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N601VA accident description

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Tail numberN601VA
Accident dateNovember 11, 2006
Aircraft typeCzech Aircraft Works CH 601 XL RTF
LocationBasye, VA
Near 38.821945 N, -78.751389 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On November 11, 2006, at 1630 eastern standard time, a Czech Aircraft Works CH 601 XL RTF special light sport airplane, N601VA, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees following a loss of engine power while maneuvering near Sky Bryce Airport (VG18), Basye, Virginia. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight which departed about 1600. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to witness statements, the pilot stated he was going to fly for "about an hour." The airplane was then observed, "circling" north of the airport, and then descending. It was next observed "very low" over the trees, turning southward. It then turned towards the east, and the engine "surged," then became silent. Moments later, the airplane banked 90 degrees to the left, and witnesses heard the sound of impact.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight. The wreckage was located at 38 degrees, 49.321 minutes north latitude, and 78 degrees, 45.078 minutes west longitude, at an elevation of 1,379 feet.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land with a "night flying prohibited" limitation. A review of his pilot logbook revealed he had 343 total hours of flight experience, with 34 hours in the accident airplane, make and model. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on June 13, 2005.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

According to FAA documents and the airplane's equipment list, the airplane was manufactured in 2005. It was delivered to the owner with the "night option," which included, navigation, strobe, landing, and instrument lights, and was issued a Light Sport Category, Special Airworthiness Certificate on October 3, 2005.

According to maintenance records, the airplane's most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on October 23, 2006, and at the time of the accident, it had accumulated 507.4 total hours of operation.

According to the airplane flight manual (AFM), the airplane was equipped with fuel quantity and fuel pressure gauges. Fuel was stored in two 15-gallon fuel tanks, one in each wing. Total fuel capacity was 30 gallons, and usable fuel was listed as 29 gallons.

In the normal procedures section of the AFM, under "PREFLIGHT CHECK" it advised to "visually confirm fuel level" in the left and right tanks. Additionally, under "BEFORE TAKE-OFF" the AFM advised to "Check fuel quantity."

According to the AFM and the Rotax operator's manual, fuel consumption ranged from a high of 7.1 gallons per hour at "takeoff performance," to less than 4.0 gallons per hour at "Max Cruising."

A review of fueling documentation revealed that the airplane prior to the accident flight had been flown seven times since its last refueling. During that time, it had flown a total of 6.3 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A weather observation taken about 7 minutes after the accident at Grant County Airport (W99), Petersburg, West Virginia, located approximately 21 nautical miles northwest of the accident site, recorded the wind as 180 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 8,500 feet, temperature 77 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.74 inches of mercury.

A review of United States Naval Observatory (USNO) data for the area of Basye, Virginia, revealed that official sunset occurred at 1705 (35 minutes after the accident) and civil twilight ended at 1733 (63 minutes after the accident).

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

After striking several trees, the airplane came to rest next to a road oriented in a direction of 072 degrees magnetic, 0.9 miles northeast of the approach end of runway 23, and 116 feet above it.

There was no debris path or postcrash fire. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site.

The left wing, right wing, and tail section, along with all associated flight control surfaces displayed differing degrees of damage. The main wreckage was found resting upright. The outboard 5 feet 4 inches of the left wing had separated from the airframe. The rudder and horizontal stabilizer had separated from their respective attach fittings. The wing flaps had separated from the flap actuator and were found hanging from their hinges in a downward direction. Further examination revealed that the internal flap drive mechanism corresponded to a flaps up position. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the right aileron, left aileron bellcrank, elevator, and rudder horns to the cockpit.

Examination of the cockpit revealed that the throttle control was in the maximum power position. The carburetor heat control was in the off position, and the fuel selector was in the left tank position.

Examination of the nose spinner and three bladed composite propeller revealed that the spinner displayed evidence of crushing only on the portion in contact with the ground and lower engine cowling. All of the propeller blades displayed differing degrees of damage. One blade was folded rearward under the engine cowling, one blade had separated at the blade root from the propeller hub, and one blade displayed chordwise separation.

Examination of the engine revealed continuity of the intake system, exhaust system, valve train, and crankshaft. The crankshaft was then rotated by hand, and no binding was noted.

No smell of fuel was noted at the accident site, and no evidence of fuel staining or spillage was identified.

The fuel lines, fuel tanks, and fuel filter were examined, and no preimpact malfunctions or leaks were discovered. No evidence of fuel in the low points of the system was discovered, and the fuel tanks were absent of fuel. The fuel filter was clean, free of debris, and contained a trace amount of fuel.

The carburetors were disassembled to inspect the diaphragms and the inside of the float bowls. The diaphragms were dry, and no tears or punctures were evident. The floats were functional, and the internal portions of the float bowls were clean and free of debris.

