Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Arion Lightning, N273DB: Accident occurred July 10, 2017 in New River, Maricopa County, Arizona

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf 


NTSB Identification: WPR17LA148
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, July 10, 2017 in New River, AZ
Aircraft: CHARLES J NORRIS ARION LIGHTNING, registration: N273DB
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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 10, 2017, about 0745 mountain standard time, an experimental light sport Arion Lightning airplane, N273DB, was substantially damaged in a forced off-airport landing near New River, Arizona. The private pilot was uninjured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

The pilot was also the builder and owner of the airplane, which was based at Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU) Glendale, Arizona. The pilot had changed the propeller pitch and right wing incidence on July 7, and the purpose of the flight was to assess those changes. The pilot fueled the airplane to a total quantity of about 30 gallons. The engine started normally, and after the engine temperatures reached appropriate values, the pilot conducted an engine runup before beginning his taxi out. That runup was normal. The pilot then taxied to runway 1, where he conducted a second runup, which again was normal. While awaiting takeoff clearance, the pilot noticed that the cylinder head temperature (CHT) on the No. 3 cylinder was higher than both normal and the other five cylinders, but still well below its maximum limit. When the airplane began its takeoff roll, the No. 3 cylinder CHT began decreasing, and aligned with the other CHT values during the climbout.

The pilot conducted the climbout at 2,660 rpm, and leveled off temporarily at 2,500 feet. Shortly thereafter, the pilot increased the rpm to 2,800 for a climb to a higher altitude. He noticed that the engine "did not feel as if it were operating smoothly," and switched the fuel selector from the left tank to the right tank. As the airplane was passing through 5,980 feet, the pilot felt a loss of power, and the rpm decreased to 1,450. An instrument scan indicated to the pilot that the engine was still running, but manipulation of the throttle did not result in any rpm changes. The pilot leveled off and began a right turn back to the southwest, towards Deer Valley Airport (DVT) Deer Valley, Arizona. He unsuccessfully attempted to contact DVT air traffic control tower, changed his transponder code to 7700, and began searching for a suitable landing site. He also slowed to best glide speed, and verified that the ignition switch was set to the 'BOTH' position. The pilot initially set up for a landing on a plateau, and during his turn from base to final, the rpm decreased to about 1,000.

The airplane was going too fast to land on the plateau, so the pilot selected a new landing site just beyond the plateau. He added full flaps, turned off the fuel, and landed on the undulating desert terrain. The landing gear collapsed, the propeller struck the ground, and the airplane slid to a stop. The pilot shut off all the switches, except for the emergency locator transmitter (ELT), which had activated. He exited the airplane, called his wife and then the owner of the local facility that he used to build the airplane, in order to begin the airplane recovery process. A local resident drove up to provide assistance. He and the pilot collected some debris, and then the pilot called the DVT manager to notify him of the accident, who then contacted the FAA and NTSB. Several first responder vehicles and then a Phoenix Police helicopter arrived, and during the discussions, the pilot was asked to shut off the ELT, which he did. The airplane was recovered later that day to a secure facility for future examination. About 25 gallons of fuel were obtained from the airplane fuel tanks during the recovery process.

According to pilot, he had purchased the airframe as a kit, along with a brand new, pre-assembled Jabiru 3300 series engine. He completed construction of the airplane at a dedicated build center near Phoenix in 2016. The pilot reported that the airplane and engine had accumulated about 63 hours total time (TT) in service at the time of the accident. The pilot reported that he had about 60 hours TT in the airplane. He also reported that in January 2017, when the airplane had a TT of about 33 hours, due to a rough-running engine, he replaced the engine-driven fuel pump that was found to be internally damaged.

The 0753 automated weather observation at DVT, located about 17 miles south of the accident site, included variable winds at 3 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 32 degrees C, dew point 14 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 29.91 inches of mercury.

The pilot of a small plane was uninjured following a crash landing Monday morning near New River.

"He is extremely lucky because this is a one in a millionth landing," said David Maxwell, a Daisy Mountain Fire Department spokesman.

The pilot was the only person aboard the home-built Arion Lightning when it crashed under unknown circumstances around 7:45 a.m. near Interstate 17 and New River Road, about 14 miles northwest of Deer Valley Airport, according to an Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The pilot was able to exit the plane on his own and no injuries were reported, according to fire and aviation officials.

It wasn't clear where the pilot had taken off from or where the craft was headed.

"He was evaluated by medical and refused further medical treatment, " Maxwell said, adding that the pilot told authorities he had been flying "an experimental plane."


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