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N360 accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 39.666667°N, 119.883333°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 Reno, NV
39.529633°N, 119.813803°W
10.2 miles away
Tail number N360
Accident date 13 Sep 2002
Aircraft type Beech 58(AF) Minkler Venture M20(NTSB)
Additional details: White w/Red trim

NTSB Factual Report

On September 13, 2002, at 1440 Pacific daylight time, an amateur-built Minkler Venture M20 airplane, N360, sustained a structural failure of the left and right horizontal stabilizers and the associated elevators at the Reno-Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada, while participating in the sport class race as part of the annual Reno Air Races. Following the structural failure of the stabilizers and elevators, the airplane dove into the ground. The airplane, which was destroyed in the collision sequence, was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors from the Reno Flight Standards District Office were present at the airport monitoring air race activities. They responded to the accident site and interviewed witnesses. The accident occurred about halfway through the sport class race. As the airplane was rounding pylon No. 1, the horizontal stabilizers and elevators began flexing (one witness who telephoned a report to Safety Board investigators said the airplane began a shallow porpoise just before) and then bent down. The airplane then dove into the ground. On-site assessment of the wreckage disclosed that the horizontal stabilizers and elevators remained attached to the empennage; however, they were bent down at an acute angle at a point about 2 feet outboard from the root on each side.

The FAA inspectors reported that the first identified point of contact for the airplane with the ground was about 200 yards from race pylon No. 1. The wreckage was spread out over a 450-foot-long debris and ground scar field, with the fuselage and attached empennage located about midway in the debris field. The airplane was extensively fragmented and control system continuity could not be established on scene. The airspeed indicator was recovered in the debris; the needle was trapped between the fractured glass and the instrument face at the 300-knot/red line. Official timers for the Reno Air Races reported to FAA inspectors that based on time over the measured course distance, the airplane was doing 330 knots just before the accident.

The present owner of the design rights for this experimental kit-built all metal airplane was contacted and interviewed. He reported that the airplane was designed by professional aircraft design engineers who worked for a major general aviation manufacturer. The airplane was designed with a gross weight design maneuvering speed (Va) of 156 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS). Never exceed speed (Vne) is 300 KIAS and the maximum structural cruising speed (Vno) is 265 KIAS. At maximum gross weight, 2,000 pounds, the structure is stressed for positive and negative load factors of +5 and -2.5 g's. During the design and prototype development, a ground vibration test (GVT) survey was performed, with no excitable nodes found within the airplane's anticipated envelope. The flight test program validated that flutter could not be excited up to Vne.

The design owner said that during the developmental flight test work with the prototype, it was flown one time without an artificial force feel limiting device in the elevator control circuit. The stick force per g without the force feel/limiters is less than a pound of control force. During that flight the test pilots encountered a very severe pilot induced oscillation (PIO). A spring assembly was devised for the elevator control circuit to impart a 10-pound per g force feel feed back in the elevator controls to prevent PIO.

Following recovery to a wreckage storage facility, the airplane was examined by Safety Board investigators with technical assistance provided by the current owner of the design rights. The following discrepancies were noted during the examination.

1. The spring in the elevator force feel/limiter assembly was the wrong size. The spring tension was measured and found to be 30 percent of the required value.

2. The NAS1435K elevator cable forked ends and associated clevis pins were 3/16 inches in size.

3. The bushings for the elevator horns were missing. The bearings were sized at 0.25 inches.

4. The 0.032 skins on the elevator had counter-sunk rivet holes.

5. The left horizontal stabilizer and elevator were found bent down at 150 degrees and under the empennage at a point 23 inches outboard of the root.

6. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were found bent down at 135 degrees and under the empennage at a point 32 inches outboard of the root.

NTSB Probable Cause

the overload failure of the horizontal stabilizers and elevators due to a pilot induced oscillation at a speed at or above Vne, which exceeded the design stress limits of the structure. Also causal was the intentional alteration by an unknown person or persons of the elevator down spring assembly, which likely reduced the stick force per G from a nominal 10 pounds to less than 1, and led to the pilot induced oscillation. An additional cause was the pilot's decision to operate the aircraft at, above, or near never exceed speed.

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