Approximately 2 ounces of fluid, consistent with 100LL aviation gasoline, was recovered from the entire fuel system for testing. The fluid included the trace amount from the fuel filter and approximately 4 tablespoons from the carburetor float bowls. The fluid was bright, clear, and no visible contamination was evident. When the fluid sample was applied to a coupon containing water-finding paste, the paste did not react, indicating water was not present.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

A postmortem examination was performed on the pilot by the State of Virginia's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Toxicological testing of the pilot was conducted at the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The pilot's forensic toxicology report indicated:

">> 0.742 (ug/ml, ug/g) CITALOPRAM detected in Blood >> CITALOPRAM present in urine >> 0.277 (ug/ml, ug/g) N-DESMETHYLCITALOPRAM detected in Blood >> N-DESMETHYLCITALOPRAM present in Urine >> 0.069 (ug/ml, ug/g) DI-N-DESMETHYLCITALOPRAM detected in Blood >> DI-N-DESMETHYLCITALOPRAM present in Urine >> IBUPROFEN present in Blood >> IBUPROFEN detected in Urine >> NAPROXEN detected in Urine >> NAPROXEN NOT detected in Blood >> PSEUDOEPHEDRINE detected in Urine"

According to his application for a third-class airman medical certificate dated June 7, 2003, the pilot had been undergoing treatment with a psychiatrist every 4 months for the treatment of anxiety and depression. He was also taking two antidepressant prescription drugs; citalopram known by the brand name Celexa, and bupropion known by the brand name Wellbutrin. The application also noted that, "no certificate was issued-deferred for further evaluation."

In a letter dated June 25, 2003, the pilot's psychiatrist advised the FAA that the pilot had been under his medical care since August 23, 2000, because of mild depression and unhappiness. The psychiatrist noted that the pilot had symptoms of mild anxiety and periods of unhappiness, and was placed on Wellbutrin 300 mg, and Celexa 40 mg, and had "done well for years until June 25, 2003," when his medication was "totally discontinued." The psychiatrist also advised that in his medical opinion, the pilot was medically and psychologically stable, and did not suffer from any psychiatric illness, did not present a danger to himself or others, and was cognitively sharp without any impairment in his neurological or psychiatric function. He also advised the FAA that he could safely operate any vehicle including airplanes and that, "since June 25" all his psychiatric medications had been discontinued, and despite that, the pilot had done extremely well without any impairment in his mood and mental functioning.

On October 29, 2003, in a "follow-up letter" from the pilot's psychiatrist to the Manager of the FAA Aerospace Medical Certification Division, regarding the pilot's psychiatric health, the psychiatrist stated that on August 29, 2003, he saw and evaluated the pilot. The psychiatrist also stated that, it had now been over 120 days since he stopped all of the pilot's "psychotropic medications" and that during his visit with the pilot, the pilot was psychiatrically and psychologically stable without any evidence of any thought disorder, mood disorder or impairment in his cognition. The psychiatrist also stated that at "present" the pilot had no diagnosis and was in good health. The pilot's prognosis was also excellent and his plan for the pilot was to keep him medication free and for the pilot to contact him if there was a change in his mental status. The psychiatrist additionally stated, he believed the pilot was in excellent mental and physical health and that there were no contraindications for him to fly an airplane.

A letter to the pilot from the Manager of the FAA Aerospace Medical Certification Division dated November 20, 2003, noted that their review of the pilot's medical records established he was eligible for a third-class medical certificate. The pilot was "cautioned to abide by Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR's), Section 61.53, relating to physical deficiency." The pilot was also advised by the manager, that because of the pilot's preexisting medical conditions which included depression, "operation of aircraft is prohibited at any time new symptoms or adverse changes occur or if you experience side effects from or require a change in medication."

A review of the pilot's most recent application for a third-class airman medical certificate dated June 13, 2005, revealed that the pilot answered the question: "Do You Currently Use Any Medication," by annotating he used hydrochlorothiazide, Cozaar (losartan) albuterol, and Advair, but did not mention the use of citalopram. The application also indicated that the pilot answered "Yes" in response to "Hay fever or allergy," "Asthma or lung disease," "High or low blood pressure," and "Admission to hospital," but answered "No" to all other conditions under "Medical History," including specifically "Mental disorders of any sort; depression, anxiety, etc."

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The pilot owned and operated a flight school at VG18. According to the flight school's records, the airplane was used for light sport airplane flight instruction and was being offered for sale at the time of the accident.

No fueling facilities were available at VG18, which required pilots and operators to either fly their airplanes to another airport for fuel or transport fuel in portable containers to the airport. According to witnesses, the operator typically used aviation gasoline. Occasionally, "jerry cans" would be filled with automobile gasoline from the local gas station and used to fuel the airplane. The "jerry cans" were kept in a storage shed located on the airport property. The airplane, in the past, had also been fueled using a 29-gallon tank that was also kept in the storage shed, however; it had not been used in months.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

According to the FAA, a special light sport aircraft (SLSA) may be operated at night if the manufacturer authorizes night operations. The SLSA must be operated in accordance with 14 CFR 91.327, which includes the requirement to operate the aircraft only within the aircraft's operating instructions. If those instructions do not allow night flight, then the aircraft cannot be operated at night regardless of equipment or pilot certification.

14 CFR 61.109 states that, a person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least 40 hours of flight time that includes at least 20 hours of flight training from an authorized instructor and 10 hours of solo flight training. This must include, 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane that includes, one cross-country flight of over 100 nautical miles total distance, and 10 takeoffs and 10 landings to a full stop (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport. It goes on to say that, A person who does not meet the night flying requirements, may be issued a private pilot certificate with the limitation "Night flying prohibited."

According to 14 CFR 1.1, "Night," means the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the American Air Almanac, converted to local time.

Civil twilight is defined by the USNO to begin in the morning, and to end in the evening when the center of the Sun is geometrically 6 degrees below the horizon. This is the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the beginning of morning civil twilight, or end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under good atmospheric conditions in the absence of moonlight or other illumination. In the morning before the beginning of civil twilight and in the evening after the end of civil twilight, artificial illumination is normally required to carry on ordinary outdoor activities. Complete darkness, however, ends sometime prior to the beginning of morning civil twilight and begins sometime after the end of evening civil twilight.

The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner on February 21, 2007.

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