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N5040L accident description

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Tail numberN5040L
Accident dateMay 09, 1996
Aircraft typeLake LA-4-200
LocationSunapee, NH
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT On May 9, 1996, at approximately 1250 eastern daylight time, a Lake LA-4-200, N5040L, while attempting to land on water, flipped over and sank in Lake Sunapee, Sunapee, New Hampshire. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, drowned and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was operated by the New Hampshire Civil Air Patrol based in Concord, New Hampshire. The flight originated from Manchester Airport, Manchester, New Hampshire and operated under 14 CFR Part 91. No flight plan had been filed and day visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident.

The FAA tower control records show that the airplane departed Manchester Airport at 1204 eastern daylight time and flight services with the airplane were terminated at 1217. Witnesses saw the airplane land on the lake prior to the mishap, and described an aborted take off attempt when the airplane initially tried to take off from the lake. The witnesses then stated that the airplane took off and flew away from the local area for a short period of time. It was on the return landing attempt that the accident occurred.

A witness who saw the accident stated that he was surprised to see the airplane landing because of the strong winds with approximately 2 foot roller waves on the lake. This same witness stated that the area where the airplane was landing was not the normal area where he saw airplanes land. Witnesses stated that they saw the airplane hit the water flat and hard. A witness stated that the airplane bounced straight up "like and elevator" approximately 10 to 15 feet in the air. The witness stated that he then heard the "motor screaming at full power". He stated that the tail of the airplane hit the water and then the airplane "pile drived" or nose dived straight in at full power, then flipped over on its back. The witness stated that he sent one of his workers to call for help while he and another worker got into his boat and sped towards the airplane. The witness stated that the airplane was still floating inverted when he arrived, and he tied some ropes together and tried to hook onto the airplane but it (the airplane) was sinking so fast, his concern was the airplane would take the boat down with it. Later that day, divers were able to locate the airplane with the pilot at the controls in approximately 30 feet of water.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION The pilot in command was a commercial pilot with single engine land and sea airplane ratings. The pilot had been with the Civil Air Patrol for approximately 30 years and held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the New Hampshire wing of the Civil Air Patrol. He was a certificated flight instructor instruments with airplane single engine rating. The pilot held a current second class medical certificate with limitations and a waiver # 40D17225. The pilot had a total of 4330 flight hours in single engine airplanes. The pilot had 18.16 flight hours in this make and model including 55 water landings and 24 runway landing. The Civil Air Patrol records show that the last time the pilot flew this airplane was August 26, 1995.

The pilot could not swim and was known to always wear a personal floatation device during training. When retrieved from the airplane, the pilot was not wearing a personal floatation device. The Civil Air Patrol regulations state that in order to do water landings in this airplane because of lack of currency, the pilot was to required to have a check pilot accompany him. The pilot had called the squadron and stated he was going to fly the airplane with a flight instructor. When the flight instructor whose name was signed out with the pilot was contacted, he stated that he had no knowledge of the flight.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION Examination of the airframe and engine logbooks revealed no anomalies pertinent to the accident existing prior to the accident.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS Weather at Concord Municipal Airport, in Concord, New Hamsphire, which is located to the east/ southeast at 26 miles, was reported as: Clear below 12,000 feet; visibility 20 miles; temperature 61 degrees Fahrenheit; dewpoint 34 degrees Fahrenheit; wind was from 090 degrees magnetic at 13 knots gusting to 19 knots. A witness to the accident stated that the airplane was landing to the north and the winds were from the east southeast at approximately 10 to 15 miles per hour. This same witness stated that there were waves approximately 2 to 3 feet on the lake at the time of the accident.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION Examination of the wreckage revealed no mechanical anomalies with either the airframe or the engine. Continuity to all flight controls was checked. The crankshaft turned freely with continuity to the valve train and compression was obtained in each cylinder.

Substantial damage to the nose area and to the left wing was observed. Nose ballast was installed and is usually required with one person in the aircraft. There was no visible signs of hull damage from a hard landing prior to the accident.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Concord, New Hampshire by James A. Kaplan, M.D. on May 10, 1996. The Toxicology Report was conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The report was signed by Dennis V. Canfield, Ph.D., Manager Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory. All results were negative with the following exceptions: Quinine and 99.200 (ug/ml, ug/g) Salicylate detected in urine.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION In section III of the airplane flight manual for the Model LA-4-200, marked "PERFORMANCE", under the heading TRIM, there is a statement which reads, "Trim change with power change in this airplane is unconventional in that the nose will tend to pitch DOWN with the application of power, and UP with reduction of power. Also in this manual, under the heading of WATER OPERATION, there is a statement which reads, "Maximum demonstrated wave height for water operations is 12 inches (trough to crest). This figure does not necessarily represent the limiting value for the aircraft. Operation into waves of any height depends on the judgment of the pilot concerning aircraft loading, wind conditions, wave height and form, and his own level of skill."

A statement was written by the only pilot in the New Hampshire Wing of the Civil Air Patrol who was authorized to qualify pilots in the LA-4-200. He stated that the LA-4-200 is a complex airplane. It has a constant speed prop, moveable flap and landing gear. It also has a high thrust line. The push is from above the center line of the aircraft. Because of this, full throttle or power causes the nose to pitch down, this is a pusher airplane. The tractor (type airplane) has a engine in the front of the aircraft. A Cessna 182, for example, has a tractor engine. When you push full throttle on the tractor engine airplane the nose goes up. On a tractor airplane with floats, when you add full power the nose will go up. The pilot had a single engine seaplane rating which was obtained on floats. With the LA-4-200, when you add full power the nose goes down especially if it is at a low airspeed.

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