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N453A accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Gastonia, NC
35.262082°N, 81.187301°W

Tail number N453A
Accident date 25 May 1995
Aircraft type Schlagenhauf Lancair Iv
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On May 25, 1995, about 1651 eastern daylight time, a Mackenzie Air, Ltd. Lancair IV-P, N453A, collided with terrain during an emergency landing at Gastonia, North Carolina. The commercial pilot and a pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The aircraft was destroyed. The aircraft was operated under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 by Mackenzie Air, Ltd. Visual meteorological conditions existed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the local, test flight. The flight originated at the Gastonia Municipal Airport at an undetermined time.

Numerous witnesses observed fire trailing from the underside of the aircraft, near the lower engine cowling. The aircraft contacted a small stand of trees, then impacted the ground in an open field. It was reported that the purpose of the flight was to test the transponder. The total time on the airframe was about 14 hours, according to one of the builders.


The pilot's log contained a record of 7.1 flight hours in the same make and model airplane. Between April 28, 1995, and May 12, 1995, 6.6 hours were recorded as having been flown in the accident airplane. The remarks associated with those flight entries indicated that the following maneuvers were performed in the accident airplane: takeoff and landings, slow flight, stalls, spins, and cross country flights.

Entries in the pilot's log also indicated that he completed a biennial flight review on March 19, 1995, in conjunction with a preparation flight for the certified flight instructor's flight check. According to the pilot log, he satisfactorily completed the flight check for flight instructor, airplane, on April 8, 1995. A Cessna 182RG was used for the flight check.

Additional information on the pilot is included at the section titled "First Pilot Information." Information on the pilot-rated passenger is included at Supplement E, attached to this report.


N453A was a single engine, retractable landing gear, two place, low wing, composite material, homebuilt airplane. It was issued a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the Experimental category on April 14, 1995. The pilot was listed as the builder of the airplane. While the airplane was intended to be pressurized, it was not capable of being pressurized at the time of the accident.

It was powered by a Continental TSIO-550-B1 engine. The engine was installed in the airframe on March 30, 1995. According to the engine log, it was test run on the ground and found to operate normally. On May 23, 1995, the oil, oil filter, and fuel filter were replaced. The engine was ground run afterwards with no leaks found. The engine time was listed as "Hobbs Time 14.4" hours.

The engine was equipped with two turbochargers; an AlliedSignal Automotive Garrett Model TA3603, serial number WJ- L0108, on the left side, and an AlliedSignal Automotive Garrett Model TA0401, serial number WJ-L0105, on the right side. There was a single wastegate and a sloped controller.


Visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. Additional information is included at the section titled "Weather Information."


The airplane impacted in a field adjacent to a four lane, divided highway. The first damage noted was to trees. Pieces of broken fiberglass material were found around the base of the trees. Propeller blade fragments were found about ten feet north northwest of the trees. About 25 feet north northwest of the trees, a ground crater was found. The remainder of the wreckage, except for a burned section of the nose wheel area, was scattered for about 350 feet along a magnetic azimuth of 340 degrees. The burned nose wheel section was located 560 feet south southeast of the damaged trees, in an area devoid of fire damage.

The wooden propeller, minus the propeller blades which had been shattered from the hub, remained attached to the engine. The blade tips were located in the principal impact crater.

The engine was separated from the aircraft and located at the north northwest end of the debris trail. Its left intercooler had been separated from the engine and was found about 20 feet south southeast of the engine. There was sooting to the oil filter, and the adjacent engine driven fuel pump. The fuel pump was also cracked, with no sooting on the fracture faces. A cooling line directed onto the fuel pump was melted at the fuel pump end.

A section of the wreckage was separated from the main wreckage, located outside of the ground fire area, consisting of the firewall, battery, external battery plug, engine cage, both turbochargers, and associated wiring and lines. There was extensive fire damage to the lower portion of this section, with the rear half, approximately, of the wheel box and surrounding firewall area burned away. The nose wheel and tire was absent, with the nose wheel axle and bearings found across the divided highway from the accident site. It was in an area devoid of fire damage, and was sooted and blackened. Both nose gear doors were located about midway along the debris trail. The aft 1/3 of the doors were sooted and metal spray was adhered to the left door hinge area.

There was extensive fire damage to the fuselage with the cabin section nearly consumed by the fire. The instrument panel was essentially destroyed by fire. The empennage was blackened with the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator nearly consumed by the fire. The right horizontal stabilizer had punctures in the leading edge. The outboard left wing section lay near the fuselage, with the fuel tank area of the wing burned out. The right wing was nearly consumed by fire. Both wing tips were separated from the airplane, and found at the beginning of the wreckage trail. A large area of burned grass and blackened soil surrounded the fuselage and left wing section. The following components were found outside of ground fire areas and had various degrees of sooting or melting: throttle quadrant, a communication/navigation radio, radio speaker grille, cockpit door, rudder, and the braided line between the electric fuel boost pump and the gascolator. The cockpit door exhibited soot trails, aligned with the airstream, on the downwind side of manufactured holes in the door. Soot streams were observed on the rudder's upper 1/3. The area of the rudder masked by the vertical stabilizer was clear. The braided fuel line between the electric fuel pump and the gascolator was located inside the airplane, with the electric fuel pump mounted on the interior, right sidewall, immediately aft of the firewall.

Fire and impact damage precluded establishing flight control tube continuity. The left main gear was fully extended while the right main gear was partially extended. The nose gear position could not be determined.


A post-mortem examination of the pilot was conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The cause of death for the pilot was multiple traumatic injuries. According to the report of the examination, the pilot had third degree burns to his hands, forearms, and thighs. A toxicological examination of the pilot was conducted by the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, and the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Both reports of those examinations indicated that no ethanol nor other drugs were detected. Additionally, the FAA report states that no carboxyhemoglobin was detected, with a 10% cut off in the testing.

A post-mortem examination of the passenger was conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The cause of death for the passenger was also listed as multiple traumatic injuries. The report stated that soot was found in the hypothorax. A toxicological examination by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner indicated less than 5% saturation of carbon monoxide.


Several witnesses reported observing smoke and flames on the underside of the airplane, that were described as coming from the rear of the engine nacelle area, and flowing aft. The pilot's hands and arms were burned. A radio and the throttle quadrant were partially melted.Soot was found on the electric fuel pump braided line that was located in the cabin. Soot trails emanated from manufactured holes in the cockpit door. The rudder had soot trails at its center attach point to the vertical stabilizer, and its top 1/3 was sooted. There was splattered metal on the aft portion of the left nose gear door. The lower portion of the firewall, and the nose gear well exhibited heavy fire damage; and the nose wheel and tire were burned away.

There was sooting around the engine driven fuel pump and above it. A separation was noted between the turbocharger wastegate and exhaust stack with blue discoloration of the wastegate flange. However, none of the adjacent engine components exhibited heat damage.


The engine and turbochargers were shipped to the Teledyne Continental Motors facility in Mobile, Alabama for inspection. Reports of those inspections are attached.

An unburned section of the left outboard wing, that included a portion of a fuel bay, was sent to the kit manufacturer's facility for examination. The examination was conducted under the direction of the NTSB. A report of the examination is attached.


As requested by the registered owner, James Addison Bell, President, MacKenzie Air Ltd, the wreckage was released to Brien D. Stockman, of Dean & Gibson, Attorneys at Law, Suite 402 Cameron Brown Building, 301 South McDowell St., Charlotte, North Carolina 28204-2686.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.