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N911N accident description

West Virginia map... West Virginia list
Crash location 39.340555°N, 80.014444°W
Nearest city Grafton, WV
39.340925°N, 80.018966°W
0.2 miles away
Tail number N911N
Accident date 22 Jan 2001
Aircraft type Whittman Tailwind DN-1
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On January 22, 2001, about 1630 eastern standard time, a Whittman Tailwind DN-1 homebuilt airplane, N911N, was substantially damaged while maneuvering near Grafton, West Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that departed Allaire Airport (BLM), Belmar, New Jersey; destined for Mason County Airport (3I2), Point Pleasant, West Virginia. No flight plan was filed for the ferry flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

Prior to the day of the accident, the pilot had not flown the make and model accident airplane. According to the operator of the airplane, the pilot "topped off" the 24-gallon fuel tank with 21.5 gallons of 100LL. The pilot then performed two takeoffs and landings, to familiarize himself with the airplane. The two takeoffs and landings took about 20 minutes. He then let the airplane engine idle on the ground, for about 20 minutes, while he prepared for his cross-country flight. The pilot departed about 1400 for the flight to 3I2, with the intention of delivering the airplane to a new owner.

A witness, who was piloting a different airplane, intended to follow the accident pilot to 3I2. The witness stated that once airborne, the accident airplane flew slower than the accident pilot had planned. The witness had to reduce his airspeed from 140 knots to "about" 120 knots to stay with the accident airplane. About 5-10 miles past Garret County Airport (2G4), Oakland, Maryland, the witness lost sight of the accident airplane. He assumed that the accident airplane had landed at 2G4 to refuel. The witness landed at Clarksburg, West Virginia, refueled, and proceeded uneventfully to 3I2.

Another witness, who lived near Rock Lake, West Virginia, stated that he observed a blue and white airplane circling the lake about 200-300 feet agl, "about" 1630. He heard the engine noise cease, then the airplane banked right, and the engine noise returned. The airplane gradually began to climb, but then the engine noise ceased for a second time, and the airplane disappeared from sight.

The wreckage was located on January 27, 2001, in a wooded area about 1.5 miles southeast of Rock Lake. According to the Deputy Chief of the Windfield, West Virginia Fire Department, bloody handprints were present on the overhead cockpit panel, pilot-side door, and emergency location transmitter (ELT) case. There was no evidence the pilot was wearing a shoulder harness, but his lap belt was unfastened and exhibited a bloody handprint on the fastener. The Deputy Chief further stated that the evidence was consistent with the pilot initially surviving the accident, unfastening his seatbelt, and attempting to active the ELT and egress the airplane.

The wreckage was examined by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector. The inspector was able to rotate the propeller by hand, and confirm crankshaft and camshaft continuity. He noted that the fuel tank was not compromised during the impact, and appeared absent of fuel. Additionally, the inspector did not find fuel in the fuel lines or carburetor. He did observe approximately 1/4 inch of fuel at the bottom of the fuel bowl. When the wreckage was recovered; the inspector instructed the salvage crew to invert it, in an attempt to drain fuel from the tank, but no fuel flowed from the tank.

The inspector added that the accident site was approximately 100 nautical miles east of 3I2, and the airplane's emergency locator transmitter (ELT) did not have a battery installed. Review of the airframe logbook revealed an entry dated January 16, 2001; "ELT removed for repairs this date..."

The prior owner stated he performed the most recent annual inspection on the accident airplane, on January 16, 2001. Prior to the inspection, the airplane was in storage for about 1 year. The owner added that the ELT did not transmit during testing for the annual inspection; therefore, he made the logbook entry. Additionally, the owner stated that the accident airplane cruised about 110 knots.

A paper found in the wreckage revealed that the accident pilot had planned the flight to be 2 hours and 30 minutes, at 150 knots.

According to the engine manufacturer, the make and model accident engine consumed 7.2 gallons of fuel per hour during performance cruise (75% rated). Review of the data revealed that at performance cruise, for 3 hours and 15 minutes, the engine would consume approximately 23.4 gallons of fuel.

An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, West Virginia. The autopsy report indicated that the pilot died from the rupture of a pre-existing abdominal aortic aneurysm. However, the medical examiner could not positively confirm that the rupture of the aneurysm occurred after the impact.

Toxicological testing was conducted at the FAA toxicology Accident research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the toxicology report:

"0.238 (ug/ml, ug/g) MORPHINE detected in Urine." Review of the medical records by the Safety Board's Medical Officer could not positively confirm if the pilot had taken morphine before of after the accident. According to the pilot's brother, the pilot was taking prescription medication. However, the brother did not know what medication the pilot was taking, nor did he know what the pilot's ailments were.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper preflight planning, which resulted in fuel exhaustion. A factor was the pilot's lack of familiarity with the airplane.

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