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N59RR accident description

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Crash location 43.322223°N, 84.688055°W
Nearest city Alma, MI
43.378920°N, 84.659727°W
4.2 miles away
Tail number N59RR
Accident date 20 Jan 2007
Aircraft type Reisinger Sonerai II L
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On January 20, 2007, about 1230 eastern standard time, an amateur-built Reisinger Sonerai II L, N59RR, piloted by a commercial pilot, and a private pilot rated passenger, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain following a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from the Gratiot Community Airport, near Alma, Michigan. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan. The pilot and the private pilot rated passenger received minor injuries. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.

Internet postings relating to the accident were found on a message board for owners of the same type of airplane. During a telephone interview, the pilot-rated passenger, who was the owner of the airplane, confirmed that he had made the posts to that message board. He also confirmed that the content of the internet posts were an accurate description of the events of the accident. He also confirmed that he had recently purchased the airplane and this was the first flight since that purchase.

In the internet posts, the owner stated that he was an "observer" on this flight. He and another pilot were on board the airplane during the accident. He stated that the other pilot was seated in the front seat because the rudder pedals could not be adequately adjusted to allow full travel for that pilot, and the front seat position suited the other pilot's size. The posts indicated that some thought was given as to the weight and balance of the airplane and the two pilots decided that rather than ballast the airplane to achieve acceptable weight and balance that the owner would ride in the rear seat position. The posts indicated that a run-up was performed and 3,000 static rpm's were achieved during the run-up. Takeoff was normal until reaching about 300 feet above the ground when the airspeed began to decrease from about 85 miles per hour (mph) to 70 mph. The front seat pilot, who was the flying pilot, lowered the nose to maintain airspeed, but a positive climb rate could not be achieved. A decision was made to return to the airport, but the airplane was not able to maintain altitude. The airplane then struck trees and the ground. The internet posts indicated that the engine speed was 2,800 rpm at impact, and that the loss of power was gradual with no unusual sounds encountered.

The internet posts indicated that the airplane's engine, a converted Volkswagen engine, was equipped with a Lectron carburetor. The Lectron carburetor is a smooth bore slide type carburetor that does not have a venturi style throat. The smooth bore style of carburetor is widely regarded as being less susceptible to the effects of carburetor icing when compared to a carburetor with a venturi.

The recorded temperature and dew point at the departure airport were -6 degrees C and -12 degrees C, respectively. These readings fall outside of the range for carburetor icing according to a carburetor icing probability chart.

Subsequent to the accident, the pilot attempted to retrieve the wreckage and was refused entry to the location by the property owner. As of November 8, 2007, the wreckage of the airplane had not been recovered. No examination of the engine was conducted on-site.

NTSB Probable Cause

The loss of engine power during takeoff-initial climb for an undetermined reason. A factor in the accident was the lack of suitable terrain for a forced landing.

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