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N87DK accident description

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Tail numberN87DK
Accident dateMay 26, 2000
Aircraft typeKurzenburger Stuka JU-87
LocationUrbana, MD
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On May 26, 2000, at 1800 Eastern Daylight Time, a home-built JU-87 Stuka replica, N87DK, was destroyed during collision with trees and terrain in Urbana, Maryland. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local personal flight that originated at the Faux-Burhans Airport (3MD0), Ijamsville, Maryland, approximately 1755. No flight plan was filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

In an interview, the pilot's son said he had purchased the airplane approximately 2 weeks prior to the accident. He said the airplane was delivered to 3MD0 from Elmira, New York, by way of Frederick, Maryland. The pilot's son said he had not yet flown the airplane because he had very little experience in tail-wheeled airplanes, and the JU-87 was a single-pilot airplane. He said his father was experienced with "taildraggers", and that this was a familiarization flight. The pilot's son said that this was his father's first flight in the airplane. He said he did not watch the takeoff, but could hear the airplane during departure. He said:

"I could hear it. Once you lift off, you are supposed to reduce power to climbing power, 3,400 rpm to 2,800 rpm. I heard that power change. That was in line with the checklist. Once he went and reduced the power, the sound was reflected away. Then it was silence, followed by crackling branches and a 'ka-boom'."

The pilot's wife, a certificated pilot, reported that her husband was not supposed to fly the airplane on the day of the accident. She said:

"He was supposed to go out and taxi it up and down the runway. He had never been in it while it was running. He was going to fly it to Reading on Memorial Day. He said, 'I'm going to taxi it, come back, and put it in the hanger. He taxied it, turned around, and stopped."

The pilot's wife said she stood on the runway with the pilot's son, and they each wondered aloud if the pilot was experiencing a problem. She said the pilot's son started towards the airplane when she heard the engine noise increase. She said:

"I heard the RPM increase, and down the runway he went. He was making a climbing left turn and I watched until he got behind the hanger. He got to 300 to 500 feet until he went out of sight behind the hangar. We said, 'Let's go watch the downwind.' We got halfway past the hanger when I heard something that sounded like a shotgun."

When asked to describe the portion of the flight that she witnessed, the pilot's wife said:

"It was kind of going back and forth on the wing tips. The wings had a very slight rock in the turns."

In a subsequent interview, the pilot's son was asked if he expected his father to fly that day, and what he saw. He said:

"I was surprised when he took off. The wings rocked, but it was windy that day. Well, there was wind and the controls were sensitive. The wings rocked."

In a telephone interview, a member of the Civil Air Patrol explained she was riding in a car when she saw the accident airplane. She said:

"We were traveling east, looking up over the hill to the north and east. I saw the plane; it was strange looking. It was arcing from side to side, in big wide arcs, side to side. Downwards, but not in a dive. The wing tips were going up and down in wide arcs on each side. I know I saw it do that at least once on each side, maybe twice. I only saw it for a few seconds and then it flew out of sight."

In a telephone interview, a witness said he was standing in his yard when he heard the airplane. He said:

"I heard the airplane and looked to see which direction it was flying. It was flying north to south towards that cornfield where he crashed. It was flying one wing up and one wing down. Back and forth, up and down. Then the nose pitched up and down. It just seemed like he couldn't control it. Doggone, he didn't have much control of that thing on Friday. The engine sure seemed alright, he just didn't seem to have control of that damn airplane."

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 39 degrees, 20 minutes north latitude, and 77 degrees, 20 minutes west longitude.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and sea, multi-engine airplane, and instrument airplane. He also held a mechanic's certificate with ratings for airplane and powerplant.

The pilot was issued a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical certificate on March 7, 2000, and he reported 3,345 hours of flight experience on that date. The pilot's son said his father had approximately 450 hours of flight experience in tail-wheeled airplanes.

The pilot's wife said she recently asked her husband for a recounting of his flight time for insurance purposes, and recorded the times in a notebook. According to his wife, the pilot had accrued 3,259 hours of flight time; 2,462 hours of which were in retractable gear airplanes. He reported 2,200 hours in multi-engine airplanes and 200 hours in tail-wheeled airplanes.

The pilot recorded his flight time in seven different logbooks. Each book had a few sporadic entries, and the times were not totaled. One book had only two entries.

Examination of the seventh logbook revealed continuous entries from November 1978 to August 1983. Entries began again March 4, 1990. Subsequently, there was one entry each in 1991, 1993, and 1994. Entries resumed October 2, 1996, and reflected intensive instrument training with a flight instructor until October 31, 1996.

The next logbook entry was February 1, 1997, and the pilot recorded nine more flights during that year. The pilot's most recent biennial flight review was completed on November 25, 1997. No more flights were recorded after that date.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

Examination of the airplane's records revealed the airworthiness certificate was issued in 1987, and the airplane had accrued 354 hours of total time. The last annual inspection was completed June 18, 1999, and the airplane accrued 5 hours of flight time since that date.

