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N95EW accident description

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Tail numberN95EW
Accident dateFebruary 14, 1998
Aircraft typeIreneusz Rans S-12
LocationRockwall, TX
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 14, 1998, at 1714 central standard time, an Ireneusz Rans S-12, experimental homebuilt airplane, N95EW, struck the water while maneuvering over the Ray Hubbard Reservoir near Rockwall, Texas. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot received minor injuries and the passenger received fatal injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local personal flight and a flight plan was not filed. The personal flight originated from the Rockwall Municipal Airport at 1556.

During a personal interview, conducted by the investigator-in-charge (IIC), and on the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2) the pilot stated that the flight departed the Rockwall Municipal Airport at 1656 to the south, made a left crosswind turn, overflew the center of the airport, and departed the airport area by flying to the west toward the lake. Subsequently, the pilot flew the airplane to the south above the water along the shoreline of the lake. As the airplane approached the Interstate 30 (I-30) bridge, the pilot climbed the airplane to altitude to cross over the I-30 bridge. The pilot then descended the airplane above the water and flew to the west over the lake. Suddenly, the airplane nosed into the water and began to sink. The pilot exited the airplane and made several attempts to rescue the passenger.

On the enclosed statement for the Dallas Police Department, the pilot reported that he had been flying about 15 minutes and the airplane was "performing just fine and there were no weather problems" and all of a sudden the airplane went into the lake, tipped up on its nose and sank. He further stated that he had been flying the airplane about 15 to 20 feet above the water.

The following information was revealed during interviews, conducted by the IIC, with witnesses and on the enclosed statements. Vehicles cross the lake by using either of 2 parallel (Highway 66 and Interstate 30) roadways. A witness, at his residence on the lake shoreline, observed the airplane fly over the Highway 66 bridge, and fly to the west at 5 to 10 feet above the water. The airplane then turned south and flew as low as 6 inches above the water toward the I-30 bridge.

Two witnesses near a boat ramp, where Highway 66 meets the east shore of the lake, observed the airplane cross over to the south side of Highway 66, descend to 2 to 3 feet above the water and fly toward the west shoreline. Upon reaching the west shoreline, the airplane climbed just high enough to clear the power lines running parallel to Highway 66, descended, and flew just above the water toward the east shoreline. Again upon reaching the east shoreline, the airplane climbed to just above the power lines and crossed back over Highway 66 to the south and flew toward I-30.

Two witnesses driving eastbound on Highway 66 observed the airplane flying parallel to Highway 66 at 60 to 70 feet horizontal to their cars. One witness stated that the airplane leveled at 1 to 3 feet above the water. The other witness stated that he could look the pilot in the eye.

Another witness, traveling eastbound on the Highway 66 bridge, observed the airplane flying westbound paralleling the Highway 66 bridge, at 2 to 3 feet off the water, pull up and circle back toward the east and fly 2 to 3 feet above the water.

A witness driving westbound on Highway 66 observed through his windshield that the airplane, in a steep descent, narrowly missed the power lines running parallel to Highway 66. The airplane pulled up and flew 1 or 2 feet above the water while flying parallel to Highway 66 on the south side. Subsequently, the airplane pulled up into a steep climb and turned to the north, narrowly missing the power lines again, descended steeply while continuing to turn right until it was headed eastbound and flying low over the water.

Another witness, traveling westbound on the Highway 66 bridge, observed the airplane flying to the west at 1 to 2 feet off the water. The witness stated that he was driving his vehicle at 50 to 60 mph and estimated the speed of the aircraft at 50 to 60 mph, since the airplane was parallel to the position of the car and slightly ahead of the car when it pulled up to go over the power lines. The airplane flew over the power lines and the Highway 66 bridge, made a steep dive toward the water, and then flew to the east.

One of the witnesses, traveling eastbound on the I-30 bridge, stated that the airplane crossed I-30, "1/4 mile in front of me about 20 feet in the air, and turn[ed] west along the eastbound side of the I-30 bridge across the lake. The aircraft was approx[imately] 1-3 feet above the water flying very slow." This witness then "saw the [air]plane turn south and fly directly south approx[imately] 150 yards flying 1 foot above the water hit the water." The airplane nosed over and sank.

Witnesses driving eastbound on the I-30 bridge observed the airplane 1 to 3 feet above the water. The airplane was flying to the west and then made a turn toward the south. The left wing and wheel went down into the water, the tail of the airplane came straight up into the air, and the airplane sank approximately 100 yards offshore. The pilot came to the surface in approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Another witness, traveling westbound on the I-30 bridge, stated that the airplane "came over the I-30 bridge at a height of 10 feet above the cars, then flew down to 2 to 3 feet above the water on the south side of the bridge and then flew to the west." Subsequently, the airplane turned to the left (south), the "left wing hit the water, and the airplane flipped upside down. The inverted airplane sank and the pilot came up in the water."

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

A review of FAA records and the pilot's logbooks, by the IIC, revealed that the pilot holds a private pilot certificate with the single engine land, multiengine land, and instrument ratings and a third class medical certificate. The last biennial flight review was completed on July 11, 1996, in the pilot's Beech A36TC airplane. The pilot's total flight time was 1,550 hours. From September 1997 through February 14, 1998, the pilot reported logging approximately 37 flight hours in N95EW.

The passenger was the pilot's wife. According to the pilot, she had flown numerous times with the him in this aircraft.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

A review of the FAA records and the aircraft maintenance records and manuals, by the IIC, revealed the following information. The Rans S-12, N95EW, serial number 0492199, was issued the FAA experimental category airworthiness certificate on December 11, 1995. FAA registration for the aircraft was issued to the builder on February 1, 1996. The private pilot purchased the airplane from the builder on March 26, 1997. The pilot stated that there were "no" discrepancies (problems) with the airplane.

