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N8VE accident description

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Tail numberN8VE
Accident dateOctober 03, 2007
Aircraft typeLambert John G Varieze
LocationChesapeake, VA
Near 36.659444 N, -76.318889 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On October 3, 2007, about 1818 eastern daylight time, an amateur-built Varieze, N8VE, was destroyed during collision with terrain after takeoff from Chesapeake Regional Airport (CPK), Chesapeake, Virginia. The certificated private pilot/owner was killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local personal flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

In an interview, the pilot's girlfriend stated that the purpose of the flight was to test the speed brake installed in the airplane. She quoted the pilot as saying that during the first hour he owned the airplane, he tried the speed brake and it really scared him. He had since accumulated 70 total hours in the airplane and was going to try the speed brake again.

In a written statement, one witness described watching the accident airplane taxi from its hangar to runway 5, then listening to the pilot announce the takeoff, crosswind, and downwind legs of the traffic pattern over the Unicom frequency. Seconds later, the witness heard a voice transmit cries for help.

In a telephone interview and written statement, a flight instructor stated he and a student joined the traffic pattern in their airplane, and heard the accident airplane announce takeoff and the subsequent legs of the traffic pattern, before he heard "panicked" cries for help over the radio. No further transmissions were heard from the accident airplane.

Another witness and his family were traveling southbound along a divided highway in their car, when they noticed the airplane flying erratically, at low altitude, as it paralleled their course on the west side of the highway. The airplane then crossed the roadway in front of their vehicle at low altitude, and circled back towards them before striking the ground on the east side of the roadway, scattering debris across all four lanes. The witnesses' vehicle drove through and over wreckage as their vehicle was struck by flying debris.

Examination of photographs from a news gathering helicopter revealed that the wreckage path was oriented westerly, and was about 300 feet long. The airplane and its components were scattered across the roadway, but the majority of the wreckage came to rest in a field on the west side of the highway. The Virginia State Police recovered the wreckage and moved it to a hangar on the airport, where Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors examined it on October 4, 2007.

According to the inspectors, control continuity was established from the cockpit area out to cable breaks, and from the breaks to their respective control surfaces. The cable breaks were consistent with overload. However, examination of some cables revealed flat spots, chafing, kinks, and looped strands. The cables were harvested and forwarded to the National Transportation Safety Board Materials Laboratory in Washington, DC, for examination.

Examination of the engine revealed that the wooden propeller blades were broken off near the hub, and the fractures were splintered opposite the direction of rotation. The engine was rotated by hand at the propeller, and continuity was established through the drive train and valve train to the accessory section. Compression was confirmed using the thumb method. Ignition spark could not be established due to impact damage to the electronic ignition system and the one magneto.

The pilot/owner held a private pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued April 18, 2006. The pilot reported 526 total hours of flight experience on that date. A cursory examination of his logbook revealed 570 total hours of flight experience.

According to FAA records and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1986, and had accrued approximately 1,547.7 total aircraft hours. The airplane's most recent condition inspection was completed on June 27, 2007, at 1,544.7 aircraft hours.

At 1819, the reported weather at Chesapeake Regional Airport included clear skies and wind from 110 degrees at 4 knots.

In addition to flight control cables, the propeller, fuel selector control, fuel selector valve, speed brake handle with cables, and the airspeed indicator were forwarded to the Safety Board Materials Laboratory, Washington, DC, for examination.

Examination of all components revealed no preimpact failures or anomalies. The propeller fractures were consistent with overstress. All cable fractures were consistent with overload. The fuel selector control and valve displayed no abnormal wear, and fractures were consistent with overload. Examination of the airspeed indicator did not provide definitive evidence of airspeed at ground contact.

The speed brake was described in the Varieze Owner's Manual as a "drag device" designed to increase the descent angle, and to slow the airplane during the landing flare. The speed range for deployment was 90 knots and slower. Above 95 knots, the speed brake panel would automatically close.

In a written statement, the airplane's designer explained that deployment of the speed brake initiates a low-intensity rumbling vibration, but does not affect the handling characteristics of the airplane. The speed brake creates only direct drag, due to its position on the belly of the airplane, and does not affect the airflow over any of the lifting or control surfaces. He added that a speed brake panel stuck in the deployed position above 95 knots would not adversely affect handling. He further stated that the airplane would climb with the panel deployed, but that a climb in this configuration required more power, and adversely affected engine cooling. The designer concluded that no owners or builders reported any problems or handling deficiencies associated with the speed brake.

The builder of the accident airplane accrued 1,500 hours of flight experience in it, before he sold it. He assisted the accident pilot in a complete disassembly and annual inspection of the airplane in June 2006. The builder then flew the airplane for about 30 minutes, and he noted no deficiencies in the performance and handling of the airplane, with the speed brake deployed or stowed. Further, at no time did the accident pilot express any concerns, or ask any questions about the speed brake, its deployment, or the handling characteristics of the airplane with the speed brake deployed, of the builder.

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