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N777WE accident description

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Tail numberN777WE
Accident dateFebruary 12, 2002
Aircraft typeEllenberger/Werner Glasair I TD
LocationMinden, NV
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On February 12, 2002, about 1630 Pacific standard time, an experimental Ellenberger Glasair I TD, N777WE, impacted terrain in a pasture 6 miles south of Minden, Nevada. The certificated private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured and the amateur-built airplane was destroyed. The local area personal flight was operated by Mansberger Aircraft, Inc., under 14 CFR Part 91, and departed from the Minden-Tahoe airport about 1600. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed.

According to the operator, the pilot departed Minden about 1600 and told him his intent was to practice stalls. When he did not return that evening an Alert Notice (ALNOT) was issued. The owner of the property where the accident occurred saw an unidentified object in his pasture the following morning (February 13, 2002); however, he had other pressing business and didn't return to identify the wreckage until the afternoon of that day.

An inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration responded to the scene. He reported the accident site was in an open pasture, and that the entire airplane was present in the immediate area of the wreckage with no appreciable wreckage distribution. There was no fire. The forward 1/2 of the engine was buried in the soil at a 30- to 45-degree angle. The composite airframe was extensively fractured; however, flight control continuity was established to the cockpit. The left and right wing leading edges exhibited crushing damage aft to the wing spar and there was an impact mark on the surface of the dirt immediately in front of the wing of size and shape consistent with the leading edge shape and span. There were no trees in the immediate area and those in the distance showed no visible evidence of impact. There were no electrical power transmission lines in the proximity.

A toxicological analysis of the pilot was performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute and their report shows the presence of the drug paroxetine. According to the internet website "mentalhealth.com", paroxetine is a prescription antidepressant. The concentration reported in the pilot's blood was 0.279 ug/mL. The FAA's 1999 Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners notes "the use of a psychotropic drug is considered disqualifying. This includes all sedatives, tranquilizers, antipsychotic drugs, antidepressant drugs (including SSRI's), analeptics, anxiolytics, and hallucinogens."

On the pilot's last application for an Airman Medical Certificate on June 4, 1998, he reported that he had accumulated 320 hours total pilot time, and 45 hours within the last six months.

The airplane owner, who was also the pilot's employer, told the Safety Board investigator that he recalled the pilot was in an unusually "aggressive mood" on the day of the accident. The pilot was normally a quiet person and on that day he was more aggressive with others, but not in an unacceptable way. He had recently broken up with his girlfriend. This had happened several times before but this time he seemed "OK" with it. He even joked about it a little.

The pilot's brother told the Safety Board investigator that he was aware his brother had a prescription for paroxetine but that his brother had no serious emotional issues.

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