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N922VR accident description

Maine map... Maine list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Trenton, ME
44.433967°N, 68.395574°W
Tail number N922VR
Accident date 24 Dec 1996
Aircraft type Richardson KITFOX 4
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On December 24, 1996, at 1015 eastern daylight time, a Kitfox experimental airplane, N922VR, was destroyed when it collided with terrain after takeoff from Runway 22 at Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, Maine. The certificated private pilot sustained fatal injuries and the one passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed. The local personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 and originated at the Bar Harbor Airport at approximately 1013.

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department Incident Report contained several witness accounts of the accident flight. One witness stated:

"The plane continued down the runway for a long distance and appeared to be having difficulty lifting off the ground. Once the plane did lift the pilot was obviously having trouble controlling the plane and the wings began to dip from side to side. Once the plane reached the end of the runway it turned straight into the air until reaching approximately one hundred feet. The plane then stalled and came down nose first."

The Sheriff's Department report stated that a second witness:

"...said the plane was erratic and wavering leading him to believe the pilot was having a great deal of difficulty controlling it. Eventually the plane lifted from the runway but had used much more of the runway than planes would normally use. After leaving the runway the plane gained altitude quickly before banking sharply to the right before coming down nose first."

A third witness reported:

"As the plane neared the end of the runway it drifted to its left and began a sharp right. At approximately 45 degrees through the turn the plane stalled out and immediately dove nose first into the ground. [The witness] said he believed the plane was approximately 300 - 350 feet in the air as the pilot began this turn. [The witness] said he made these observations as he himself is a pilot and quickly realized the plane was in distress. [The witness] said the plane had minimal airspeed and was in fact shuttering." [The witness] said the plane "...was near stalling out the entire time he observed him."

A fourth witness said:

"...he noticed the aircraft was having a great deal of difficulty and was not under control. [The witness] said he has been a pilot himself for some time and therefore was surprised at the operation of the plane. [The witness] said the aircraft was clearly in distress and the pilot was fighting it all the way." The witness went on to say, "Suddenly the plane was taken by the wind and quickly climbed to approximately 150 feet above the runway and to the left side. At that point the pilot attempted to bank to the right and go with the wind. As the right wing dipped it stalled and the left [wing] continued to come around. At that point the plane immediately dove nose first and impacted the ground." The witness "...said the airspeed was very minimal and in fact [the plane] appeared to be standing still at times. [The witness] said flying conditions on December 24, 1996 were not the best due to high winds and a lot of turbulence in the air."

In a written statement, the passenger reported that he and the pilot arrived at the airport at approximately 1000. He stated that the pilot performed a preflight, serviced the left tire with air, and taxied the airplane for departure. The passenger reported that during the takeoff climb the airplane dipped, yawed and bounced. He said that as the airplane passed over the departure end of the runway, the pilot checked the gauges and stated that the airplane was not developing full power. The pilot then repeated that the airplane was not developing full power. According to the passenger:

"He then looked over me out the right side of the plane as if seeing if the way was clear to turn to the right. While making a right turn, a huge gust of wind then lifted us turning the plane on its side with the left wing pointed straight up and the right wing pointed down ... From this point the nose turned and pointed straight down. I braced as we nosedived very quickly towards the ground hitting nose first. Prior to and during the nosedive I do not have any recollection of the engine stopping. My immediate recollection is that the propellers were in full motion during the entire flight and nosedive."

In a written statement, a witness acquainted with the pilot reported that the pilot arrived at Bar Harbor Airport on either December 17th or 18th , 1996, to make some pitch adjustments to the propeller on N922VR. The pilot explained that the engine RPM and the Exhaust Gas Temperature readings were too high and could be adjusted with a propeller pitch change.


The pilot held a Private Pilot Certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and sea, and instrument airplane. The pilot also held a Mechanic Certificate with ratings for Airframe and Powerplant.

The pilot's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Third Class Medical Certificate was issued on June 26, 1996.

According to the 6120.1/2 Pilot /Operator report, the pilot had a total flight experience of 1520.6 hours. He had 65.2 hours of experience in make and model; 12.4 hours in the previous 90 days and 2.8 hours in the previous 30 days.


According to the 6120.1/2 Pilot /Operator report, the airplane was on an Annual Maintenance Program. Inspection dates and intervals could not be determined. The airplane had 65.2 hours of service logged.

In a telephone conversation with a Design Engineer from Skystar Inc., sellers of the Kitfox IV airplane kit, the approximate empty weight for Serial # 1597 was 600 pounds. The maximum allowable gross weight was 1050 pounds. Approximate weight and balance information was:

Empty weight 600 pounds Floats 80 pounds Fuel 60 pounds Pilot 176 pounds Passenger 160 pounds

Total 1076 pounds


The weather observation for the Bar Harbor Airport at 1014 EST reported cloud height at 1200 feet and the wind from 200 degrees at 14 knots with wind gusts of 17 knots


A Report of Inquiry and Examination by Medical Examiner was submitted by Dr. Edward David of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the State of Maine.

The toxicological testing report for the pilot from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed negative for alcohol and positive for drugs. All drugs listed in the report were administered to the pilot post accident with 3 exceptions. The 3 drugs are:

*** 0.153 (ug/ml, ug/g) Phentermine detected in Blood *** 2.400 (ug/ml, ug/g) Phentermine detected in Urine *** 0.030 (ug/ml, ug/g) Fenfluramine detected in Blood *** 0.587 (ug/ml, ug/g) Fenfluramine detected in Urine Verapamil was detected in Blood

Phentermine and Fenfluramine are prescription diet pills that are not approved for use while flying. Verapamil is a medication used for the control of hypertension and can be approved for use while flying. The aforementioned drugs were prescribed to the pilot and the levels found in testing were consistent with the dosages prescribed. At the time of the accident, a list of medications approved for use while flying had not been published by the FAA.


On January 8, 1997, an FAA Principal Maintenance Inspector examined the wreckage of N922VR. The Inspector reported no discrepancies. According to the Inspector:

"It is this Inspector's opinion that [the pilot] over pitched the propeller, was not able to achieve what he believed to be maximum RPM, casually decided to initiate a turn back to the field, stalled and crashed. The performance was degraded even more with the addition of a second person in the airplane. [The pilot ] should have test flown the aircraft solo after performing the above maintenance, not with a passenger on board."

NTSB Probable Cause

failure of the pilot to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering after takeoff, which resulted in a stall/spin and an uncontrolled descent into terrain. The airplane's excessive gross weight was a related factor.

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