Saturday, February 25, 2012

Debay Dragonfly Mark II, N25JD: Accident occurred July 02, 2003 near Flying Cloud Airport (FCM), Eden Prairie, Minnesota

In 2003, Mark Felling's life changed in a field in Eden Prairie. He had crashed his experimental plane. The crash left him paralyzed from his armpits down.

Felling spent months at the Courage Center in Golden Valley learning how to get on with his life and live independently.

"In life we all have two choices, and that's to live or die," said Felling, a resident of Maple Grove. "In these kinds of situations, it's yourself, that you have to let go of, or your former self, the idea or vision you had of who you were going to be."

Felling took on the challenge of his situation. After rehab, Felling started a company called Broadened Horizons, and he developed some pretty cool gadgets.

The engineer came up with a hand device that has a motor attached to it.

"Anyone who has some arm movement, but not able to grasp things can reach out and pick up a fork, or a glass of water," said Felling of the device.

Felling also developed adaptive video controllers that make it easier for people with disabilities to use the PlayStation or Nintendo Wii. The device allows people with no use of their arms to use their chin to control the joystick.

"If I'm a father with a disability and I have a child, I can't go throw the football with him or the baseball, but I can play a video game with him," Felling said.

Felling also has a passion to make other countries more wheelchair accessible. He recently went to India and plans to visit Australia this summer.

"I figure while I'm there I would or while I'm traveling there I definitely want to increase awareness," Felling said of his disability. "There are opportunities for new excitement, for reasons to get up in the morning, and yeah, it's going to take a few more hours to get going but I still got the rest of your day to do something new."

NTSB Identification: CHI03LA192.
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 02, 2003 in Eden Prairie, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/03/2004
Aircraft: Debay Dragonfly Mark II, registration: N25JD
Injuries: 1 Serious.

The pilot was seriously injured and the experimental amateur-built airplane was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain during a forced landing following a loss of engine power after takeoff. The amateur-built airplane was powered by a Volkswagen derived automobile engine with capacitive discharge ignition and a slide type carburetor. According to the manufacturer, the carburetor is not susceptible to carburetor icing because it does not incorporate a venturi. During an interview, the pilot stated that he had aircraft control during the forced landing. He stated that he had previous problems with the carburetor, and his internet website also listed problems, repairs and modifications made to the carburetor. The website indicated that the carburetor needle had been replaced, the carburetor slide had been modified and the throttle cable had been replaced. The website indicated that the mixture was "sensitive" and leaning was required in cruise flight or the "engine sputters from being too rich!" The website also states that the mixture during landing rollout "seems quite rich and [the engine] likes to die out" A section of the website titled "Repairs / Improvements to be made but are not stopping flight", listed "Continue to refine mixture / carb settings" as a listed item. Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed that the engine could be rotated, valve train continuity was confirmed and each cylinder produced "thumb compression." The ignition system was not tested. The linkages to the carburetor were damaged during the impact; however, no pre-impact defects could be found.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's intentional operation of the airplane with a known deficiency with regard to an improper carburetor calibration that led to the loss of engine power. The improperly calibrated carburetor and the trees were contributing factors.