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N292SU accident description

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Tail numberN292SU
Accident dateMay 19, 1998
Aircraft typeSukhoi SU-29
LocationManassas, VA
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On May 19, 1998, at 1056 eastern daylight time, a Sukhoi SU-29, N292SU, was destroyed during collision with terrain on the Manassas Regional Airport (HEF), Manassas, Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the aerobatic demonstration flight that originated at Manassas, Virginia at 1049. No flight plan was filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The flight was a scheduled aerobatic demonstration for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) Airshow at HEF. The accident flight was witnessed by several thousand spectators, and recorded on videotape. Several of the witnesses interviewed were military pilots, Civil Air Patrol members, law enforcement officers, and commercial rated pilots with aerobatic endorsements.

One witness was an aerobatic pilot who had been an associate of the accident pilot for approximately 10 years. In an interview, he stated:

"[The pilot] made several passes, rolling and vertical. Then he made a pass at the North end and pulled vertical. At the top of the maneuver, at a minimum airspeed, approximately 500 feet above ground level (AGL), he initiated full deflection of right rudder. What that does is skid the airplane around the turn so that the airplane comes out 180 degrees from the entry. This is a flat turn - no aileron - it just skids it around. All the airspeed has diminished so he has to get the nose down very quickly, which he did. As he picked up airspeed I noticed an initial pull for recovery. He pulled back on the stick. At that point, I saw a slight bobble of the wings, which means the aircraft had stalled. That aircraft can stall very quickly."

"From the point of the wing bobble, he initiated a recovery to prevent a secondary stall. The airplane began to round-out at the bottom where it began to mush. At that point, I started running towards the aircraft. When he kicked rudder in at the top of the maneuver, I knew he wasn't going to make it. He needed another 300 feet, minimum, on top of what he had."

"[The pilot] had done the maneuver previously in the performance. I commented that the maneuver was done way too low to the ground and he did not have enough room to recover. The Sukhoi is not an airplane you want to point at the ground at low altitude and slow airspeed. I was surprised he did the maneuver again because I thought the first one would have scared him."

"The engine was putting out 100 percent power and the prop was putting out 100 percent power. The engine was running perfect. It was developing power right up until it hit the ground. He had good control authority and good elevator authority."

In a written statement, the narrator of the D.A.R.E. Show, a commercial rated aerobatic pilot, described the maneuver prior to ground contact. He said:

"Twice during the demonstration the pilot executed a change-of-direction maneuver...using his rather substantial rudder and full power, pivoting the aircraft on its yaw axis until he affected a one hundred eighty degree change of direction. Recovery was accomplished by rolling to a wings-parallel-to-the-ground position and diving to regenerate lift."

"...The third time he performed a variant of the above described maneuver, he appeared to be perilously low, perhaps three or four hundred feet AGL, prompting me to utter something like 'Watch out, Buddy.' on the public address system...but the pilot's angle of recovery had already been compromised by his lack of sufficient altitude."

A review of one videotape revealed the airplane's height above the ground prior to its final descent could not be estimated. However, the maneuvers observed were consistent with the witness accounts. Engine noise was smooth and uninterrupted until ground contact.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 38 degrees, 43 minutes north latitude, and 77 degrees, 30 minutes west longitude.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. He held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine sea and rotorcraft-helicopter. The pilot was issued a statement of aerobatic competency July 22, 1997, and it did not expire until July 31, 1998.

The pilot's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical certificate was issued April 22, 1998. The pilot reported 1,710 hours of flight experience on that date.

Excerpts of the pilot's logbooks were recovered. Examination of these pages revealed the pilot had approximately 475 hours of experience in the SU-29.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The pilot purchased the airplane new on November 27, 1992. The most recent annual inspection was performed January 4, 1998, at 365.5 aircraft hours.

The maintenance logbooks were examined at the scene by an FAA Airworthiness Inspector. In a written report, the Inspector stated:

"The aircraft had undergone a condition inspection in April, 1998. All pertinent records and reference documents were available. The records revealed meticulous attention to detail by the owner. The aircraft was relatively new and low time."

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The weather reported at HEF at the time of the accident was clear skies with 10 miles visibility. The temperature was 84 degrees and the dewpoint was 55. The winds were from 280 degrees at 7 knots.

AERODROME INFORMATION

The Manassas Regional Airport was tower controlled with parallel runways oriented 160 and 340 degrees. The runways were asphalt covered and 5,700 feet and 3,700 feet in length respectively. There were 3 helipads on the airport as well. The airport terminal, several hangers, and a large parking apron were on the east side of the runways. The control tower, several more hangers and more parking areas were on the west side.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The wreckage was examined at the site on May 19, 1998. All major components were accounted for at the scene. Control continuity was established from the cockpit controls to all flight control surfaces. Overload fractures were observed in the elevator and right aileron control tubes. Rescue personnel cut rudder, elevator, and trim control cables. Continuity was established from the cuts and breaks to their respective control surfaces.

The radial engine was separated from the accessory case, which remained attached to the airframe. The propeller blades were separated outboard of their hubs, and the splintered ends were bent opposite the direction of rotation. The spinner displayed torsional damage. The propeller hub could be rotated by hand.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed by Dr. Frances P. Field of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Fairfax, Virginia, on May 20, 1998.

The toxicological testing report, from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed Psuedoephedrine detected in blood and urine. Ephedrine was detected in urine.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The pilot competed in International Aerobatics Club Intermediate Class competition and had either won or placed in several events. The pilot had performed in airshow events for several years.

The airplane wreckage was released on May 21, 1998, to a representative of the owners insurance company.

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