NTSB Identification: ERA12FA467
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On July 20, 2012, at 0835 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built RV-4 airplane, N25UA, collided with Treat Mountain Road while maneuvering in the vicinity of Cedartown, Georgia. The airplane was registered to a private owner and was operated by a private individual as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. A postcrash fire ensued and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Instrument meteorological (IFR) conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private pilot was fatally injured. The flight departed from Hilliard Airpark (01J), Hilliard, Florida about 0700.
A man and his wife turned onto Treat Mountain Road and observed heavy black smoke. They continued down the road and observed the accident airplane on fire in the road. The male occupant attempted to assist the pilot but was unable to do so due to the fire. His wife notified the 911 emergency operators at 0846 and reported the accident. They reported the weather was low ceilings, rain, and fog at the time of the accident.
Witnesses who lived in the vicinity of the crash site reported hearing the airplane circling overhead between 0815 and 0830. One witness stated the engine was sputtering like it was “starving for fuel.” They could not see the airplane due to low clouds and fog.
The deceased pilot’s wife stated that her husband filled up the airplane with fuel and departed 01J en-route to Warren County Memorial Airport (RNC), McMinnville, Tennessee, and en-route to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Her husband was supposed to call her at each of his refueling stops.
The pilot, age 67 held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land issued on October 24, 2003. The pilot held a third class medical with the medical restriction “must wear corrective lenses and possess glasses for near and interim vision” issued on September 20, 2011. Review of the pilot's log book revealed his last flight review was on March 19, 2011. The pilot's last recorded flight in his logbook was on February 8, 2012, and his tail wheel endorsement was on February 20, 2008. The pilot's first flight in the RV-4 was on July 27, 2008, and he had flown 4.9 total hours with a flight instructor. The pilot had logged 922.2 hours total flight time. He had recorded 211.8 hours in the Rv-4 as pilot-in-command, not including the accident flight.
The Van’s Aircraft RV-4 is a light homebuilt aircraft supplied in a kit form. The airplane seats two people in a tandem seating configuration with the pilot located in the front seat. This RV-4, serial number 2131, was built in 1993, and is powered by a Lycoming O-320-D1A, 160 horsepower engine. The tachometer was not located at the crash site and is presumed destroyed by postaccident fire. Review of the logbooks revealed the last condition inspection was conducted on March 19, 2012 with a tachometer time of 935.3 hours. The total time since major overhaul was 607.5 hours and the total hours on the engine was 7,001.8. It could not be determined how many hours had been flown since the condition inspections.
A NTSB Meteorologist provided a weather study of the event surrounding the period of the accident. The data indicated that a decaying area of weather that had developed overnight was moving southward with time and expected to regenerate thunderstorms over northern Georgia and Alabama, some of these storms could be severe. The latest regional radar mosaic for 0835 EDT depicted a band of very strong to intense echoes immediately north of the accident site.
A review of the GOES-13 infrared and visible satellite imagery indicated an extensive area of low overcast clouds over the accident site with cumulonimbus clouds immediately northwest and to the north-northeast with cloud tops near 33,500 feet over the accident site at 0832 EDT.
A review of the NWS forecast and advisories indicated an AIRMET Sierra for IFR conditions over the route and accident site with a Convective SIGMET for embedded thunderstorms bordering the accident site immediately north.
The closest weather reporting location to the accident site was from West Georgia Regional Airport (CTJ), located 20 miles southeast of the accident site in Carrollton, Georgia. At the time of the accident Carrollton reported wind calm, visibility 2 1/2 miles in mist, ceiling overcast at 300 feet, temperature 23° Celsius, dew point 22° Celsius, and an altimeter reading of 30.07 inches of mercury.
The National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Depiction Chart for 0600 EDT depicted an area of IFR conditions over a large portion of northern Florida immediately west of the departure airport and over most of Alabama, marginal visual flight rules (MVFR) conditions were reported surrounding this area and extended over western Georgia. The 0900 chart depicted IFR conditions over most of northern and western Georgia and Alabama, and extended over the accident site. The station models depicted visibility restricted in mist with ceilings overcast at 600 feet agl.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was located on Treat Mountain Road in the vicinity of Cedartown, Georgia, and came to rest on a heading of 130 degrees magnetic. The airplane collided with the ground in a left wing low, nose down attitude. There was no crash debris line.
