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N152RD accident description

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Tail numberN152RD
Accident dateSeptember 23, 2000
Aircraft typede Havilland DH-100 MK.6
LocationOntario, OR
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On September 23, 2000, approximately 1243 mountain daylight time, a de Havilland DH-100 Mk. 6 Vampire (an experimental-category historic military jet of British design), N152RD, collided with terrain during an aerial demonstration at Ontario, Oregon. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire, and the commercial pilot, who was the aircraft's sole occupant, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions were reported at Ontario at 1253, and no flight plan had been filed for the 14 CFR 91 flight.

The NTSB received statements from nine different witnesses to the accident. The majority of witnesses reported that while making a low, climbing pass in a northerly or northeasterly direction, at an estimated altitude of 700 to 3,000 feet above ground level (depending on the witness), the aircraft initiated a steep banked left turn. According to one witness, this turn was at approximately 75 to 80 degrees of bank; another witness reported the pilot stood the aircraft's left wing "vertically to the ground." According to most witnesses, the aircraft then abruptly rolled to the right (one witness reported that it rolled upside down at this point) and entered a spin (two other witnesses reported it entered a series of rolls.) According to the witnesses, the spinning (or rolling) motion continued for about 2 1/2 to 6 turns (depending on the witness) until ground impact. Witness estimates of the aircraft's pitch attitude at ground impact varied from nose-high to 45 degrees nose low. Two witnesses reported they saw vapor trailing from the mid-span portion of the aircraft's right wing prior to the pass on which the accident occurred, and one witness reported that on the accident pass, the aircraft's right main landing gear did not appear to be fully retracted. The witnesses reported that they did not observe the aircraft on fire prior to the crash, and that they did not see anything fall off the aircraft before impact. Additionally, one witness reported that on a speaker that was broadcasting radio transmissions from the aircraft onto the ramp area, he did not hear any distress call from the pilot. Most witnesses reported they heard the aircraft's engine during the accident sequence, with three of these reporting they did not hear any unusual noises from the aircraft, two witnesses reporting that the engine sounded like it was at full power, and two reporting they heard the engine running as the airplane impacted the ground. One witness reported he heard engine noise on the first several passes, but did not hear the engine on the accident pass. However, this witness reported that the accident pass was a high-speed pass.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single engine land, airplane single engine sea, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane ratings. He also held an FAA third class medical certificate dated July 1, 2000, and according to the FAA, held an FAA letter of authorization to pilot Vampire and Venom aircraft. On his July 1, 2000, FAA medical certificate application, the pilot indicated he had 10,000 hours total civil pilot time, with 200 hours in the past six months.

The best available information indicated that the accident aircraft (a Mk. 6, or FB.6, variant of the DH-100 type) was originally manufactured under license in Switzerland and operated by the Swiss air force. According to the FAA aircraft registry, the accident aircraft was manufactured in 1952. No aircraft history, maintenance or inspection records were obtained by the NTSB. A relative of the pilot stated to the NTSB investigator-in-charge that the aircraft logs were aboard the aircraft at the time of the accident and were destroyed in the crash. The assistant manager of the FAA Boise, Idaho, Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), who responded to the accident scene and performed an on-scene examination of the aircraft wreckage, reported to the NTSB that in on-scene and subsequent follow-up examinations of the aircraft wreckage performed by Boise FSDO inspectors, no evidence of any mechanical problems with the aircraft or engine was found.

An autopsy on the pilot was conducted by the Ontario Pathology Group, L.L.P., Ontario, Oregon, at the direction of the Malheur County, Oregon, Medical Examiner, on September 25, 2000. The autopsy report contained "final anatomic diagnoses" of (among others) "Victim of single seat airplane accident (pilot)" with "Massive full body injuries related to impact, explosion, and subsequent fire", and "Moderate to severe atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease." A telephone query to one of the examining pathologists disclosed that the pilot's massive full body injuries were considered to have been the cause of death, with the atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease considered an incidental finding.

Toxicology tests on the pilot were conducted by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicology tests detected 26 mg/dL ethanol in the pilot's kidney, 3 mg/dL N-Propanol in the pilot's kidney, 14 mg/dL ethanol in muscle tissue, and 2 mg/dL N-Propanol in muscle tissue. According to the autopsy report, it was CAMI's opinion that the detected ethanol and N-Propanol were most likely the result of post-mortem alcohol production. The CAMI tests did not detect any legal or illegal drugs in the pilot. Carbon monoxide and cyanide tests on the pilot were not performed.

The NTSB obtained a copy of the Air Ministry Pilot's Notes (Air Publication 4099A, January 1947) for the F.1 variant of the aircraft. The Pilot's Notes contained information on the F.1 variant's high-speed stall characteristics. This information stated: "Ample warning of the approach of a stall in a steep turn is given by elevator buffeting. When this warning is observed the acceleration should be reduced since further backward movement of the control column can cause the aircraft to 'flick' onto its back."

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