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N29CV accident description

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Tail numberN29CV
Accident dateDecember 11, 2003
Aircraft typeUpright RV-7A
LocationMcminnville, OR
Near 45.258889 N, -123.300278 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On December 11, 2003, approximately 1225 Pacific standard time, an experimental Upright RV-7A, N29CV, impacted the terrain about seven miles west of McMinnville, Oregon. The commercial pilot, who was the sole occupant, received fatal injuries, and the aircraft, which is owned and operated by the pilot, was destroyed. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal pleasure flight, which departed Independence State Airport, Independence, Oregon, about 25 minutes earlier, was being operated in an area where the pilot's visual contact with the ground was not possible because of a solid low-level cloud deck. No flight plan had been filed. The aircraft had been part of a flight of two.

According to the pilot of the other aircraft (N296DJ), the two pilots decided to fly somewhere for lunch, but made the decision to wait until they could have an airborne view of the local weather before making their final choice of a destination. After takeoff, they climbed to an altitude where they could evaluate the weather, and then believing it looked best to the north, decided to head for Flying M Ranch, Yamhill, Oregon. The pilot of N296DJ lead the way using the tracking function of his global positioning system (GPS). As they headed north, the scattered cloud layer that was about 1,000 feet above the ground started to become thicker, so they climbed to 2,500 feet indicated. As they headed further north this layer became broken, and then it eventually changed to a solid undercast. They were then flying between this low layer and an overcast that was reportedly around 4,000 feet above the ground (agl). They eventually entered an area where clouds of various size and thickness had formed at numerous altitudes, including the altitude they were flying at. When they reached a point just north of Slide Mountain (N45 degrees, 16.205 minutes, W123 degrees 19.064 minutes) the lead pilot decided the weather had become too bad to continue so he started a turn to the left to reverse course. As he started the left turn, he advised the pilot of N29CV of what he was doing, and the pilot of N29CV, who was flying on the leaders right wing, said that he was going to break to the right. As the pilot of N296DJ continued his left turn, he encountered clouds at his altitude, and found it necessary to climb in order to keep from entering them. He then continued climbing until he reached an altitude of 4,000 feet, whereupon he headed south to a point where he could see the ground well enough to get under the low-level cloud layer. He then flew back north to see if he could find the other aircraft. After not being able to find or contact the pilot of N29CV, the pilot of N296DJ returned to Independence. After the pilot of N29CV did not return, the pilot of N296DJ reported the situation to McMinnville Flight Service Station. Eventually N29CV was found to have impacted the terrain approximately one mile east of the turn around point.

According to the pilot of N296DJ, they had not preplanned the separation during the turn to reverse course, and he believes that the pilot of N29CV may have decided to break right in order that the two aircraft not still be in formation if they inadvertently entered the clouds during their attempt to get out of the area. He further reported that the last transmission he heard from the pilot of N29CV was the comment the pilot made about turning right just as they started to reverse course. The pilot of N296DJ also said that they had not received a weather briefing prior to departure, and that the two of them had done this type of evaluate-the-weather-while-en-route flight before.

Radar data identified the aircraft tracking on a northwesterly heading toward Flying M. At 1223, the last radar target before the aircraft turned around, indicated an altitude of 4,100 feet MSL, at 45 degrees 15.58.9 minutes north latitude, 123 degrees 20.23.5 minutes west longitude. The accident site was located in mountainous terrain at 45 degrees 15.540 minutes north latitude, 123 degrees 10.015 minutes west longitude at an elevation of about 1,100 feet MSL.

The surrounding terrain was covered with downed trees in a clear-cut area. Both the Federal Aviation Administration Inspector who responded to the scene, and personnel from HLM Air Services, the company that recovered the wreckage from the site, indicated that the aircraft appeared to have collided with the terrain in a nose down attitude. The engine was embedded in the soil and buried with the propeller down about four feet. The leading edge of both wings indicated aft crushing the entire length of the wings. The cockpit was destroyed by impact forces and severely deformed. The fuselage was compressed forward. The empennage remained intact with the horizontal and vertical stabilizer remaining in place with the elevator and rudder attached to their respective hinges.

The nearest weather reporting facility was located at the McMinnville Airport (MMV), McMinnville, Oregon, which was 12 miles southeast of the accident site. At 1153, the weather was reported as few clouds at 900 feet and scattered at 1,800 feet. Visibility was ten statute miles. Temperature was 44 degrees F with a dewpoint of 39 degrees F. The winds were calm. At 1253, the weather was reported as few clouds at 1,400 feet and overcast at 4,200 feet. Visibility was ten statute miles. Temperature was 45 degrees F with a dewpoint of 42 degrees F. The wind was from 120 degrees at 5 knots.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner who performed an autopsy on the pilot reported that the pilot's cause of death was due to "Massive blunt force trauma of head, chest and abdomen."

Toxicological samples were sent to the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for analysis. The results of the analysis were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, prescription and non-prescription drugs.

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