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N85SM accident description

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Tail numberN85SM
Accident dateMarch 27, 2005
Aircraft typeMatthews Christen Eagle II
LocationIowa City, IA
Near 41.639166 N, -91.546389 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On March 27, 2005, about 1745 central standard time, an experimental amateur-built Matthews Christen Eagle II, N85SM, owned by the rear seated private pilot, was destroyed on impact with terrain following an in-flight loss of control while maneuvering near Iowa City, Iowa. The personal flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was on file. The private pilot and the front seated commercial pilot certificated occupant were fatally injured. The flight originated from the Iowa City Municipal Airport (IOW), near Iowa City, Iowa, about 1730.

A police interview of witnesses stated: I looked west [and] heard this plane [and] saw this plane doing flips coming down and I could hear the motor real plain till it seemed like the plane was close to the ground [and] the motor died and then I couldn't see the plane anymore.

A police interview of other witnesses stated: As it passed overhead it did a barrel roll, left wing down first ... 1 1/2 rolls ending up upside down for several seconds. While the plane was upside down we noticed the plane rotating around its center point. It lost altitude and stayed stalled. As it was falling, it seemed like the nose pointed down and then the plane might have began to level off as it disappeared behind the hill.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The rear-seat pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane ratings. He was issued a third-class medical certificate without limitations on June 15, 2004. The pilot stated that he had accumulated 450 hours of total time and had accumulated 15 hours in the six months prior to the application for that medical certificate. On September 10, 2004, the pilot reported that he had accumulated 180 hours of tailwheel time, 0 hours in make and model, and 425 hours of total time on a request for airplane insurance. The pilot's logbook showed the pilot recorded that he had accumulated 22.7 hours of flight time in the accident airplane. The pilot was endorsed for his last biennial flight review on May 28, 2003.

The front seat pilot rated occupant held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane single-engine sea, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane ratings. He was issued a second-class medical certificate with no limitations on April 23, 2003. The pilot stated that he had accumulated 1,015 hours of total time and had accumulated 20 hours in the six months prior to the application for that medical certificate. Review of the pilot's logbooks revealed that he had recorded that he had accumulated 1,209.3 hours of total flight time and 7.5 hours of flight time in the accident airplane. The pilot received an endorsement for his last biennial flight review on July 15, 2003.

According to an aerobatic instructor, both pilots received aerobatic training in N85SM in November 2004.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

N85SM, was an aerobatic experimental amateur-built Matthews Christen Eagle II, tandem-seat, bi-wing airplane. The airplane was powered by an aerobatic, four cylinder, air cooled, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, 200 horsepower Lycoming AEIO-360-A1D engine, serial number L-7338-51A. Airplane logbook entries showed that a Hartzell HC-C2YK-4CF, serial number DN3577, propeller was installed. The airplane was issued a special airworthiness certificate on February 20, 1991. An empty weight center of gravity (CG) location of 89.68 inches aft of the datum and an empty weight of 1,076 pounds was recorded in the airplane's logbook.

The airplane had an annual condition inspection performed on May 4, 2004. The airplane had accumulated 558.6 hours of total time at that inspection.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1652, the recorded weather at IOW was: Wind 290 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 15 degrees C; dew point 0 degrees C; altimeter 29.86 inches of mercury.

At 1752, the recorded weather at IOW was: Wind 330 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 13 degrees C; dew point -1 degree C; altimeter 29.83 inches of mercury.

At 1852, the recorded weather at IOW was: Wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition few clouds 9,000 feet; temperature 9 degrees C; dew point 1 degree C; altimeter 29.83 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors performed an on-scene examination of the wreckage. An inspector's report stated:

An on-site inspection of an aircraft accident scene seven miles southwest of the Iowa City Airport, Iowa City, Iowa, was conducted. ... A survey of the site did not reveal any ground scars or marks other than the point where the aircraft made the initial and final impact. The collision occurred in an open field and in reasonably flat terrain. The ground contact occurred in an upright position with nose of the aircraft pointing in southwest direction.

All major airframe components were accounted for at the impact site with evidence of post crash overload conditions. An inspection of the flight controls established satisfactory continuity throughout the aircraft.

The left and right landing gears were crushed into the bottom of the lower wing assemblies. The right upper wing received leading edge damage from impact with the ground. The left upper wing received minor damage from the accident. The left and right lower wings were crushed with damage to the leading edges and wing surfaces. The aircraft fuselage showed a crush line from the firewall to just behind the aft pilot seat area. The crush line displaced the cabin floor upwards approximately two feet. The left horizontal stabilizer received little to no damage. The rudder was not damaged. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator received damage to the outer tip. Forward of the aircraft, a propelled blade was partially visible and still attached to the buried engine. The belly of the aircraft was covered with a dark oily film.

Inspection of the cockpit area found the fuel selector in the 'on' position. The front and rear seat instrument panels had extensive damage from impact forces. The engine oil temperature gauge needle was found imbedded onto the face of the gauge in the green operating range.

The engine, in relation to the aircraft's longitudinal axis, was approximately 20-degree nose down and buried in the soft field. Engine control continuity could not be established on-site because crash dynamics caused the engine to separate at the firewall and partially bury it into the ground.

A FAA inspector examined the engine. No pre-impact anomalies were found during the engine examination.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilots by the Office of the Medical Examiner for Johnson County.

