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N5606X accident description

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Crash location 43.209167°N, 85.964722°W
Nearest city Ravenna, MI
43.156132°N, 85.970882°W
3.7 miles away
Tail number N5606X
Accident date 01 May 2015
Aircraft type Lathrop Steven A B8M
Additional details: None
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NTSB Factual Report

On May 1, 2015, about 1225 central daylight time, a homebuilt gyrocopter, N5606X, registered to the pilot/owner, was destroyed when it collided with power lines after a loss of engine power while maneuvering in the vicinity of Ravenna, Michigan. The private pilot, who was the sole occupant, sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity and a flight plan was not filed. The local flight was being conducted under the provisions of Federal Code of Regulations Part 91. The flight originated from Riverview, Michigan, about 1125.

One witness reported that she heard a loud noise of a plane flying north. She further stated that she heard a loud booming sound and she looked up and saw black smoke. Another witness reported that he received a call from the pilot stating that he would be doing a slow fly-by in the area, about noon. The witness stated that he was outside several minutes after noon and that he heard the gyrocopter flying toward his home, looked up to the southeast, and saw the aircraft gliding toward the ground.

The FAA inspector who examined the accident site and wreckage, reported that the wreckage was resting in a deep ditch on the north side of Sherman Road near the intersection of Wunsch Road in Moorland Township near Ravenna, MI. Evidence at the accident site showed that the gyrocopter had impacted 30-foot high power lines, consequently breaking two of the lines. A power line pole on the north side of Sherman Road was broken and unattached to its base. The pilot's headgear showed thermal damage to the face shield and soot was evident inside of the shield and around the face relief of the helmet, consistent with electrical arcing. The helmet was found in a ditch just west of Wunsch Road about 40 feet from the wreckage.

The gyrocopter's rotor mast was broken off, about seat height. The rotor blades were coned upward consistent with low RPM and high loading. The trailing edges of the blades exhibited buckling between fasteners. One rotor blade had scuff marks on the bottom side. The other blade had buckling failure in the aft direction. One of the propeller blades of the pusher propeller was separated and was found about 50 yards beyond the wreckage. The broken blade leading edge exhibited leading edge marks consistent with contact with the broken power line wires.

The Volkswagen engine appeared to be mostly intact. The crank would rotate by hand, but was limited due to adjacent impact damage. Automotive gasoline was present in the fuel filter and some gas was dripping out of the carburetor when first responders arrived. The broken ends of the power lines showed some broom straw signatures, some cut failures, and some right angle bending near the wire failures. The wires consisted of five aluminum wires wrapped about a steel core.

The pilot stated on NTSB Form 6120 that as he slowed the engine to lower his altitude, he "got carb ice killing the engine [and] ran out of a place to land." The nearest weather reporting facility, located about 12 miles to the west of the accident site, reported a temperature of 16 degrees C and dew point of 4 degrees C, about 30 minutes prior to the accident. According to the Carburetor Icing Probability Chart, the aircraft would have been operating in conditions for moderate icing at cruise power and serious icing at descent power.

NTSB Probable Cause

A total loss of engine power due to carburetor icing.

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