NTSB Identification: FTW01LA125
On May 22, 2001, at 1800 central daylight time, a Gideon Wittman Tailwind W8 experimental, amateur-built airplane, N3GJ, was destroyed following a loss of control during takeoff from Wolfe Airpark Airport, Manvel, Texas. The flight instructor and the private pilot receiving instruction, who was the owner of the airplane, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight. The local flight had originated from the Wolfe Airpark Airport at an undetermined time.
According to friends of the pilots, the flight was an instructional flight for the owner, focusing on the operation of tail wheel equipped airplanes. According to witnesses, the airplane was executing touch-and-go landings on runway 02. The airplane landed, accelerated for takeoff, and lifted off the ground approximately 600-700 feet from the departure end of the 2,190-foot grass runway. The airplane attained a height approximately 20 feet agl and "immediately the right wing dropped slightly, and corrected back to level." Subsequently, "the right wing dropped to about a 45-degree angle, stopped slightly, and then continued to drop to a full 90 degree down position." The airplane's right wing contacted the ground and the airplane began to cartwheel. The airplane came to rest 40 feet past the departure end of runway 02, in a near 90-degree nose down attitude, against a tree. The airplane was consumed by fire. Both pilots sustained multiple injuries, including burns to 90% of their bodies. On May 24, 2001, the flight instructor succumbed to her injuries, and subsequently, the private pilot succumbed to his injuries.
According to the airplane's maintenance records, it was imported to the United States from Canada in July of 2000. On July 29, 2000, the airframe and engine underwent their most recent condition inspection, and had accumulated a total of 358.0 hours. On August 8, 2000, the airplane was issued a special airworthiness certificate by the FAA.
The airplane's design drawings were provided to the NTSB and forwarded to the FAA inspector, who examined the airplane. The elevator hinge (drawing 2-112) and the stick controls (drawing 2-107) were examined. The inspector found no evidence of failed welds or any other anomalies. He reported that "flight control continuity was complete." The flap system was damaged; therefore, a flap setting could not be determined.
On May 29, 2001, the engine was examined by an FAA inspector and a representative of Teledyne Continental Motors. The engine displayed external thermal damage. All of the engine accessories were attached to the engine except for the starter, which had separated, and the carburetor, which had partially separated. Crankshaft continuity was confirmed from the propeller shaft to the accessory section and to each of the cylinders. The top spark plugs were removed and a hand compression check was performed. According to the Teledyne Continental representative, the number one, two, and four cylinders produced "good" compression. The number three cylinder piston was observed to be moving; however, the intake pushrod was bent. The main oil screen was removed and observed to be free of contaminants. The carburetor and magnetos were disassembled and both displayed internal thermal damage.
At 1753, the weather observation facility at the William P. Hobby Airport, Houston, Texas, (located approximately 10 miles north of the accident site) reported a few clouds at 12,000 feet, visibility 10 miles, temperature 84 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 42 degrees Fahrenheit, wind from 030 degrees at 10 knots and an altimeter setting of 29.98 inches of mercury. Additionally, witnesses at the airport reported that the sky was clear and that there was "light wind out of the north."
The flight instructor had accumulated a total of 1,652.7 flight hours, of which 319.2 were in tail wheel equipped aircraft, and 356.4 were as a flight instructor. On March 31, 2000, she was issued a second class medical certificate, which contained a limitation for corrective lenses while exercising the privileges of her airman certificate. The private pilot had accumulated a total of 94.9 flight hours, of which 2.0 hours were in the accident airplane. On January 5, 2000, he was issued a third class medical certificate which contained a limitation for corrective lenses.