In a telephone interview, the pilot who delivered the airplane from Elmira, New York, to 3MD0 said there were no mechanical deficiencies with the airplane. He described the engine's pressure carburetor and the airplane's fuel system in detail. He said:

"The airplane ran a little bit on the rich side, but ran real good in the auto lean. I didn't have any trouble with it. It handled very nicely and flew like a dream. The airplane flew great.

"I stalled it at 4,500 feet and it had a very pronounced drop to the left. It was sensitive, but not oversensitive."

During a telephone interview, the builder of the airplane discussed the airplane and its purchase by the pilot and the pilot's son. According to the builder:

"Climb out was about 75 to 80 miles per hour, approach was about 80, and then you slow to 70 over the threshold. Touchdown was about 58 miles per hour. I flew it for about 12 years and never put a scratch on it.

'When they came to buy it, both the father and the son looked at it. They did compression checks and so on, they were both [airframe and powerplant] mechanics and IAs [inspection authorities].

They did not do a flight test, and [the pilot] sat in the cockpit and looked over the checklist and the controls. I highly recommended getting a check-out in something like a Stearman, but he said he had owned a Swift, and had considerable taildragger time."

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The weather reported at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, 34 miles southeast of 3MD0, was few clouds at 7,500 feet with winds from 300 degrees at 9 knots.

According to the pilot's wife, 1 hour prior to the accident the winds reported at Frederick, Maryland (FDK), 5 miles northwest of 3MD0, were from 270 to 300 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 17 knots. The pilot's son said the winds at 3MDO were " always 5 to 7 knots stronger than at FDK."

AERODROME INFORMATION

The Faux-Burhans Airport was a private use airport with a single asphalt runway that was 2,650 feet long and 26 feet wide. The runway was oriented 120/320 degrees magnetic.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The airplane was examined at the site on May 27, 2000, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest nose-down and inverted in a tree line on the edge of a cornfield. The wreckage path measured 56 feet from the first tree strike to the main wreckage.

The third tree strike was at a point 41 feet beyond the first tree strike and 20 feet above the ground. The tree trunk, approximately 12 inches in diameter, was broken off at that point. The trunk and branches above the break lay on the ground entangled with the wreckage.

The propeller spinner and two propeller blades were buried beneath the engine. One propeller blade was exposed and appeared intact and undamaged. Several pieces of angular cut wood, approximately 4 inches in diameter, were found around and beneath the wreckage.

The wing-mounted fuel tanks, the inboard sections of both wings, and the entire cockpit area were consumed by post-crash fire. The wings were largely intact, with only superficial leading edge damage.

Control continuity could not be established to the wings from the cockpit due to impact and fire damage. The left wing was separated from the fuselage, but lay in close proximity. The right wing was still attached through the main wing spar, but the aft attach point was fractured. Control continuity was established from both wing roots outboard to the flight control surfaces on both wings.

The empennage and tail section appeared intact with no twisting or bending deformation. Skin wrinkling and extensive fire damage was evident along the empennage. The inboard portions of the rudder and the inboard sections of the left and right elevators were fire damaged.

Control continuity was established from the cockpit area to the rudder. Control continuity could not be established to the elevator. A break in the push/pull tube between the aft two elevator bellcranks was observed. The two halves of the push/pull tube remained mounted in their respective bellcrank clevises. Neither half displayed any twisting or bending. No punctures of the empennage were evident in the area of the break. Six inches aft of the break, a longitudinal dent was noted in the push/pull tube. The paint in the area of the dent displayed wrinkling.

Examination of the elevator push/pull tube revealed that the orientation and the curvature of the dent matched the orientation and curvature of an empennage longeron in close proximity to the push/pull tube.

Both halves of the elevator push/pull tube were removed for examination at the NTSB Materials Laboratory, Washington, DC.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore, Maryland, performed an autopsy.

Toxicological testing was performed at the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A Safety Board metallurgist conducted examination of the elevator control push-pull tube on June 22, 2000. Examination revealed that the brittle fractures, circumferential cracks, and the dent were consistent with aluminum exposed to high temperatures.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

According to FAA Advisory Circular AC 20-27D, Certification and Operation of Amateur-Built Aircraft:

"The amateur-built program was designed to permit person(s) to build an aircraft solely for educational or recreational purposes. The FAA has always permitted amateur builders freedom to select their own designs. The FAA does not formally approve these designs since it is not practicable to develop design standards for the multitude of unique design configurations generated by kit manufacturers and amateur builders.

"...FAA inspections of amateur-built aircraft have been limited to ensuring the use of acceptable workmanship methods, techniques, practices, and issuing operating limitations necessary to protect persons and property not involved in this activity."

The airplane wreckage was released to the owner on May 27, 2000.

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