Wednesday, July 5, 2017

O'Dell Aeromaster, N55J: Fatal accident occurred July 30, 2015 at Sulphur Springs Municipal Airport (KSLR), Texas

David L. German

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Irving, Texas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA329
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, July 30, 2015 in Sulphur Springs, TX
Aircraft: O'DELL AEROMASTER, registration: N55J
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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 30, 2015, at 1941 central daylight time, an experimental amateur-built O'Dell Aeromaster, N55J, experienced a total loss of engine power and impacted terrain during climb after takeoff from runway 1 (5,001 feet by 75, concrete) at Sulphur Springs Municipal Airport (SLR), Sulphur Springs, Texas. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post-crash fire. The private pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was recently purchased by the pilot but was still registered to the previous airplane owner. The airplane was operated by the pilot under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight that was not operating on a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight was originating at the time of the accident and was en route to an unknown destination.

Witnesses observed the airplane taxi to the runway and take off, not performing any preflight or engine run-up. The engine ran smoothly until the aircraft was 200 feet above ground level, back-fired and experienced a total loss of engine power. The pilot maintained the same nose-up attitude and turned to the left, causing the left wing to stall. The airplane stalled entered a ½ turn stall-spin toward the left and impacted the ground, left wing and nose first. 

A Federal Aviation Administration Aviation Safety Inspector stated that about two weeks prior to the accident the pilot purchased the accident airplane from the previous airplane owner in Lufkin, Texas, located about 150 miles south of SLR. The previous owner explained the very sensitive engine mixture controls and warned the pilot several times not to lean the engine on takeoff and never below 3,000 feet mean sea level (msl). The previous owner stated that the pilot did not seem to pay attention to his instructions and appeared distracted. The previous owner stated that the pilot mentioned that he could not understand why the engine should not be leaned on takeoff because the pilot said that he always had to lean the mixture on takeoff when he flew other airplane(s). The previous owner explained to the pilot that Lufkin,Texas, was only at 450 feet above msl, not the 4,500 feet msl the pilot was used to. 

The previous owner stated that the pilot did not want any instruction in the airplane, but the previous owner insisted and took the pilot for a one-hour familiarization flight in the airplane. The previous owner stated that during the familiarization flight, the pilot leaned the mixture on takeoff, the engine quit. The previous owner pushed the mixture control back to full rich, the engine started, and the flight continued. The pilot leaned the mixture again during the flight, below 3,000 feet msl, causing the engine to run rough. The previous owner, again, returned to mixture control to full rich, and the engine smoothed out. The pilot, again, was told by the previous owner not to lean the mixture below 3,000 feet msl and never on takeoff.

The previous owner stated that the pilot was "… ancy [sic] and in a hurry to leave". The previous owner stated that the pilot did not have any aviation navigation sectional charts in his possession. The pilot did not preflight the aircraft prior to the departing flight and did not check weather nor file a flight plan for his departure from Lufkin, Texas. The pilot then landed at SLR and reported the engine was running rough to maintenance personnel located at the airport. 

On July 18, 2015, an aircraft mechanic at the SLR examined the airplane and engine and made the following observations:

1. Both airspeed indicators indicate 50 miles per hour while in the hangar.

2. Gascolator leaking fuel.

3. Exhaust leak at number 1 cylinder.

4. No emergency locator transmitter installed in the airplane.

5. No fuel shutoff on the top fuel tank.

6. No fuel quantity indicators.

7. No master switch or circuit breakers.

8. Brake fluid around the right tire. Found the brake piston installed backwards, causing the O-ring to leak.

9. All of the aileron trailing edges were broken away from the aileron ribs.

10. Flying wires and landing wires were too loose.

11. No javelins on wires.

12. No battery master switch installed. The electrical power was always "on".

13. A two sided switch was installed for the starter. One side was "momentary on" and the other switch was glued in place, not functioning.

14. The required "EXPERMENTAL" placard was not installed as required by the Operating Limitations assigned at the time the Special (Experimental) Airworthiness Certificate was issued.

15. A bushing was made by tying a knot in clothes line rope on the throttle shaft in order to act as a travel stop.

16. All installed safety wire were too small and many times backwards.

17. All cotter keys too small for the fasteners.

18. Landing gear bungees too soft and worn out.

19. Right lower wing had a broken rib.

20. The engine had three different types of spark plugs installed, all worn beyond limits and oil fouled.

21. The number 5 cylinder, lower spark plug was found to be finger tight.

22. The engine was 5 quarts low on oil.

23. Various hardware missing from the engine cowling.

24. Fuel line fittings were aluminum, not steel.

25. Fuel lines were hydraulic hoses, not fuel lines.

26. The carburetor was installed backwards.

The mechanic was asked by the pilot to "annual" the aircraft. The mechanic refused, stating that the airplane was in too rough of condition and should be completely dismantled and rebuilt. The pilot was told by two certificated mechanics and two other experiential aircraft builders that the aircraft was unsafe and should be taken apart and "trailered" home.

The mechanic repaired the leaking brake and replaced all of the spark plugs, serviced the oil and ran the engine. The magnetos were checked and appeared to function properly. The engine started easily and appeared to run smoothly.

On July 30, 2015, the pilot pumped 19.7 gallons of fuel into the top fuel tank and asked the mechanic if he would fly with him. The mechanic refused and again told the pilot not to fly the aircraft. 

The airplane was destroyed by a post-crash fire. Impact forces and post-crash fire precluded functional testing of the airplane, engine, and its accessories.

The pilot's last airman medical certificate was issued January 2000 and at that time the pilot reported a total of 151 flight hours.

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