Joseph E. "Joe" Schneller
The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.
Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf
Docket And Docket Items - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms
Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf
Semper Fi Aviation LLC: http://registry.faa.gov/N11698
NTSB Identification: CEN15FA264
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Monday, June 08, 2015 in Kadoka, SD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/18/2017
Aircraft: BELLANCA 7GCBC, registration: N11698
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The commercial pilot was departing for an aerial application flight. A witness, who observed the airplane climbing out after takeoff, reported that the airplane was about the same height as nearby light poles and was slipping “slightly to the right,” when the right wing dropped “sharply.” The airplane descended and impacted the ground, and a postimpact fire ensued. A postaccident examination of the wreckage did not reveal any anomalies consistent with preimpact failure or malfunction. Phentermine, a stimulant in the amphetamine class of drugs, was noted in the pilot’s toxicology report. The level of the medication detected was below the therapeutic range, and stimulants typically speed up psychomotor functioning; therefore, it is unlikely that any effects of phentermine contributed to the pilot’s loss of control on takeoff. It is likely that the pilot failed to maintain sufficient airspeed during the initial climb after takeoff, resulting in the airplane’s wing exceeding its critical angle-of-attack and a subsequent aerodynamic stall with insufficient altitude to recover before impacting the ground. The slipping noted by the witness is consistent with uncoordinated flight, which increases the likelihood of a wing dropping when a stall occurs.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain sufficient airspeed during the initial climb after takeoff, which resulted in the airplane’s wing exceeding its critical angle-of-attack and a subsequent aerodynamic stall.
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On June 8, 2015, about 1615 mountain daylight time, a Bellanca model 7GCBC airplane, N11698, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain after takeoff from runway 30 (2,600 feet by 150 feet, gravel/turf) at the Kadoka Municipal Airport (5V8), Kadoka, South Dakota. The pilot was fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to and operated by Semper Fi Aviation, LLC, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an agricultural application flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight was originating at the time of the accident.
A witness observed the airplane climbing out after takeoff. It was about the same height as the light poles at the softball field as it crossed the road. The airplane appeared to be slipping "slightly to the right," when the right wing dropped "sharply." The airplane descended and impacted the ground initially with the right wing. The airplane bounced before coming to rest adjacent to the outfield perimeter fence and light pole. A postimpact fire ensued.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine land airplane and instrument airplane ratings. He was issued a second class airman medical certificate on May 11, 2015, with a limitation for corrective lenses. He reported a total flight time of 1,700 hours, with 70 hours flown within the preceding 6 months, on his application for the medical certificate. The pilot was the sole employee of Semper Fi Aviation, LLC, which was certificated for agricultural aircraft operations under 14 CFR Part 137.
The accident airplane was a 1972 Bellanca model 7GCBC airplane, serial number 358-72. The airframe incorporated a single-engine, high wing design configuration, with two-place tandem seating and a conventional (tailwheel) landing gear arrangement. The airplane was powered by a 150-horsepower Lycoming O-320-A2B four cylinder, reciprocating engine, serial number L-31364-27A. Thrust was provided through a two-bladed, fixed pitch McCauley model 1A175/GMA8040 propeller assembly.
The airplane was initially issued a normal/aerobatic category standard airworthiness certificate in May 1972. The airplane was purchased by the accident operator/pilot on July 29, 2014. Agricultural spray equipment was installed on the accident airplane in October 2014. A restricted category special airworthiness certificate for agricultural and pest control operations was subsequently issued on October 14, 2014.
A revised weight and balance was completed after installation of the spray equipment. In accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration type certificate data sheet and the Civil Aeronautics Manual 8, the maximum gross weight was 2,325 lbs. for agricultural operations with the spray equipment installed. The empty weight was 1,374 lbs. The resulting useful load with the spray equipment installed was 951 lbs.
The basic empty weight is defined to include the airframe, engine, unusable fuel, and any optional or special equipment installed. The useful load is defined as the basic empty weight subtracted from the maximum gross weight. The useful load comprises the weight of the pilot, usable fuel, as well as additional items onboard the airplane.
Weather conditions recorded by the Philip Airport (PHP) Automated Surface Observing System, located about 13 miles north-northwest of the accident site, at 1555 were: wind from 230 degrees at 10 knots, 10 miles visibility, clear sky, temperature 29 degrees Celsius, dew point 13 degrees Celsius, altimeter 29.89 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a grass field about one-eighth mile north of the departure end of runway 30. It came to rest adjacent to the outfield perimeter fence and a light support pole of a softball field. The light support pole exhibited paint transfer marks and minor scraping consistent with a glancing impact from the airplane. A ground impact mark about 3 feet in diameter and about 2 feet deep was located about 20 feet south of the fuselage; about 3 feet south of the left wing tip. Linear impressions emanated toward the south from the ground impact mark consistent with impact of the wing leading edge. The linear marks were oriented consistent with an approximate 270-degree heading on initial impact. The airplane came to rest on its nose with the fuselage and empennage oriented vertically, oriented on an approximate 240-degree bearing. A postimpact fire consumed the majority of the fuselage, as well as the inboard portion of both wings and horizontal stabilizers.
