Friday, July 18, 2014

Wheeler Express Auriga, N234VV: Accident occurred July 16, 2014 in Manville, New Jersey


NTSB Identification: ERA14LA342
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 16, 2014 in Manville, NJ
Aircraft: HOLMLUND VICTOR P AURIGA, registration: N234VV
Injuries: 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 16, 2014, about 1010 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Auriga, N234VV, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Central Jersey Regional Airport (47N), Manville, New Jersey. The private pilot incurred serious injuries. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight had been filed. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to an eyewitness, the airplane's engine was heard "sputtering badly" and then impacted nearby trees. According to the pilot, through a family representative, the airplane was above the glidepath, while on final approach, and he attempted a 360 degree turn when the engine quit.

Examination of the wreckage by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that the airplane came to rest inverted, on the top of a berm, about one-quarter of a mile from the approach end of the runway. One wing was impact separated and located in the adjacent trees. The empennage was impact separated but was co-located with the wreckage.

Making Do When the Kit Doesn't Arrive
The Holmlund Wheeler/Auriga

A 73-year-old great-grandfather whose single-engine plane crashed near Central Jersey Regional Airport Wednesday morning is in good spirits and suffered only a few broken bones, according to his grandson, Victor Holmlund.

The pilot, also named Victor Holmlund, was taking off at the airport in the single-engine Auriga plane he built when it crashed in a wooded area, according to Hillsborough police. No one else was injured in the crash.

"He was performing a touch-and-go, where he came in and touched down on the runway and then took back off," said the younger Holmlund. "But when he gave it more throttle in the ascent, the plane stalled. He thinks it may have been a fuel-related issue."

The younger Holmlund said his grandfather is doing well, sitting up and talking after surviving the crash, and should not be in the hospital much longer. A spokesperson for Robert Wood Johnson Hospital said the elder Holmlund is in fair condition.

"It's a miracle, really," the younger Holmlund said.

The elder Holmlund spent 25 years building the Auriga single-engine plane in his garage, affectionately referred to as "the hanger" by his family, his grandson said. The younger Holmlund remembered his grandfather tinkering for at least 10 hours each week, constructing the plane piece-by-piece. 

"It was his pride and joy and building it was no small task," said the younger Holmlund, who also said he's upset by online commenters suggesting his grandfather was inexperienced or his plane wasn't sound. "He has flown at this airport since the late '60s. And he did exactly what he was supposed to do, aiming for someone's backyard where there was plenty of room to land. He almost made it, too, but fell about 10 feet short when one of the wings hit a tree."

The elder Holmlund is a certified FAA airman and serves as president of his local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The younger Holmlund described his grandfather as "awesome," "smart" and "the best kind of grandfather, who would show you how to do something instead of doing it for you."

The younger Holmlund said his grandfather began flying after building and racing motorcycles. The elder Holmlund has five children and several grandchildren, he said.

In August of last year, an EAA publication called Experimenter published a story on the elder Holmlund's plane, describing how he and 25 other pilots manufactured parts themselves when the company that made them went under.

"Adrenaline is almost a narcotic," the elder Holmlund says in the article. "So you always crave some sort of temporary excitement, and learning to fly looked like it might provide that."

Whether his grandfather will fly again is a question the younger Holmlund said he can't answer. 

According to an FAA statement, the accident investigation is ongoing and the National Transportation and Safety Board will determine the likely cause.