Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Freeman Heritage Collection SE5A, N685SE, owned and operated by Training Services Incorporated: Accident occurred October 03, 2017 in Virginia Beach, Virginia

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Richmond, Virginia

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

Training Services Inc: http://registry.faa.gov/N685SE

NTSB Identification: ERA18LA003
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, October 03, 2017 in Virginia Beach, VA
Aircraft: FREEMAN HERITAGE COLLECTION SE5A, registration: N685SE
Injuries: 1 Minor.

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 October 3, 2017, about 0830 eastern daylight time Freeman Heritage Collection SE5A; N685SE, owned and operated by Training Services Incorporated, was substantially damaged during a forced landing after a partial loss of power during initial climb at Virginia Beach Airport (42VA), Virginia Beach, Virginia. The airline transport pilot sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed, for the local test flight, which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The accident airplane had been assembled by the Fighter Factory, which was a division of the Warplane Heritage Museum, from parts obtained from the Freeman Heritage Collection, and was operated in the experimental exhibition category.

According to the museum's chief pilot, on the previous day, he had started, taxied, and fast taxied (with the tail up), to ensure the airplane was operating properly for its first flight after being assembled. The intent was to fly it that day, but the wind speed and direction became unfavorable and he decided to fly it early the next morning while there was little or no wind. All the checks that were done on the ground that day were completed satisfactorily, and he was comfortable that the airplane was ready for flight.

On the morning of the accident, the winds were calm. They started the airplane, and the pilot taxied out to runway 29. He chose this runway, so the sun would not be in his eyes on take-off and landing. The airplane started and ran well during taxi and run-up. He advanced the power slowly and the engine ran "perfectly" as the aircraft quickly accelerated and became airborne.

Once in the air, he would normally check all gauges and assess how an airplane was running and would pull power back and land back on the runway if there were any questions whatsoever about its airworthiness. The airplane "was running like a top" and had immediately accelerated easily to 80 mph. Watching the flight's progression for the next few seconds, the pilot committed to continue the flight, as it was running perfectly. When he was about 200-300 feet agl, and more than 3/4 of the way down the runway, he sensed that the engine was losing power, even though he could hear no change in sound of the engine. By the end of the departure end of the runway, it had become apparent that it was losing power, even though it sounded unchanged.

He then started a gradual left turn, looked at the airspeed and noticed it was at 60 mph, and it had stopped increasing. He made a few minor changes in the throttle setting and it made no difference at the higher end. The pilot then made a very small adjustment in the mixture to see if it would do anything different. It appeared to make a change for a second but, the engine continued to lose power. Simultaneously, he continued the left turn, hoping to get turned back around and land on the airport property in the opposite direction. The power continued to degrade, and the pilot had to continue to steepen his decent to maintain the airspeed of 60 mph.

He quickly realized that he was not going to make it back to the airport and turned toward a clear residential area that was between him and the airport, and headed for a recently harvested corn field. He continued to try and get the engine to increase power, without result. There was a swampy, wooded area just beyond the cornfield and nowhere to land. He then committed to land in the corn field, and pulled the throttle back to idle and the engine rpm decreased which indicated to him that it was still running, but just not producing enough power to sustain flight.

Approach to, and initial touchdown in, the cornfield was coordinated and smooth. During the touchdown, he was in the landing flare with the main wheels rolling on the ground, and the airplane was decelerating with the tail a couple of inches in the air. He could hear the cut corn stalks, which were 10-12 inches height, being struck by the wheels and landing gear. Suddenly there was a loud "crack", and then a sudden drop, and a very hard vertical stop. The airplane's forward motion then suddenly stopped, and the airplane then nosed over and came to rest.

Examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, revealed that it had sustained substantial damage. The main landing gear was broken in several places, and shifted to the left of the longitudinal axis of the airplane. The upper wings were twisted, and impact damaged, the right front interplane strut was broken, the leading edge of the center section, vertical stabilizer, and rudder were damaged, and one of the propeller blades had broken off from the hub.

According to FAA airman records and pilot records, the pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multi-engine land, and commercial privileges for airplane single-engine land, and airplane single engine sea. He also held type ratings for the BE-400, CE-500, G-S2, HS-125, L-18, LR-JET, MU-300, N-B25, and G-TBM, as well as letters of authorization for the CHV-F4U, CU-P40, DC-AD1, FW-190, ME-262, MOSQUITO, SPITFIRE, YAK-3, YAK-9, and YAK-11. Additionally, he possessed a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine, and airplane multi-engine, and a mechanic certificate with ratings for airframe and powerplant. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on August 19, 2017. He reported that he had accrued 14,475 total hours of flight experience.

According to FAA airworthiness and airplane maintenance records, the airplane's special airworthiness certificate was issued on June 9, 2017. Its most recent condition inspection was completed on June 4, 2017. The engine, had accrued about 6 total hours of operation since major overhaul.

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