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N177J accident description

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Crash location 36.064444°N, 78.783889°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Durham, NC
35.999866°N, 78.909730°W
8.3 miles away

Tail number N177J
Accident date 17 Jul 2004
Aircraft type Pitts S-1
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On July 17, 2004, at 1100 eastern daylight time, a Pitts S-1 experimental airplane, N177J, registered to and operated by the recreational pilot, collided with the ground during a go-around to runway 32, at the Lake Ridge Aero Park Airport, in Durham, North Carolina. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The pilot received fatal injuries and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight originated in Wilson, North Carolina, at 1000, on July 17, 2004.

According to a witness the airplane was observed landing on runway 32. During the touchdown phase of the landing, the airplane bounced two times, followed by the pilot executing a go-around. According to the witness the airplane flew a very tight pattern circling to land again on runway 32. During the next approach to land the airplane was observed entering a "hard slip" to the left then nosed up as it was recovering from the slip, then entered a spin and collided with the ground at a slightly nose down attitude. The witness telephoned the 911 operator and reported the accident, then drove his vehicle to the airplane in an attempt to assist the pilot.


A review of information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a recreational pilot's certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land. A review of records on file with the FAA Aero Medical Records revealed the pilot held a third class medical certificate issued on April 12, 2003, with a restriction that he must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision. The pilot report on the medical certificate that he had accumulated 250 total flight hours. The pilot's logbook indicated that at the time of the accident the pilot had accumulated a total time of 356.1 hours and 18.2 hours in the Pitts S-1 airplane in the last 90 days.


A review of maintenance records revealed that the airplane's last condition inspection was completed on February 12, 2004, with no times noted.


The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Raleigh Durham International Airport, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The 1051 surface weather observation was: scattered 10,000 feet, visibility 9 statute miles, temperature 29-degrees Celsius, dew point temperature 14-degrees Celsius, wind 190-degrees at 7 knots, and altimeter 29.90. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.


Examination of the wreckage site found the airplane on a 280-degree heading, 50-yards from the runway 32 threshold. The wreckage debris encompassed a circle approximately 100 feet in diameter, and the airplane slid six feet forward after impact.

Examination of the airplane found the interplane struts separated, and the top wing broken at the center section and impact damaged. The upper wing trailing edge center section cutout was impact damaged. The lower wings were broken at the fuselage and interplane strut attach points. The empennage, vertical and horizontal stabilizers were undamaged. The cockpit area was crushed and the instrument panel was buckled aft. The fuel tank was ruptured. The control stick had been cut to aid in extraction. The pilots restraint system was a 5-point aerobatic type and the right side main belt was fractured from it 's attach point on the lower longeron, the remaining 4-points remained secured. The throttle was set at full open, the tachometer read 1500 rpm, the oil pressure and temperature read in the green. The magneto switch was set to both and the fuel selector was set to the on position. Flight control continuity could not be established.

Examination of the engine found the crankshaft bent and both wooden propeller blades fractured. The engine mounts were broken, the oil sump was crushed, and there was impact damage noted on the fuel injection unit. Engine continuity could not be established. The post accident examination of the airplane failed to disclose a mechanical malfunction or component failure.


The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina conducted a postmortem examination of the pilot on July 17, 2004. The reported cause of death was Massive blunt force trauma, and the Manner of death was airplane crash. The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. There was no Carbon Monoxide or Cyanide detected in the blood, there was no Ethanol detected in the urine. Naproxen was present in the urine but non in the blood.


The airplane was released to friends of the pilot who lived in the local area on July 18, 2004.

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