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N912WB accident description

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Tail numberN912WB
Accident dateApril 27, 1993
Aircraft typeSmith FW2C80TD
LocationLucedale, MS
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On April 27, 1993, at about 1159 central daylight time, a C. Shane Smith FW2C80TD, N912WB, registered to Christopher S. Smith, crashed following separation of the wings at Lucedale, Mississippi, while on a 14 CFR Part 91, personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The aircraft was destroyed and the student rated pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. The flight originated at Lucedale, Mississippi, on April 27, 1993, about 1130.

The pilot's father reported to several persons that his son departed in N912WB about 1130 from their private strip. His son was flying the aircraft because the passenger, his son's cousin, was not a pilot. Just before 1200 he observed the aircraft return to an area of their strip. It made a high speed low pass down the runway and then pulled up into a near vertical climb. An explosion or backfire was heard at this time, and a puff of smoke was seen. The aircraft then entered into a wing over maneuver and was returning to level flight when the wings departed the aircraft, resulting in the crash. (See attached Flightworks Corporation Accident Report and record of telephone conversation with Mr. Paul Mather.)

A witness located in a field about 1 mile from the crash site observed the aircraft fly toward the strip in level flight at a high altitude. About 3 to 4 minutes later he observed the aircraft in level flight and a puff of smoke came from it. The right wing then separated. The aircraft then entered a "tail spin" and shortly after this the left wing separated and the aircraft crashed.

Federal Aviation Administration records indicated that registration number N912WB was assigned to a C. Shane Smith FW2C80TD, serial number 71915, (the accident aircraft), and registered to Mr. Christopher S. Smith. The aircraft was observed before the accident to be displaying registration number N912WB. FAA records indicated that the aircraft had not received an airworthiness inspection or had an airworthiness certificate issued to it. Federal Aviation Regulations require that an aircraft be inspected and have an airworthiness certificate issued to it before being operated. (See attached FAA inspector statement.)

Photographs taken by George County Mississippi Sheriff's Department investigators shortly after the accident showed that the fabric containing the registration number N912WB had been cut from the sides of the fuselage wreckage before their arrival at the crash site 5 to 10 minutes after the accident. (See attached photographs.)

After the accident the pilot's father stated to an FAA inspector that the aircraft was a two seat ultralight that was being used as a trainer under the United States Ultralight Association exemption from FAA registry requirements, and that the aircraft was not registered with the FAA. Requests for information concerning the accident, the aircraft, and the pilot were forwarded in writing by NTSB to the attorney representing the pilot's father and the pilots estate. Receipt of the requests was confirmed by the attorney. The requests were not answered and the pilots father would not submit to interview by NTSB. (See attached FAA inspector statement.)

Representatives from Flightworks Corporation, Austin, Texas, stated that N912WB was a Flightworks Capella XS kitplane, serial number 71915. The aircraft kit was sold to Chistopher S. Smith and Ronnie Smith in November 1991. The aircraft was assembled by the pilot, Christopher S. Smith, and was first flown on April 15, 1993. Flightworks personnel observed the aircraft in Lakeland, Florida the week before the accident and at that time the aircraft was displaying FAA registration number N912WB. (See attached Flightworks Corporation Report and photographs supplied by Flightworks.)

Federal Aviation Administration records indicated that the pilot held a student pilot certificate issued on June 1, 1992. The pilot held a third class medical certificate with no limitations last issued on June 1, 1992. The pilot stated on the application for this medical certificate that he had accumulated 40 total flight hours in aircraft with 20 hours accumulated in the previous 6 months. Information supplied by the pilot to the United States Ultralight Association on June 19, 1992 indicated the pilot had accumulated 575 total flight hours in ultralight aircraft with 75 hours accumulated in the past 6 months. Federal Aviation Regulations prohibit a student pilot from acting as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying a passenger. (See attached FAA inspector statement and pilot records.)

Based on the pilot's father's claim that the aircraft was not registered with FAA and that it was being operated as an ultralight under the USUA exemption, an NTSB investigation was not initiated. On May 10, 1993, Mr. John Ballantyne, President of the United States Ultralight Association, informed the NTSB that N912WB did not meet the USUA requirements for exemption from FAA registry and that the aircraft indeed displayed an FAA registration number at the time of the accident. The NTSB then initiated an investigation.

Examination of the aircraft wreckage by NTSB was performed on June 10, 1993, at Bay Minnett, Alabama, where the wreckage had been moved after the accident. The aircraft fuselage, tail section, and engine remained attached. The fabric along both sides of the fuselage which had contained the FAA registration had been cut away and was not located with the wreckage. All separation points within the flight control system were indicative of overstress failures. The wing flaps were in the retracted position. The left and right wings were separated from the fuselage at the point each wing attaches to the fuselage. The left and right wing lift struts had separated at the fuselage attach points. The struts remained attached to the respective wings. The aircraft Hobbs meter read 69.9 hours and the electronic engine tachometer read 2900 rpm.

Examination of the left and right wings, which were reported to have been found about 750 feet from the fuselage and 200 feet apart, revealed the nose ribs in each wing leading edge were buckled along the bottom side. The left and right rear wing spars were buckled about 3 feet outboard of the rear attach point. The left and right front wing attach points were distorted and separated. The left and right aft wing attach points were distorted and pulled out. Each wing had wrinkles on the top and bottom surfaces that began near the forward attach point and moved outboard and aft ending near the flap.

Examination of the engine assembly indicated the spark plugs had normal colored deposits on them. Automotive fuel was found in the fuel lines from the fuel header tank to the engine. The fuel valve was in the open position and the fuel strainer was free of debris. The engine assembly was had continuity and the propeller was still attached. The engine assembly would not rotate due to impact damage.

Metallurgical examination of the left and right wing forward and aft fuselage attach fittings and the wing lift strut fuselage attach fittings was performed by James F. Wildey II, National Resource Specialist-Metallurgy, National Transportation Safety Board, Washington, D.C. All separations were typical of overstress separations and each separation point had deformation. (See attached Metallurgist's Factual Report.)

Information supplied to NTSB by representatives of Flightworks Corporation indicated that the damage found on both separated wings of N912WB was identical to damage on wings of the same design which was tested to failure in static loading tests. The test wings failed after a positive loading of 6.6 G's. The manufacturer requires that the aircraft be operated within the FAA Utility Category, which limits the aircraft to a maximum loading of 4.4 positive G's. (See attached Flightworks report.)

Postmortem examination of the pilot and passenger was performed by Dr. Steven T. Hayne, M.D., Mississippi State Medical Examiners Office, Jackson, Mississippi. The pilot and passenger died as a result of multiple traumatic injuries sustained during the accident. Postmortem toxicology testing on specimens obtained from the pilot and passenger was performed by Michael L. Weaver, Forensic Toxicologist, Mississippi Crime Laboratory, Jackson, Mississippi. The tests were negative for ethyl alcohol, basic, acidic, and neutral drugs. (See attached toxicology reports.)

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