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N456TS accident description

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Tail numberN456TS
Accident dateApril 16, 2007
Aircraft typeTerrence A. Sack Terrair Express
LocationLakeland, FL
Near 27.986944 N, -81.998889 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

"THIS CASE WAS MODIFIED APRIL 23, 2008."

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 16, 2007, about 1414 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Terrair Express, N456TS, registered to and operated by a private individual, collided with terrain following an in-flight loss of control during approach to land at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Lakeland, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight from Bacon County Airport, Alma, Georgia, to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. The airplane was destroyed by impact and a postcrash fire, and the private-rated pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. The time of departure from Bacon County Airport has not been determined.

NTSB review of a certified tape from the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport air traffic control tower that contained Lake Parker Arrival procedures revealed instructions on how to proceed to KLAL. The instructions broadcast on the frequency indicate that pilot's should hang up their microphones while established southwest bound over Interstate I-4, and monitor the tower frequency of 132.05. The instructions also indicate that arriving aircraft should expect to turn left onto the right downwind leg for runway 27R, which was described as the "...small skinny runway."

According to a partial transcription of communications with Lakeland Linder Regional Airport air traffic control tower, at 1413:12, the local control north controller advised, "white low wing turn downwind." At 1413:37, the controller then advised, "white low wing turn your base two seven right cleared to land." At 1413:52, the controller advised, "while low wing turn it on in don't overshoot two seven right cleared to land." There were no further recorded communications from the controller.

One witness who was taxiing eastbound after landing on runway 27R reported seeing a light colored airplane flying just above the tree line in an approximately 90 degree bank, descending at about a 5 degree angle. The witness reported seeing a "...snap roll type maneuver." The airplane then disappeared from his view behind trees, and within a second or two after disappearing from view, he saw a column of fire and smoke. Another witness reported the airplane "...appeared to overshoot the final, and turn hard to the right in what appeared to be a classical base to final stall. The aircraft spiraled to the ground." The witness called "Redbird" to announce the accident. Several witnesses reported seeing the light or white colored airplane and heard the engine operating. They reported seeing the airplane bank to the left, followed by a nose-low descent. One witness reported to the FAA inspector-in-charge (FAA-IIC) hearing the engine rev-up before impact, while another witness reported to the FAA-IIC seeing the airplane turning base to final, and the engine was powered down. The witness further reported that the airplane appeared to be in a yaw, then suddenly hearing a lot of engine power, followed by the airplane stalling. The witness reported to the FAA-IIC that it did not sound right.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot, age 61, was the holder of a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land rating, issued on May 14, 1990. He was issued a third class medical certificate on June 9, 2005, with a limitation to wear corrective lenses. Review of FAA records revealed no records of previous accidents/Incidents, or enforcement actions. The pilot's wife reported that her husband's total flight time was approximately 613 hours, and he had accumulated 12.5 hours in the previous 90 days in the accident airplane, excluding the accident flight.

According to FAA records, the passenger did not hold a pilot certificate.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The white colored airplane was manufactured by the pilot on February 19, 2003, as model Terrair Express, and was designated serial number CT101. It was certificated in the experimental category, and was equipped with a 310 horsepower Teledyne Continental IO-550-N (1) engine, and a 4-bladed wood and composite variable pitch propeller. The airplane was last inspected in accordance with a condition inspection on April 1, 2006; the aircraft total time at that time was 136.0 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A special surface observation weather report taken at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on the day of the accident at 1415, or approximately 1 minute after the accident indicates the wind was from 290 degrees at 11 knots, the visibility was 20 statute miles, clear skies existed, the temperature and dew point were 19 and minus 02 degrees Celsius, and the altimeter setting was 30.03 inHg.

COMMUNICATIONS

Air traffic control (ATC) communications by the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport air traffic control tower were recorded; there were no reported communication difficulties. At the time of the accident, ATC procedures were in effect that limited two-way communications from pilot's of arriving aircraft when near the airport. One-way ATC communications to pilot's of arriving aircraft were based on aircraft color, type, and/or make and model.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

The Lakeland Linder Regional Airport is equipped with 2 runways designated 9/27 and 5/23.

An annual fly-in, occurred from April 17 thru April 23rd, 2007. From April 15 to April 23rd, between the hours of 0700 and 2000 hours, a Notice to Airman (NOTAM) existed which discusses specific arrival procedures into KLAL. During the NOTAM period, a parallel taxiway located north of runway 9/27 is utilized for arrivals. The taxiway is 5,000 feet long and 75 feet wide, and is designated runway "9L/27R" during the NOTAM period. Right traffic is mandated for landing on runway "27R." Runway 5/23 is closed during the NOTAM period.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The accident site was located at approximately 2,834 feet and 112 degrees from the approach end of runway 27 (designated runway 27L during the annual fly-in), and also southeast of the approach end of the intended runway, 27R. The airplane crashed near a metal sided building approximately 20 feet from a shed, and approximately 500 feet from a house.

