Unairworthy airplane, out of practice pilot proves fatal

Aircraft: Velocity RG. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Sanford, N.C. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The 375-hour pilot had owned the airplane for seven years and in that time had flown it for a total of 24 hours. His last flight took place 18 months before the fatal accident.

The airplane’s airworthiness certificate was issued in 1996. According to airplane and maintenance records, the airplane had accrued 143.8 total aircraft hours as of May 2011. The most recent annual inspection was completed March 1, 2008, at 131.8 total aircraft hours, three years before the accident.

Five months before the accident, the pilot requested that the local maintenance facility draft a list of discrepancies that would require correction to return the airplane to an airworthy condition. The discrepancy list included the frozen turbocharger waste gate.

According to fueling records at the airport, the airplane was last fueled on March 21, 2010, at which time the airplane was serviced with 43 gallons of 100LL. The airport manager stated that he was “reasonably certain” that the airplane had not flown since that date.

The airport manager said that the pilot/owner would come out to the airport, tinker with the airplane, start the engine, and taxi the airplane, but that the airplane had not flown in years.

Two pilots operating in the traffic pattern of the departure airport at the time of the accident described a takeoff roll for the airplane that was twice as long as expected. They observed the airplane at “very low” altitude, in a continuous, descending left turn in the vicinity of the crosswind to downwind legs of the traffic pattern. The airplane then disappeared from view, and a fireball appeared from the woods.

Examination of the wreckage revealed no pre-impact mechanical anomalies in the flight control system, but it did reveal that the turbocharger waste gate was frozen in a nearly full-open position due to corrosion. This discrepancy resulted in a loss of available boost pressure and significantly reduced available power. If the pilot had flown more recently, it is possible that he may have recognized that the airplane was not performing normally and aborted the takeoff.

Probable cause: The pilot/owner’s intentional flight of his airplane with known mechanical discrepancies, which resulted in a partial loss of engine power and subsequent collision with trees and terrain shortly after takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of recent experience.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA504

This September 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Comments

  1. Vaughn S. Price says

    I HAVE OVER 15000 HRS GENERAL AVIATION FOR MY WIFES SAKE I DID NOT FLY FOR 45 YEARS. WHEN SHE PASSED I WENT TO AN AIRPORT AND ASKED FOR AN INSTRUCTOR AND AN AERONCA CHAMP. GUESS WHAT? THE CHAMP FLEW JUST LIKE IT DID IN 1946, BUT DISCRETION NEVER HURT ANYBODY. THEN INTO CESSNA 172S TO MEET FAA 10 HOUR REQUIREMENTS. THATS WHEN I FIRST NOTICED THE RESTRICTION ON UP ELEVATORS IN LATER MODEL CESSNAS. ITS NO WONDER THE LANDING ACCIDENT RATES ARE SO HIGH. WHY NOT JUST TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO CONTROL AN AIRPLANE INSTEAD OF TRYING TO KEEP THEM ALIVE FROM A DESK IN OKLAHOMA CITY FAA

  2. Mack says

    P.S. When I “win the lottery”, I will name my own plane, the “Holy Grail”! (and dump inordinate sums of money into it’s upkeep!).

    In the meantime, my lowly Cherokee, flys almost daily, as naturally as sleep is, to people!

  3. Mack says

    Maybe there is another lesson to be learned, here. The low flight time could be attributed to over- regulation of the industry.

    We all know that building and owning a Velocity, is an expensive endeavor, $200,000-300,000, for most of them.

    We do have our “holy grails” in life, though, much to the consternation of spouse and family.

    With the holy grail comes the holy word, and the no expense spared for the compliance of regulations. We see safety, not for what it is, but as homage to an aviation god, a god with which we choose to believe, in return for immunity to the inherent danger of flight.

    Money is the solution, common sense is the detractor.

    We have made a hill, too steep to climb.

    Couldn’t we return to common sense? Couldn’t we see flight as a thoughtful endeavor that needs to be encouraged, and not held back? Can’t we face the reality of our own mortality, and respond to it as our individual intellects dictate?

    Shouldn’t we ourselves know our discrepancies and take our own steps to mitigate them?

    Then we could fly, and those that know best could prosper doing it, and those that will perish, will perish regardless, by disease, or disaster.

  4. says

    Since this accident happened in South Carolina, a waste gate stuck full open would still permit the engine to generate sea level power. After reading the full NTSB narrative I believe the pilot’s physical (taking meds for high BP and evidence of cirrosis of the liver) and mental conditions, plus his lack of recent flying experience are much more likely to be the primary causal factors than the wastegate

    • Mark Ohlau says

      With regard to the engine being able to develop rated power due to being at sea level……Maybe not. The engine was rated to achieve full power at 36.5″ hg and a certain RPM. If that MP was not available due to the wastegate frozen, it would not achieve it’s rated power. The engine was described as a TO-360. This means that it was a Turbocharged Opposed 360 cu in engine. As such, it likely has a lower compression ratio than a common O-360 engine that is quite prevalent. It would not make rated power without the turbo boosting the MP.

  5. Tom says

    24 hours over 7 years? Why didn’t he just sell it to someone who would use it? I get so frustrated seeing these rotting airplanes sitting around when there are students or low-time pilots who would kill to have them. If your plane has sat around long enough for all tires to be flat, sell the thing since you aren’t flying enough. By the time it does get sold, the value is half of what it should be because of the repair work to make it airworthy, and the risk of running an engine that may shred a camshaft in 50 hours. Do yourself a favor and recoup a few dollars, and bring joy to a new owner that will fly that bird and keep it shape.

    I looked at a Mooney that had set for several years because the owner had died. The family wouldn’t sell it because it was his baby. None of them were pilots, so it sat in a hangar. Still, it looked good, but AD’s had come due and passed, the tanks were leaking, and I would bet that the cam was pitted from years without oil. I figured on a minimum of 10k to get it trustworthy, and a possible engine overhaul in the near future. What a waste!

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