An examination of the airplane revealed the propeller assembly remained attached to the propeller crankshaft flange and was displaced to the left. The composite propeller spinner was fire damaged. One propeller blade was curved aft about 5 degrees. The remaining propeller blade was bent aft about 70 degrees. Leading edge gouging was present 4 inches inboard of the propeller blade tip. Chord wise scarring was present on the cambered side of the propeller blade. Torsional twisting and “S” bending was present on the propeller blade.
The engine was rotated by hand by turning the crankshaft flange and compression and suction was noted on all cylinders. Crankshaft and valve train continuity were confirmed to the rear gears. All cylinders were examined using a lighted bore scope and no anomalies were noted.
The right wing was accelerated forward and remained attached at the wing root. The upper and lower wing surfaces sustained fire damage. The leading edge of the right wing was fire damaged extending outboard from the wing root 6 feet 9 inches. The left wing was pushed aft and remained attached at the wing root. The upper and lower wing surface sustained fire damage. The leading edge of the left wing was crushed inward along the length of the leading edge. The wing was bent upward 6 feet outboard of the wing root extending outboard to the wing tip. The right and left fuel tanks ruptured due to the ground collision.
The empennage from the rear baggage compartment extending aft to the rudder assembly was not damaged. The vertical fin was not damaged and the rudder remained attached at all hinge points. The left and right horizontal stabilizers remained attached to the airframe and were not damaged. The right elevator was not damaged. The left elevator was damaged and the trim tab was displaced upward one half inch at the trailing edge.
The canopy separated from the cabin structure and the windscreen was broken. The canopy lock was in the locked position. The instrument panel was fire damaged. No recordings from the flight instruments or circuit breakers could be determined. The throttle was full forward. The propeller was full forward, and the mixture was full rich. The fuel selector was on the right main fuel tank. The flap selector was not located. The carburetor heat box was crushed. The carburetor heat door was closed. The forward and rear seat pans remained attached to the floor structure. The forward and rear seat backs were consumed by fire. The forward seat belt and shoulder harness restraint system was latched and the webbing was consumed by fire.
Continuity of the flight controls was confirmed from the forward control yoke aft to the left and right aileron push pull tube. Both push pull tubes were burned in half aft of the left and right main fuel tanks. Continuity of the elevator was confirmed from the forward control stick aft to the rear control stick attachment where the elevator push control rod end exhibited failure signatures consistent with overload. Continuity was confirmed from the rod end aft to the elevator control surfaces.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on July 21, 2012 by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, as authorized by the Polk County, Georgia Coroner. The cause of death was listed as blunt head injuries.
The FAA's Civil Aerospace Institute performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot with negative results for alcohol. No carbon monoxide or cyanide was present in the blood and no ethanol was present in the vitreous humor. Acetaminophen 105.9 ug/ml, ug.g, was present in the urine. Venlafaxine 0.215 ug/ml, ug/g, was present in the blood. An unspecified quantity was present in the liver. Desmethylvenlafaxine of undetermined quantity was present in the blood and urine. Naproxen of an undetermined quantity was present in the urine.
Review of the Van’s Aircraft-Total Performance states the bottom of the green arc (approximate indicated stall speed without flaps) is 58 mph.
According to a friend of the pilot who is a commercially rated pilot, and helped with the flight planning, the pilot did not file a flight plan. He also stated that the accident pilot was not instrument rated and did not know if he checked the weather. The friend also added that the accident pilot "topped off" the fuel tanks prior to departure. According to the friend of the pilot, the first leg of the flight was from 01J to RNC. The airplane was located 21.3 miles northwest of CTJ. The total distance from 01J to the accident site is 264 nautical miles. At 166 knots cruise airspeed, it would take 1 hour and 35 minutes to reach the crash site. According the Van’s Aircraft RV-4 Pilot’s Operating Handbook, the airplane has a total capacity of 16 gallons of fuel in the left and right main fuel tank of which 1 gallon is unusable in each fuel tank. According to the Lycoming O-32 Series Operators Manual, page 3-18, an O-320-D2E engine should flow about 9 gallons of fuel per hour at 75 percent power.