Examination of the accident site and wreckage by the FAA-IIC revealed impact damage to a tree approximately 9.5 feet above ground level; fire and impact damage was noted to nearby trees. A nearby shed was destroyed by the postcrash fire. The small debris field was consistent with a steep impact angle and was elliptical with the major axis aligned on a southwest orientation. The left wingtip parts were found on the north or right side of the debris field, while the right wingtip parts were found on the south or left side of the debris path. The airplane was destroyed by postcrash fire, and the engine was inverted. Remains of flight control push/pull tubes were located in the wreckage, but fire damage along their length was noted. The engine was recovered for further examination.

Examination of the engine with FAA oversight revealed heat damage to all major components of the engine which precluded operational testing. The propeller hub remained secured to the engine with stub sections of propellers blades remaining attached to the propeller hub. The engine was rotated by hand following removal of the top spark plugs and engine-driven fuel pump. Suction and compression was noted at cylinder Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 6, and crankshaft continuity was confirmed from the front of the engine to the accessory drive pads. Suction and compression was not confirmed at cylinder Nos. 1 and 5; excessive valve stem clearance was noted at those cylinders. Borescope examination of all cylinders revealed normal combustion deposits with no reported damage to the pistons and no scoring of the cylinder walls. The cylinder walls were free of scoring. Heat damage to the ignition components precluded operational testing; the ignition harness exhibited fraying and damaged shielding. The top spark plugs were examined and exhibited normal wear signatures when compared with Champion aviation check-a-plug comparison chart. The spark plug electrodes were dark gray in color. Examination of the fuel injection components consisting of the mechanical fuel pump, fuel manifold valve, fuel injection nozzles and lines, and throttle body fuel control unit revealed no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction. The throttle plate was in the partially open position.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Postmortem examinations of the pilot and passenger were performed by Office of the District Medical Examiner, Winter Haven, Florida. The cause of death for both was listed as "Blunt Impact."

The FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory (CAMI), located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological analysis of specimens of the pilot and passenger. The results of analysis of specimens of the pilot by CAMI was negative in vitreous fluid for volatiles. Unquantified amounts of verapamil, norverapamil were detected in the submitted liver and kidney specimens. Testing for carbon monoxide, and cyanide was not performed. The results of analysis of specimens of the passenger by CAMI was negative for volatiles. Unquantified amounts of metoprolol and diphenhydramine were detected in the submitted liver and kidney specimens. Testing for carbon monoxide, and cyanide was not performed.

Toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot and passenger were also performed by the University of Florida Diagnostic Reference Laboratories. The results of analysis of pilot specimens was negative for volatiles. The results were positive for salicylic acid, verapamil, and norverapamil. The results of analysis of passenger specimens was negative for volatiles. The results were positive for diphenhydramine and ticlopidine. Carboxyhemoglobin saturation was less than 1 percent.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The airplane was last fueled on the day of the accident at approximately 1114, at Bacon County Airport, Alma, Georgia. According to documents provided by the manager of the Bacon County Airport, a total of 35.28 gallons of 100 low-lead (100LL) fuel were added from "Hose 1, product 3 which is 100LL." The airport manager reported that the airport is a self-service fueling facility, which sells Jet A and 100LL; both pumps are clearly labeled as such. An individual who was at the airport reported he helped hook up the fuel to the airplane and witnessed the fueling, but the airplane was fueled by one of the occupants (reported to be tall slender person). The witness reported both fuel tanks were filled, and he believed the accident flight departed a little before noon. The witness also stated that both occupants were in good spirits and talked about getting to Lakeland before 1400 hours.

The credit card statement for the fueling at Bacon County Airport showed a charge for "Jet Fuel JP 1154310541" in the amount of $116.42. Discussion with the manager of the Bacon County Airport revealed they had experienced a lightning strike to the ramp months earlier which caused the receipt for 100LL to show "Jet A." He also stated there was a note at the 100LL pump advising pilots of this information.

The pilot's wife reported a previous in-flight momentary loss of engine power event which occurred with the fuel selector on the right tank position. There was no other reported in-flight loss of engine power events; however, she did report several instances in which the engine quit while taxiing after landing. Her husband attributed the engine quitting while taxiing to vapor lock, and installed fire-sleeves on fuel hoses in the engine compartment area. He considered placing shrouds around the fuel pump and gascolator, and also adjusting the auxiliary fuel pump to allow operation of it for takeoff and landing; there was no record that the work was accomplished. The engine "Operation and Installation Manual" indicates to operate the auxiliary fuel boost pump as instructed by the aircraft manufacturer.

The pilot's wife further reported her husband had flown into Sun-N-Fun 2 previous times. The first time occurred in 1993, and the second was in 1995; both flights were in Cessna single engine type airplanes. He had not flown the accident airplane into Sun-N-Fun, and she reported her husband considered flying into Sun-N-Fun as "...exhilarating and scary at the same time." The downwind leg entry procedure for Sun-N-Fun is made at a 90-degree angle, which differs from the standard 45-degree entry.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.