East Windsor, CT, USA
The two private pilots were making a local flight in the airplane, which was equipped with dual flight controls. Both pilots were qualified to fly the airplane, and it could not be determined which pilot was manipulating the flight controls at the time of the accident. Following a flight of about 30 minutes duration, witnesses observed the airplane make a full stop landing, taxi back, and take off to the east. The engine sounded normal during the takeoff and initial climb. One witness then observed the airplane shaking, then tipping left and right, followed by an abrupt turn to the left. The nose of the airplane dropped, and the airplane descended rapidly to ground impact. The wreckage was found in a wooded area about 1/2 mile northeast of the airport in an inverted, nose-low attitude. An examination of the wreckage did not reveal evidence of any preexisting mechanical malfunctions or anomalies. Although the right fuel tank selector handle was installed backwards, the fuel valve was in the correct position for fuel to feed normally. Toxicology testing of the left-seat pilot revealed the presence of diphenhydramine; however, the level detected was too low to quantify and was unlikely to be impairing. Although the exact amount of fuel on board at the time of the accident could not be determined, estimates of the airplane's gross weight indicated that the airplane was between 54 lbs and 156 lbs over maximum gross weight. Based on the witness observation that the wings were rocking before the airplane abruptly turned left and then descended, it is likely that the pilot failed to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering aggressively, which resulted in exceedance of the critical angle of attack and an aerodynamic stall.
HISTORY OF FLIGHTOn April 18, 2017, about 1840 eastern daylight time, a Luscombe 8A, N8554Y, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees and terrain during the initial climb after takeoff from Skylark Airport (7B6), East Windsor, Connecticut. The two private pilots were fatally injured. The airplane was owned and operated by one of the pilots under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. A witness reported that the pilot and passenger pulled the airplane out of its hangar and added fuel. The airplane then took off, and the engine sounded "strong and smooth." The airplane departed the airport traffic pattern for about 30 minutes and returned for landing. After landing, the engine was not shut down, and the occupants did not exit the airplane. About 5 minutes later, the airplane taxied for takeoff. During the takeoff roll, the engine again sounded "strong and smooth." The witness observed the airplane until it was about 50 to 75 ft in the air. He did not notice anything unusual about the airplane or the takeoff. A second witness, who was adjacent to the mid-point of the runway, observed the takeoff and reported that the engine sounded like it was at full power and "normal." The airplane appeared to be at the correct altitude for the takeoff. He called it a "nice and steady takeoff." A third witness, who was standing at the departure end of runway 10, observed the takeoff and reported that, as the airplane passed overhead, it seemed to be lower and slower than most airplanes that he had observed. He then saw the airplane shaking and tipping left and right as it barely cleared the tree line past the end of the runway. He saw the airplane make a "drastic, sharp, and abrupt" turn to the north. He stopped hearing the engine, and the airplane "dropped like a stone." He then called the local authorities to report the accident. PERSONNEL INFORMATIONThe pilot seated in the right seat, who was the registered owner of the airplane, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He reported 292 hours of total flight time on his most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate application, dated March 4, 2016. An examination of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had logged about 305 hours total time at the time of the accident, including 31 hours in the Luscombe. He completed a 14 CFR section 61.56 flight review on January 2, 2017, in a Cessna 172. He had completed his previous flight review on December 27, 2014, in the Luscombe. The pilot seated in the left seat held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He reported 600 hours of total flight time on his application for his most recent FAA third class medical certificate, dated March 24, 2017. A review of his pilot logbook revealed 650 hours total time at the time of the accident, including 37 hours in the Luscombe. He completed a 14 CFR section 61.56 flight review on April 10, 2017, in a Cessna 152. He had completed his previous flight review on March 24, 2015, in the Luscombe. Both pilots were qualified to fly the airplane, and it could not be determined which pilot was manipulating the flight controls at the time of the accident. AIRCRAFT INFORMATIONThe single-engine, high-wing, two-seat, tailwheel-equipped airplane was manufactured in 1946. It was powered by a Continental A65-8 reciprocating engine rated at 65 horsepower. The airplane was not equipped with wing flaps or a stall warning system; dual flight controls were installed. METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATIONThe nearest weather reporting station was located at Bradley International Airport (BDL), Windsor Locks, Connecticut, about 5 miles west of the accident site. The BDL weather at 1851 included wind from 170º at 15 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 2,000 ft, few clouds at 6,500 ft, few clouds at 22,000 ft, temperature 13°C, dew point 0°C, and altimeter setting 30.41 inches of mercury. AIRPORT INFORMATIONThe single-engine, high-wing, two-seat, tailwheel-equipped