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N4861K accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 39.702778°N, 119.889444°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
12.6 miles away
Tail number N4861K
Accident date 16 Sep 2016
Aircraft type Dehavilland DH115 Vampire
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On September 16, 2016, about 1715 Pacific daylight time, a De Havilland DH115 Vampire, N4861K, sustained substantial damage during an off-airport landing near the Reno-Stead Airport (RTS), Reno, Nevada. The airplane was registered to CB Aviation Inc., Ogden, Utah, and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The airline transport pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local air race flight, which originated from RTS about 9 minutes prior to the accident.

The pilot reported in both written and verbal statements that he was participating in a Jet Class Gold Race at the National Championship Air Races, which consisted of 6 laps around a closed race course. About 3.5 laps into the race, while approaching pylon 4, the pilot heard a "loud bang" followed by wind noise and wind within the cockpit. The pilot immediately aborted the race, pitched up, and reduced power to idle, trading airspeed for altitude. The pilot stated that he assessed all primary flight controls and trim, noting no anomalies except for the trim wheel, which was jammed. The pilot also observed a crack in the right side of the canopy. Throughout the climb, the pilot noted that all engine gauges displayed a normal indication.

The pilot further reported that while orbiting the airport at best glide speed, he was able to free the jammed trim wheel and continued to enter downwind for runway 08. Upon turning onto downwind, he advanced the power lever and realized the engine had lost power. The pilot said he evaluated his option for landing, realizing he was unable to reach runway 14 or runway 08, and elected to land in the open desert north of the airport as he conducted an engine restart procedure. Subsequently, the pilot initiated a forced landing with the landing gear and flaps in the retracted position.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane came to rest up right about 7,741 feet north, northwest of the approach end of runway 08. The wreckage debris path was oriented on a heading of about 345o and was about 756 feet in length. Portions of plexiglass from the airplane's canopy structure were located about 1.57 miles southwest of the accident site. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

The accident airplane was powered by a single jet engine mounted on the airplane centerline aft of the cockpit and has a twin tailboom tail arrangement. The cockpit is set up with side-by-side seating for two pilots. The canopy consisted of a metal frame with acrylic windows installed on the left and right sides. The acrylic windows wrap from above the pilot's heads around the left and right sides with complex curvatures. The edges of the acrylic windows are reinforced with fiberglass where the frame screws pass through to secure the window to the frame. The canopy is hinged at the aft, upper edge to open upward.

Examination of the recovered wreckage revealed that the lower fuselage of the airplane was crushed and deformed upward consistent with damage from the forced landing. The left canopy window had a small hole and cracks emanating from the hole coincident with the location of the upper portion of the left seat. A majority of the right canopy window was fractured from the frame. There was damage and deformation to the aft canopy frame and airplane structure above and aft of the upper portion of the right seat.

The right canopy window was reconstructed in the canopy frame by matching the fracture surfaces of the individual pieces utilizing tape to hold the fragments in place. About 70% of the right canopy window was conclusively identified and placed on the reconstruction. The recovered fragments from the aft half of the window were smaller than those from the forward half. Seven small pieces of canopy could not be conclusively placed on the reconstruction. None of the fractures intersected the screw holes around the periphery of the window. There was no evidence of crazing, scratching, or other pre-existing anomalies on the window fragments examined.

Examination of the engine revealed that all fuel lines were intact. The lower portion of the burner ring was impact damaged. All of the environmental control system was intact. The fuel control unit lever linkage was impact damaged. The power lever moved by hand from stop to stop. Dirt debris was observed throughout the engine from the inlet to the exhaust tailpipe.

NTSB Probable Cause

The in-flight failure of the canopy and subsequent loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

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