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N390BG accident description

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Tail numberN390BG
Accident dateJune 19, 1993
Aircraft typeSmitrvich Starduster SA-300A
LocationMillville, NJ
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On Saturday, June 19, 1993, at an undetermined time, a Smitrvich Starduster, SA-300A, N390BG, a homebuilt biplane, registered to and piloted by Lawrence R. Winchell, impacted trees near the Millville Airport, Millville, New Jersey. The pilot was seriously injured, and the pilot/passenger received fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight was being conducted under 14 CFR 91.

The family reported that the airplane was missing, and a search was initiated, during the afternoon. At about 1800, the wreckage was located in the woods, approximately 200 yards from runway 32 of the Millville Airport.

In an interview with the Federal Aviation Administration Operations Inspector, the pilot stated that he departed the Cape May Airport, Wildwood, New Jersey at approximately 0915, destined for the Millville Airport. The pilot also said that he had not visually checked the fuel during his preflight inspection, but he had "read the gage on the fuel cap, and it showed 7/8 full." He told the inspector that the wing fuel tank was empty or nearly empty, and that he had selected the main fuel tank.

The pilot also said that he was "not lost, and after takeoff he could see Millville." He said that after the engine quit, he could not recall any other event, until he woke up in the wreckage.

In the NTSB Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report, the pilot stated:

[I] departed Wildwood...airport after performing pre-flight check. Top tank full (aux) main tank 7/8 full. Flew direct Millville (23 nautical miles). Approximately 15 nautical miles into trip the engine sputtered and stopped. I stabilized the airplane by pushing the nose over and trying to maintain approx. 80 mph....The next recollection that I have is being on the ground.

Also in the report, the pilot stated:

If it is found that there was no aviation fuel at the accident site I should have asked the passenger each 5 min. on fuel status or place the fuel gage in the pilot's compartment. The 21 gallons of fuel should easily have gone 23 nautical miles with a 14 gal. per hr. cruise.

An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who assisted removing the pilot from the wreckage was interviewed by the FAA on July 9, 1993. The interview was summarized by the inspector as follows:

...Mr. Winchell told him that he was enroute...to Millville....He said there was a low ceiling and that he got lost. He had a bad map (not current)...and [the] map didn't help. By the time he figured out where he was, the airplane was low on fuel. The engine quit at 500' at approximately 100 mph. He guided the aircraft for an emergency approach & when over the tree top, the tail hit the top of the trees...

A Safety Board Investigator conducted a telephone interview with the same EMT, on September 15, 1993. The above statement was read to the him, and he was asked to verify the contents. He said that it was an accurate summary of his comments.

Additionally, in a signed statement received on September 27, 1993, the EMT stated:

After arriving on location to the airplane accident my patient, Mr. Lawrence Winchell in normal conversation with myself stated that...after becoming airborne, he became lost somewhere over South Jersey, due to inclement weather and lack of advanced navigational devices. Mr. Winchell then stated that he was with an outdated navigational map...

Mr. Robert V. Drapala, Aviation Safety Inspector (Operations) for the Federal Aviation Administration, stated in his report:

Control rods and cables were cut inside the cockpit to remove the pilot, but continuity with ailerons, elevator, rudder and trim work satisfactory when checked....No signs of fuel located at the accident site....Medical examiner's statement states that there was no residual [fuel] found on [the passenger] [who] was sitting in the front seat. [near the ruptured fuel tank]...Pilot flew in IMC conditions and was not instrument rated nor was the aircraft.

The National Weather Service reported the Millville, New Jersey surface weather observation for the date of the accident as follows:

Time Weather

0850 = -X, 200 scattered, 2 miles, haze

0955 = -X, 200 scattered, 3 miles, haze

Mr. David J. Grasso, an Aviation Safety Inspector (Airworthiness) for the Federal Aviation Administration stated in his report:

The fuselage tank was split apart and the top wing center section tank was undamaged and empty. At the time, I did not notice the odor of fuel in the immediate area nor did I see any fuel stains around the aircraft. ....Removing the top of the fuel distributor valve and fuel lines connected to it showed no residual fuel.

The engine was removed from the wreckage site and examined at Dawn Aeronautics, Inc., New Castle County Airport, Wilmington, Delaware, on July 7, 1993, by a representatives of the FAA and the Textron Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Division. The FAA Inspector, Mr. Joseph A. Moretto, stated in his report;

Fuel flow divider noted to be dry...Checked the operation of the...magnetos...both... satisfactory...continuity of the accessory drive chain when rotating the prop was... satisfactory...Functionally checked the engine driven and electric fuel pumps. Both units checked satisfactory...Main oil filter had some deposits of carbon. No evidence of metal contamination.

Mr. Michael McGinnis held a Private Pilot Certificate, but he was on board the airplane as a passenger for this flight.

The pilot reported that his flight time on the date of the accident was a total of 89 hours, with 16 hours in this airplane.

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