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident airplane came to rest approximately 80 degrees nose low in a freshly worked field. The engine, all four wings, and empennage were attached. The engine, with the propeller still attached, was buried under 1 foot of dirt. One of the propeller blades was bent aft, and the other was undamaged. Neither of the propeller blades displayed chordwise scratching.
The majority of damage was located on the outboard leading edge of the lower left wing. At the wingtip, damage was oriented 45 degrees to the leading edge, and continued aft for approximately 12 inches. Both the left and right upper wings showed no signs of damage. The lower right wing's leading edge was damaged from it root to its wingtip, but not as severe as the left lower wing. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers, along with their control surfaces, were not damaged.
The canopy open release was tested, and the locks disengaged. The right side of the canopy would slide but impact damage prevented the left side from traveling more than 1 inch. The pilot had been wearing a parachute and a restraint system.
The wreckage was reexamined the day after the accident. Two representative of the International Aerobatics Club, and three inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration assisted the Safety Board Investigator. During the examination, flight control continuity was established. Engine control continuity was not established because of damage to the cockpit and instrument panel. In addition, a 4 pound and a 8 pound lead weight was discovered attached by a cable to the back of the pilot's seat.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was preformed on the pilot, May 3, 1999, at the Medical Examiners Office in Middle Town, New York, Burlington, Vermont.
A toxicological test was performed on the pilot by the Federal Aviation Administrations Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
A witness stated that the accident pilot came into his dive shop on the day of the accident, and purchased a 4 pound lead weight and an 8 pound lead weight. When asked where she was going diving, the pilot responded she wasn't. She continued by saying the weights would be installed on her airplane to move the C.G. aft.
According to the FAA's Flight Training Handbook, "The first corrective action taken during any power on spin is to close the throttle. Power aggravates the spin characteristics and causes an abnormal loss of altitude in the recovery." In addition, "...the pilot should first apply full opposite rudder; then after the rotation slows, apply brisk, positive straight forward movement of the elevator control (forward of the neutral position). The control should be held firmly in this position. The forceful movement of the elevator will decrease the excessive angle of attack and thus will break the stall. When the stall is broken the spinning will stop. This straight forward position should be maintained and as the spin rotation stops, the rudder should be neutralized.
The publication added, "The recovery from a stall in any airplane becomes progressively more difficult as its center of gravity moves aft. This is particularly important in spin recovery...."
On May 2, 1999 the wreckage was released for the owners representative to recover, but no one was available to sign the form. A copy of the wreckage release was faxed to Officer John T. O'Leary of the New York State Police.