The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) prepared a Final Forensic Toxicology Accident Report on both pilots. The result for the rear seat pilot was negative for all tests performed. The result for the front seat pilot rated occupant stated:

58.08 (ug/ml, ug/g) ACETAMINOPHEN detected in Urine ACETAMINOPHEN NOT detected in Blood

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Medical Officer extracted the following medical information from reports of the autopsies performed for the Johnson County Medical Examiner on the two occupants of the accident aircraft. The Medical Officer's report stated:

From the report on the front seat occupant, under "Evidence of Injury," is noted:

UPPER EXTREMITIES:

There is a 3/4 x 3/4 inch purple contusion of the right anterior upper arm, a 1 1/4 x 1/2 inch red abrasion of the right posterior distal forearm, a 1 inch laceration in the webbing between the right thumb and index fingers, a 1/4 inch dark red-purple laceration on the anterior surface of the right fifth finger, and multiple 1/8 to 1/16 inch red abrasions over the knuckles of the right hand. There are multiple blue-green contusions on the left anterior shoulder and upper arm ranging from l/2 to 1 1/2 inches, a 1/2 inch laceration of the left anterior forearm overlying a mid forearm radial-ulnar fracture, multiple lacerations of the left thumb ranging up to 3/4 inches, a 1 1/2 x 1 inch complete laceration of the webbing between the left second and third fingers, and a 1/2 x 1/4 inch laceration over the left third knuckle.

From the report on the rear seat occupant, under "Evidence of Injury," is noted:

UPPER EXTREMITIES:

There are a 2 3/4 inch red-brown abrasion of the right posterior forearm, a 3 x 3 inch purple contusion of the right anterolateral wrist, a 1/2 inch laceration of the base of the right thumb, and red contusions with lacerations of the knuckles of the right hand. There are a 1/4 inch laceration of the posterior left upper arm, a 1 x 1 1/4 inch irregular laceration of the left elbow exposing bone, a 3 x 1 1/4 inch irregular, discontinuous red-brown abrasion of the left posterolateral forearm, a 3 x 3 inch red-brown contusion of the left anterolateral forearm, two 1/2 inch red-brown abrasions of the dorsum of the left hand, and a 1/2 inch laceration of the left middle finger.

SURVIVAL ASPECTS

The pilots were found not wearing parachutes.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

Continuous Data Recording (CDR) radar data from the Eastern Iowa Airport, near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, FAA Air Traffic Control Tower was reviewed. No useful data was able to be derived from the CDR review.

The pilot-rated passenger was located in the forward seat of the tandem-seating configuration. According to his wife, his weight at the time of the accident was 177 pounds. The private pilot was occupying the aft seat of the tandem-seating configuration. According to FAA medical records, his recorded weight was 228 pounds. The front seat passenger's wife estimated the rear seat pilot's weight at 220 pounds and a flight instructor estimated rear seat pilot's weight at 220 pounds.

The published rearward CG limit for flight within the normal category CG envelope is 99.60 inches at a maximum gross weight of 1,600 pounds and 101.0 inches at a weight of 1,475 pounds.

The published rearward CG limit for flight within the acrobatic category is 99.60 inches at a maximum gross weight of 1,520 pounds and 100.40 at a weight of 1,450 pounds.

The airplane kit manufacturer provided weight and balance calculations for the flight at three different fuel quantities. The factors included in the kit manufacturer's first calculation were the empty weight of the aircraft (1,076 pounds, 89.68 inches aft of the datum), the pilot's weight (220 pounds, 143.37 inches aft of the datum), the commercial pilot-rated passenger's weight (177 pounds, 111.32 inches aft of the datum), and 144 pounds of fuel (144 pounds, 86.25 inches aft of the datum). A weight of 1,617 pounds with a CG of 99.7574 inches aft of the datum are the airplane's estimated weight and balance with full fuel.

The factors included in the kit manufacturer's second calculation were the empty weight of the aircraft (1,076 pounds, 89.68 inches aft of the datum), the pilot's weight (220 pounds, 143.37 inches aft of the datum), the commercial pilot-rated passenger's weight (177 pounds, 111.32 inches aft of the datum), and 84 pounds of fuel (84 pounds, 86.25 inches aft of the datum). A weight of 1,557 pounds with a CG of 100.2779 inches aft of the datum are the airplane's estimated weight and balance with a half-tank of fuel.

The factors included in the kit manufacturer's third calculation were the empty weight of the aircraft (1,076 pounds, 89.68 inches aft of the datum), the pilot's weight (220 pounds, 143.37 inches aft of the datum), the commercial pilot-rated passenger's weight (177 pounds, 111.32 inches aft of the datum), and 38 pounds of fuel (38 pounds, 86.25 inches aft of the datum). A weight of 1,511 pounds with a CG of 99.9458 inches aft of the datum are the airplane's estimated weight and balance with a quarter-tank of fuel.

The Christen Eagle Airplane Flight Manual has amplified information on recovery problems. Page 3-8 of the recovery problems section contained a warning under the aircraft loading narrative. That warning stated:

Any particular Christen Eagle II aircraft will recover from any spin type using standard recovery techniques ONLY IF THE AIRCRAFT IS PROPERLY BALANCED. The CG of the aircraft must be within design limits to ensure safe spin recovery. Any aircraft can be dangerously loaded (CG beyond design limits) making spin recovery extremely difficult or impossible. Weight and balance considerations must be taken seriously and pilots must be absolutely certain that the flight CG of their aircraft is within design limits.

The kit manufacturer's calculations are appended to the docket material associated with this case.

ADDITIONAL DATA/INFORMATION

The FAA and Aviat were a parties to the investigation.

FAA regulation 91.307 Parachutes and parachuting, in-part stated: (c) Unless each occupant of the aircraft is wearing an approved parachute, no pilot of a civil aircraft carrying any person (other than a crewmember) may execute any intentional maneuver that exceeds- (1) A bank of 60 degrees relative to the horizon; or (2) A nose-up or nose-down attitude of 30 degrees relative to the horizon.

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