The tachometer reading on September 1, 1997, was 0204.9 hours. The last condition inspection of the airplane was accomplished on September 19, 1997, and the aircraft was found to be in condition for safe operation. The Rans S-12, N95EW, was powered by the Bombadier-Rotax 582 engine (rebuilt in August 1997 and returned to service). The operator's manual states in part: Danger! Never fly the aircraft equipped with this engine at locations, speeds, altitudes, or other circumstances from which a successful no-power landing cannot be made.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION:

Witnesses reported that the winds were less than 10 knots from the south. The water surface to the north of the Highway 66 bridge was glassy. On the south side of the I-30 bridge, the water surface was light chop. The pilot and the witnesses stated that there were no white caps forming on the water surface. Local weather facilities reported a 10 mile visibility with overcast skies at 8,000 feet agl.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The aircraft came to rest inverted in 30 to 40 feet of water approximately 150 yards from the south shores where Interstate 30 crosses the Ray Hubbard Reservoir. The City of Dallas Police Department, under the surveillance of the IIC, recovered the airplane from the water and transported the airplane to Chub's Wrecker Service, Rockwall, Texas.

The airplane was examined during the recovery process and at the wrecker yard. Flight control continuity was confirmed. The right outboard wing spar was bent. The left nose wheel brace was bent aft. The passenger door was missing and the pilot door was intact. The pilot seat belt/shoulder belt had the shoulder adjust (lap clip) secured and the belt buckle unfastened. The passenger seat belt/shoulder belt had the shoulder adjust (lap clip) and belt buckle secured. See the enclosed diagram for additional details. The forward right portion of cabin pan was dented inward. The left flap support separated with surface deformation and roughness consistent with overload. The throttle was found in the full forward position. The wing fuel tanks were not connected into the fuel system; however, the fuselage fuel tank contained fuel and water. Fuel selector and lines from the fuselage tank were intact, the primer system operated, and fuel was found in the fuel lines. Fuel used was reported as automotive Texaco 93 octane. The oil reservoirs (2) were intact with one of the reservoirs in the ON position. The Rotax 582 (serial number 4015520) engine was equipped with a 3 blade composite Ivo Propeller. One of the propeller blades was twisted and torn along the inboard surface. Tachometer reading was 245.3 hours.

The airplane was transported to Lancaster, Texas, for further examination by the investigator-in-charge. The airplane was examined at Lancaster, Texas, on March 26, 1998, under the surveillance of the IIC. The water pressure line was not connected and the line was brittle and cracked. The fuel primer line was brittle and cracked. The oil injector device and lines were intact and no discrepancies were found that would preclude operation of the oil injector device. Fuel tank (11.5 capacity) contained an estimated 8.5 gallons of fuel contaminated with water. No physical evidence of internal engine failure was noted and no discrepancies were found that would preclude engine operation before impacting the water. Debris consistent with submerging in water was found in the carburetor bowls. The plugs were brownish and the tops and sides of the pistons contained debris consistent with rust and oxidation. The fuel filter was clear of debris.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The autopsy for the passenger was ordered under the authority of the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Rockwall, Texas, and performed by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, Dallas, Texas. No blunt force injuries were reported; however, both lungs exhibited evidence consistent with drowning. Toxicology was neither ordered nor performed.

SURVIVAL ASPECTS

Witnesses called 911. Local authorities reported that the pilot was rescued by boat from the lake. Search and rescue was initiated for the passenger and the aircraft. Local divers and boats, working into the evening hours, located the aircraft approximately 150 yards south of the I-30 bridge. Water depth in the area was 30 to 40 feet. The seat belt for the passenger was cut by local authorities during the rescue.

Three persons in their private cabin cruiser boat were cruising at 2 to 3 mph toward the marina. They reported the water temperature as 52 degrees Fahrenheit with calm winds. The three persons and local authorities (dispatched at 1717) arriving on scene observed the pilot about 75 yards offshore. Local authorities threw a life ring to the pilot; however, the people on the cabin cruiser got the pilot into their boat and took him to shore where he was examined by the paramedics.

When a local police officer asked the pilot what happened, the pilot stated, "I was flying low to the water, like I always do, and the front wheel of the [air]plane hit the water causing it to crash." The ambulance transported the pilot to the Lake Point Hospital, Rockwall, Texas, where he was examined, treated for minor cuts on the left side of the head, bruises, and released. The pilot reported that he had crashed his airplane in the lake, he had gotten out; however, his wife had not escaped. The pilot had made several attempts to rescue his wife; however, the airplane was completely submerged, he could not see, and the attempt to rescue his wife was unsuccessful. The pilot stated that "he was skimming the lake and his wheels hit the water and flipped them into the lake and he had done it a hundred times before with no problems."

Local authorities and divers located the airplane (water temperature 49 degrees Fahrenheit, water calm); however, night conditions and water visibility hampered the recovery. The divers made several unsuccessful attempts to free the passenger, who was secured by the seat belt/shoulder harness. The airplane was towed to the shoreline, by local authorities and a private boat, where the rescue was completed (approximately 1930) when the diver cut the seatbelt. Paramedics and hospital personnel administered CPR. The airplane was secured at the shoreline for removal from the water the following morning.

During the personal interview, conducted by the IIC, the pilot stated that "you had to do gyrations to get into the shoulder harness" and then secure the seat belt. He reported that he had secured the passenger's seat belt and shoulder harness prior to the flight.

ADDITIONAL DATA

The airplane was released to the owner's representative.

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