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N3023J accident description

Maine map... Maine list
Crash location 43.683611°N, 70.800556°W
Nearest city Limerick, ME
43.687022°N, 70.789783°W
0.6 miles away
Tail number N3023J
Accident date 20 Jun 2002
Aircraft type Smith Kitfox Classic IV
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On June 20, 2002, about 1954 eastern daylight time, a homebuilt Kitfox Classic IV floatplane, N3023J, was substantially damaged while landing on Arrowhead Lake, Limerick, Maine. The certificated student pilot received serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

After performing a "routine" inspection, the floatplane was taxied from the shoreline, to the center of the lake, where it departed. The pilot observed that something was wrong with the floats as soon as the floatplane lifted off the water. He felt a slight drag, as well as noise emitting from the floats. About 500 feet above the lake, the pilot elected to return for a landing. As the floatplane was about to touchdown, the noise from the floats increased. Observing that a landing could not be accomplished, and a collision with homes was approaching, the pilot aborted the landing. While setting up for a second approach to the lake, both float coverings separated from the forward section of the float shells. The floatplane then entered into a dive, and the pilot reduced power. The floatplane impacted the water nose first, and came to rest with the tail section protruding upward. The pilot egressed from the main cabin, and swam to the shore.

The pilot stated to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, that he had recently purchased the floatplane from another individual. He had accumulated about 3 hours of dual instruction, and 17 hours of solo flight time, in the floatplane.

The FAA inspector examined the airplane after the accident. He observed that the floats were fabric covered, and had a hard plastic cover that zipped onto the bottom of each float. Both of the zippers were found partially unzipped, but the left was further than the right. The fuel mixture control and throttle were found in the closed position. The magnetos were in the "OFF" position. Flight control continuity was verified to the ailerons, elevator, and rudder.

The FAA inspector also added that the manufacturer of the floats issued a Product Bulletin on November 20, 1998, which addressed a defect with the zippers installed on the floats. If any defects were observed with the zippers, the entire zipper would have to be replaced as a set. The manufacture also provided, free of charge, a kit that would provide a secondary means of keeping the hull cap attached to the float in the event of a zipper failure. The bulletin further stated, "This is a mandatory, permanent, modification that must be carried out before further flight.

No maintenance logbooks for the airplane were recovered; however, the pilot stated to the FAA inspector that the previous owner of the floatplane had not complied with the manufacture's Product Bulletin. The inspector also did not observe any modifications to the floats during his examination of the wreckage.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to perform a modification required by the manufacturer, which resulted in a failure of the float covering.

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