The airplane nose section was crushed aft approximately in line with the wing leading edges. The fuselage was damaged consistent with impact forces. The postimpact fire consumed the aircraft skin along the entire fuselage, aft to the empennage. The cockpit area was compromised consistent with impact forces and the flight instruments were destroyed due to the postimpact fire.
The forward cockpit control stick remained attached to the pivot and torque tube. The aft control stick was located within the cockpit area of the wreckage; however, the postimpact fire had consumed the mating structure. The aileron control cables remained secured to the attachment brackets; however, the attachment brackets had separated from the control system torque tube. The damage appeared consistent with thermal exposure. The aileron crossover cable was separated within the cockpit area, near the airplane centerline. The cable separation was frayed consistent with an overstress failure. The elevator control cables were continuous from the cockpit area to the control surface. The cable attachment to the cockpit push-pull tube had separated consistent with damage due to the postimpact fire. Elevator trim cable continuity was confirmed. The forward rudder pedals were damaged and dislocated consistent with impact forces. Both the forward and aft rudder pedals exhibited damage due to thermal exposure. Rudder cable continuity was confirmed from both sets of rudder pedals to the rudder control surface. Flap control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit flap handle to the flap brackets; however, the attachment brackets had separated from the flaps consistent with impact forces and postimpact fire damage.
The wings were in position relative to the fuselage; although, they had partially separated from the fuselage structure. The inboard portion of both wings had been partially consumed by the postimpact fire. The left and right wing struts remained secured at the respective attachment points. A portion of the left wing spar common to the strut attachment was dislocated from the mating wing structure consistent with impact forces. The right, aft strut was separated near mid-span; the fracture surface appeared consistent with impact forces. The wing fuel tanks sustained damage consistent with impact forces and thermal exposure. The integrity of both fuel tanks was compromised. The ailerons remained attached to the wings. The inboard portion of the right aileron was partially consumed by the postimpact fire. The right aileron control rod between the outboard bellcrank and the control surface was separated; appearance of the separation was consistent with overstress and thermal exposure. The left aileron bellcrank and control rod were intact. Control cable continuity was confirmed within both wings, from the aileron bellcrank to the wing root. The flaps remained attached to each wing.
The empennage remained attached to the aft fuselage. The horizontal and vertical stabilizer support wires were intact. The elevator and rudder remained attached to the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, respectively. The elevator trim tab remained attached. The down elevator stop bolt was not present at the time of the postaccident examination. The elevator and fuselage structure related to the elevator stop appeared otherwise intact and undeformed. Contact marks on the fuselage structure suggested that the bolt was present at the time of impact.
The propeller spinner was crushed aft and toward the right. The propeller remained attached to the engine propeller flange. Both propeller blades appeared intact; although, they exhibited superficial leading edge abrasions and minor chordwise marks. The engine remained attached to the airframe via the engine mount; however, the engine mount was deformed. The engine exhibited discoloration and sooting consistent with a postimpact fire. Internal engine and accessory section continuity was confirmed via crankshaft rotation. Compression and suction were obtained at all cylinders. The spark plugs exhibited normal operating signatures. Borescope examination of the cylinders did not reveal any anomalies. The carburetor remained attached to the engine. The throttle (butterfly) valve and mixture control were free to rotate. The carburetor exhibited thermal damage; however, disassembly did not reveal any preimpact anomalies. The fuel screen was free of debris. Both magnetos and the ignition harness sustained thermal damage. Teardown examination of the magnetos did not reveal and preimpact anomalies.
No evidence of a preimpact airframe structural failure or flight control system anomaly was observed. In addition, the engine examination did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a preimpact failure or malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was conducted at the Rapid City Regional Hospital on June 10, 2015. The autopsy did not identify any significant natural disease. The pilot's death was attributed to blunt trauma injuries sustained as a result of the accident.
The toxicology test report issued by the FAA Civil Aero Medical Institute stated:
No carbon monoxide detected in Blood;
No ethanol detected in Urine;
Phentermine detected in Urine;
0.074 (ug/ml, ug/g) Phentermine detected in Blood.
Phentermine is a stimulant in the amphetamine class of drugs.