Aviation Accident Summaries

Aviation Accident Summary ERA16LA010

Kylertown, PA, USA

Aircraft #1




The private pilot/owner had recently completed the experimental, amateur-built airplane and was conducting the first test flight. The pilot had completed two circuits around his private airstrip before witnesses saw the airplane approaching to land. While on final approach about 50-100 ft above the ground, the airplane suddenly descended and impacted terrain. Of the three witnesses who saw the accident, two stated that the airplane nosed over to ground contact, and one stated that the left wing dropped before the airplane nosed over. Two other individuals heard the engine "rev up" before impact but did not observe the accident. The airplane impacted terrain short of the runway in a nearly vertical, nose-down attitude and sustained extensive damage to the engine, fuselage, wings, and empennage. The tail of the airplane was twisted and bent forward over the fuselage, and there did not appear to be any forward momentum of the airplane at impact, consistent with an aerodynamic stall/spin. The witness accounts of the airplane's nose or wing dropping were also consistent with entry into a stall/spin. Given that the accident flight was the pilot's first flight in the airplane, he was likely unfamiliar with its flight characteristics, and, during the approach for landing, the pilot allowed the airspeed to decay. The airplane subsequently exceeded its critical angle of attack and entered an aerodynamic stall/spin.

Factual Information

On October 12, 2015, at 1835 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Free Bird Classic airplane, N176FB, was destroyed while maneuvering to land at the pilot's private airstrip near Kylertown, Pennsylvania. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions existed near the accident site at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from the private airstrip about 1815.The pilot's son stated that his father had recently built the airplane and this was his first flight. Several witnesses heard the airplane flying circuits around the private airstrip. One witness said the airplane was preparing to land and was about 50 ft above the ground in a level flight attitude when it suddenly nosed over. The witness did not see the impact but heard the crash and immediately responded to the site. Another witness said the airplane made two circuits around the airstrip and was coming into land. While on final approach in a level attitude, at an altitude of about 100 ft above the ground, the right wing suddenly "flipped up" about 90 degrees and the airplane descended toward the ground. The witness did not see the impact, but heard the engine rev up just before the airplane hit the ground. Other witnesses also heard the engine rev up before impact. The airplane came to rest on a road in a steep, nose-down attitude about 500 yds short of the runway. There was no post-impact fire. A review of photos taken by law enforcement shortly after the accident revealed the cockpit and fuselage were crushed, and both wings and the empennage were damaged. The empennage, including the tail control surfaces, were twisted and bent forward over the fuselage. A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector performed a postaccident examination of the wreckage. He stated that the left wing, engine, and the right wing fuel-tank had separated from the airframe and the right wing was "torn apart" which prohibited a complete examination of the flight control system. There were no flight-data recording avionics installed in the airplane. A review of the maintenance logbooks revealed that the FAA issued the airplane a special airworthiness certificate on August 27, 2015. At that time, the airplane had "0" hours. The 83-year old pilot held a private pilot certificate for airplane single-engine land and was a certified repairman, experimental-aircraft builder. A review of his logbook revealed he had a total of 682 flight hours and had completed a flight review with a flight instructor on September 16, 2015. The pilot's last FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in 2005. An autopsy was conducted by the J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital Laboratory. The cause of death was reported as blunt force trauma. The FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology testing on specimens from the pilot, and the results were negative for all items tested. Weather reported at Clearfield-Lawrence Airport (FIG), Clearfield, Pennsylvania, about 17 miles west of the accident site at 1855, was wind variable at 5 knots, visibility 10 miles, and clear skies.

Probable Cause and Findings

The pilot's failure to maintain sufficient airspeed during approach for landing, which resulted in an inadvertent aerodynamic stall/spin. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of flight experience in the accident airplane make and model.


Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database

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