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N168RW accident description

Oregon map... Oregon list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Bend, OR
44.058173°N, 121.315310°W
Tail number N168RW
Accident date 20 Jun 1997
Aircraft type Wolf SMITH M/P DSA-1
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On June 20, 1997, approximately 1519 Pacific daylight time, an experimental-category Wolf Smith Miniplane DSA-1, N168RW, collided with terrain approximately 1/4 mile northeast of the runway at the Bend, Oregon airport. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire, and the airline transport pilot of the single-seat biplane was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions existed and no flight plan had been filed for the 14 CFR 91 flight which had departed from Bend.

Witnesses reported that the aircraft took off on Bend runway 16 and circled the airport in a counterclockwise direction for several minutes. The airplane was then observed to maneuver for a position resembling a right base for runway 16, although the normal airport traffic flow for that runway is to the left. The witnesses reported that the airplane subsequently flew to the east of the runway extended centerline, and that the aircraft then entered an abrupt descent (with some witnesses reporting the aircraft going inverted) after initiating a sharp turn between approximately 50 and 100 feet above ground level. The aircraft was observed to continue in this descent until ground impact.

One witness, who observed the accident sequence as the pilot of a Beech Bonanza aircraft waiting in the runway 16 approach-end runup area, stated that he observed the accident airplane turn from right base to final, and that he noted once it was established on final that its propeller was stopped. This witness stated that at that same time, another aircraft was starting its takeoff roll in the opposite direction, on runway 34 (NOTE: Bend is a non-towered airport.) The Bonanza pilot stated that he then announced on the radio to the airplane taking off that a "Pitts" was on final and its propeller was stopped. He stated that just after this radio call, he observed the accident aircraft turn sharply left (to the east), and that the aircraft then entered its abrupt descent to ground impact. The Bonanza pilot stated that the accident aircraft impacted the ground before the airplane taking off reached the accident aircraft's position.

Another witness stated that he observed a black substance trailing from the aircraft as it maneuvered north of the airport. Most witnesses interviewed reported either that they did not hear the aircraft's engine (they stated that the aircraft is normally very noisy) or that its engine noise stopped.

The Bend city waste water treatment plant, located 1 to 1 1/2 miles north-northwest of the airport, reported on June 24, 1997 to the NTSB's Seattle office that they had located an unidentified piece of the accident aircraft at a location about 3,800 feet north-northwest of the north end of the runway. The plant subsequently shipped this piece to the NTSB's Seattle office. The component was a shaped piece of yellow-painted fiberglass, which had the appearance of an air scoop. The lip of the scoop was abraded about 3/4 of the way around its circumference, and was intact around the remaining 1/4 of its circumference.

The data plate affixed to the accident aircraft's engine indicated that it was a Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 rated at 200 horsepower (commercial reference sources containing information on the Smith Miniplane indicate that the aircraft is designed for use with engines of 65 to 125 horsepower.) Individuals who stated they knew the accident pilot reported to local law enforcement personnel that the accident pilot had removed this engine from a Pitts aircraft. Which he also owned and had nosed over a few weeks before this accident, and had installed it on N168RW along with "a new prop." The accident pilot held a repairman/experimental aircraft builder certificate authorizing him to perform inspections on a Lancair ES airplane, but did not hold an airframe or powerplant mechanic certificate or an FAA authorization to perform maintenance on the accident aircraft. According to the pilot's FAA airman certification records (the FAA aircraft registry further indicated that the accident aircraft was built by an individual other than the accident pilot.) Investigators were unable to locate the airframe, engine, or propeller logbooks of the accident aircraft.

A post-accident wreckage examination and engine teardown was conducted at Specialty Aircraft Company, Redmond, Oregon, on July 8, 1997. Investigators from the FAA and Textron Lycoming participated in this examination. The Textron Lycoming investigator's report of this examination stated that only one of the two propeller blades was found. This blade, which had been found at the accident scene separated from the aircraft, was not fire-damaged and contained yellow chordwise scratches across the back (uncambered) surface of the blade, about 12 inches in from the blade tip. The shank (about 6 inches) of both propeller blades remained attached to the engine crankshaft. The Textron Lycoming investigator's report described the propeller construction as "of a wood core, covered with composite layers", but stated that the make and model of the propeller was not determined. The report stated that "No discrepancies were observed during the examination and teardown of the engine that would have precluded the engine [from] producing power", and indicated that the throttle was found in the fully closed position, with the mixture control in the full lean position.

In a telephone conversation with the accident pilot's brother on August 6, 1997, the pilot's brother stated that the accident aircraft had experienced an inflight propeller blade separation on one previous occasion. The pilot's brother could not recall the exact date of this event, but estimated that it had occurred "a couple years ago."

An autopsy on the pilot was conducted by Central Oregon Pathology Consultants, P.C., Bend, Oregon, on June 22, 1997. The cause of death was given as "Burns suffered in airplane accident."

Toxicology tests on the pilot were performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicology tests detected minoxidil in the pilot's urine and liver fluid, but did not detect minoxidil in the pilot's blood. No other drugs were detected, nor was any carbon monoxide, cyanide, or ethanol detected.

Commercial reference sources give the stall speed of the Smith Miniplane as 56 MPH.

NTSB Probable Cause

An inflight propeller blade separation, and a subsequent evasive turn to avoid traffic by the pilot at an inadequate airspeed resulting in an accelerated stall. Factors were excessive power output of the installed engine, an aircraft taking off in the opposite direction of the landing runway, and the aircraft's low altitude at the time of the stall.

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