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N86587 accident description

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Tail numberN86587
Accident dateAugust 19, 1995
Aircraft typeBellanca 8GCBC
LocationEast Moriches, NY
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 19, 1995, at 1440 eastern daylight time, a Bellanca 8GCBC, N86587, impacted the terrain after a banner pick up attempt at the Lufker Airport in East Moriches, New York. The pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The banner tow operation was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Visualmeteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the local flight.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, the pilot had landed approximately an hour prior to the accident, refueled the airplane and prepared the banner for pick up at the departure end of runway 36. The pilot took off and was unsuccessful in his first attempt to pick up the banner. A witness stated that after the second attempt to engage the banner failed, and the airplane was climbing back up to pattern altitude, the outboard portion of the right wing folded. The airplane rolled right and started a descent in a nosedown attitude. The airplane was engulfed in flames within minutes after it impacted the ground about 100 feet to the right of the turf runway. Winds were reported to be out of 060 degrees at 10 knots, with gusts to 20 knots.


The pilot held commercial pilot certificate number 141741050, with Airplane Single and Multi Engine Land privileges, and an instrument rating. He was also a certificated flight instructor/instrument flight instructor. The pilot's logbooks indicated about 1400 hours total flight time, including approximately 250 hours of banner towing experience. He held a Class 1 medical certificate, with no restrictions/limitations, issued June 28, 1995.


According to the airplane's logbooks, the accident airplane had been utilized for agricultural spraying, glider towing, as well as banner towing operations. The maintenance records show that the right wing was removed on December 18, 1989. No specific justification was given for this maintenance action. The right wing was inspected for hidden damage and condition. The logbook entry stated that a wingtip rib was replaced and the fabric on the wing and flap was recovered and finished. The logbook record indicated that the right wing was reinstalled and operationally checked in accordance with the maintenance manual. Review of the maintenance records revealed that all applicable Airworthiness Directives (AD's) had been accomplished.


A weather observation recorded at East Hampton Airport at 1450 (located about 25 miles east of the accident site) reported clear skies; visibility, 10 miles; temperature, 77 degrees; dewpoint, 63 degrees; winds out of 060 degrees at 10 knots, with gusts to 20 knots, and an altimeter setting of 30.11" Hg.


Postaccident investigation revealed that the initial ground impact occurred approximately 100 yards past the banner pick up location with the airplane heading approximately 045 degrees. The airplane came to rest on an approximate 090 degree heading, and a post impact fire ensued. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical anomalies associated with the powerplant, and flight control continuity was verified. There was no evidence of ground scarring in the banner pick up area on the runway. A scattering of wood splinters/chips were found in the banner pick up area.

The outboard portion of the right wing where a break had occurred was visible in the charred wreckage. The outboard portion of the wing was folded aft and inboard, towards the fuselage. The outboard (folded) portion of the wing spars exhibited extensive damage from the postimpact fire. The attached plastic wingtip showed deformation and warping. There was no evidence of shattering or impact damage to the wingtip. The wing spars inboard of the break were not burnt. The fractured area and a sample of the wooden splinters/chips were sent to the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin for analysis (see TESTS AND RESEARCH).


The autopsy was performed by Dr. Gerard A. Catanese at the Office of the Medical Examiner, Suffolk County, New York, on August 20, 1995, at 12:00 P.M.

Toxicology was performed by Ph.D. Edward J. Briglia at the Suffolk County, New York, Division of Medical-Legal Investigations and Forensic Sciences. Negative results were reported for all screened drugs and volatiles.


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, examined the fractured area and some wood splinters/chips in an attempt to determine the cause of the failure. Their report (File Code number 4700), dated November 2, 1995, indicated that they found no apparent problem with the quality of the wood used to make the front and rear spars. The report stated that there was no evidence of preimpact decay or defects that would predispose the wing spars to fail. The report stated: "The main structural material is spruce (most likely sitka) with plywood reinforcing panels composed of birch on the front spar...The rings per inch are in the normal range for spruce...The spruce from the spar has an oven dry-volume of 12% MC specific gravity of 0.41 which is not significantly higher than the dry species average of 0.40 listed in the USDA Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material."

The USDA report also indicated that the wooden splinters/chips found in the banner pickup area were matched with the wood used in the spars. The report stated " is say for sure if the members failed in flight or [if] the failure occurred when the [airplane] hit the ground. There is...nothing in the failure surfaces that would contradict the eyewitness accounts of the crash indicating the [in flight] partial folding of the outboard portion of the right wing."


The American Champion Aircraft Corporation released a Service Letter, number 406, which highlighted reports on cracks found in wooden spars. The service letter stated that the cracks occurred "...when the aircraft are subject to very high flight loads, tip strikes or nose over damage." In this service letter, the company outlined the actions recommended for inspection for cracks in wooden spars, and what actions were recommended by the American Champion Aircraft in order to be in compliance with this service letter.

The FAA released Airworthiness Directive (AD) 87-18-09, which applies to Bellanca Model 8GCBC aircraft (all serial numbers) certificated in any category when equipped with wooden wing spars. The AD addressed the potential for inflight structural failure of the wing. The Canadian Aviation Authorities believed that the inspection required by AD 87-18-09 was inadequate for detecting compression cracks in wooden wing spars. They developed and published a more detailed inspection method, to facilitate crack detection in less accessible areas of the spars.

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