airplane was manufactured in 1946. It was powered by a Continental A65-8 reciprocating engine rated at 65 horsepower. The airplane was not equipped with wing flaps or a stall warning system; dual flight controls were installed. WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATIONThe airplane came to rest against trees in a wooded area about 1/2 mile northeast of 7B6. The wreckage was found in an inverted, nose-low attitude. All structure and components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. There was no fire. Numerous tree branches were found adjacent to the wreckage; some exhibited smooth, angular cuts and black paint transfer on the cut surfaces. Flight control continuity was established from the ailerons, elevator, and rudder to the cockpit controls. The elevator trim tab was in place on the elevator; however, the trim cable was slack, and the tab moved freely from stop to stop. The airplane was equipped with a fuel tank in each wing. Both fuel caps were found detached from the tanks and on the ground adjacent to the wreckage. The rubber seals inside each cap were dried, cracked, and chipped. The vent tubes on the caps were unobstructed. A small amount of residual fuel, which could not be quantified, was observed in the tanks. The left tank fuel selector handle was in the "OFF" position. The right tank fuel selector valve was found in the "ON" position; however, the handle was installed backwards. In this configuration, fuel fed from the right tank without restriction. The wreckage was recovered to a storage facility where an examination of the engine was performed. The engine was removed from the airframe to facilitate the examination. The top spark plugs were removed for inspection. The electrodes were normal in wear and color when compared to a Champion Check-A-Plug chart. The carburetor was broken off due to impact; the intake system remained attached to the carburetor. The foam intake element was covered in organic debris from impact with the ground. The cylinder rocker covers were removed for the examination. The engine was rotated by hand-turning the propeller. Compression and suction were observed on all cylinders, and valve action was correct. The ignition harness leads were damaged and/or severed by impact forces. The magnetos were removed and installed on a test stand. Both magnetos produced spark on all leads when the magnetos were rotated. The No. 1 cylinder exhaust tube was cracked from impact, and there was corrosion/rust in the area. The cylinder cooling fins in the area near the exhaust port were discolored. The No. 1 cylinder was removed and inspected; there were visible deposits of an unknown nature on the exhaust and intake valves. The valves were intact and showed no signs of excessive wear or burning. The carburetor was partially disassembled. The carburetor bowl was clean and dry; there was no fuel residue evident. The brass float was intact and operable. The inlet fuel screen was clean and free of debris. The venturi was in place, and the intake was unobstructed. The fuel strainer was broken free, and the bowl was missing; no fuel residue was found. MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATIONThe State of Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Farmington, Connecticut, performed autopsies of the two pilots. For both pilots, the cause of death was blunt impact injuries of the head, torso, and extremities. The FAA's Bioaeronautical Research Sciences Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing on specimens from both pilots. For the right-seat pilot, valsartan, a medication used to treat high blood pressure, was detected in the blood and liver; this medication is not generally considered impairing. For the left-seat pilot, an unquantifiable amount of diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, was detected in the urine but not in the blood. TESTS AND RESEARCHDuring the wreckage examination, the airplane's weight at the time of the accident was estimated. Based on the airplane's maintenance records, the maximum allowable gross weight was 1,260 pounds (lbs), and the empty weight, not including fuel, oil, baggage/cargo, or occupants, was 881 lbs. The combined weight of the occupants, based on the autopsy findings, was 355 lbs. The miscellaneous items found inside and outside the cockpit were weighed and totaled 37 lbs. The weight of the engine oil was about 7 lbs. The empty weight of the airplane plus the weight of the occupants, miscellaneous items, and engine oil was about 1,280 lbs or 20 lbs over the maximum allowable gross weight. The airplane's fuel tanks held a total of 25 gallons, and fuel records indicated that 8 gallons were added before the first flight that day. The amount of fuel in the tanks before refueling could not be determined. The weight of 100 low lead aviation gasoline is about 6 lbs per gallon. Notes found inside the cockpit indicated that the airplane used about 4.5 gallons per hour, and a witness reported that the airplane flew for about 30 minutes after fueling. Given a maximum fuel capacity of 25 gallons, the estimated fuel on board at the time of the accident was between 5.75 gallons (minimum) and 22.75 gallons (maximum), or between 34.5 lbs and 136.5 lbs. The airplane's gross weight at the time of the accident was estimated to be between 1,314.5 lbs and 1,416.4 lbs or between 54.5 and 156.5 lbs over the maximum allowable gross weight.
The flying pilot's excessive maneuvering of the airplane at a slow airspeed, which resulted in exceedance of the critical angle of attack and an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilots' operation of the airplane over its maximum allowable gross weight.
Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database
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