Sunday, February 24, 2019

Challenger II Clipped Wing Special, N2621T: Fatal accident occurred March 11, 2017 at Oakdale Airport (O27), Stanislaus County, California

D. Leon Shaeffer
February 1939 ~ March 2017

Leon was an avid pilot and died doing what he loved. Second only to his love for his family, he loved to fly. He was an experienced and recognized pilot for over 50 years and spent many of his younger years as a flight instructor. In 2013, he received a prestigious FAA award for his involvement in setting pilot certification standards and was recognized for meeting or exceeding the high educational licensing and medical standards established by the FAA. He was the current Vice President for the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 90 of Oakdale, California. He was a kind, gentle and thoughtful man and dearly loved by his family and friends. We know he is now with his Lord and will be missed.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Fresno, California

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Oakdale, CA
Accident Number: WPR17FA077
Date & Time: 03/11/2017, 1030 PST
Registration: N2621T
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control on ground
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On March 11, 2017, about 1030, Pacific standard time, a Challenger II light-sport airplane, N2621T, landed on the runway safety area (RSA) near the approach end of runway 10 and subsequently impacted a vehicle at the Oakdale Municipal Airport (O27), Oakdale, California. The commercial pilot was fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed near the airport and no flight plan was filed for the local flight.

According to the airport caretaker, the pilot left his hangar door open, departed from runway 10 and entered the left traffic pattern. He stated that he heard the airplane on the downwind leg and that he did not see the airplane on the final approach or landing but heard an explosion. He subsequently responded to the accident site where a postimpact fire had ensued. A second witness, who was outside her house when she heard the airplane overhead, stated that she is often outside and hears airplanes pass over her house, which is below the downwind leg of the traffic pattern. She said that the accident airplane sounded different, which was what brought it to her attention. She did not witness the accident sequence. A third witness, who was at his residence, where he lived for over 50 years, stated that he heard an airplane performing several takeoffs and landings. During the last landing, he heard the airplane's wheels contact the ground, the engine advanced to full power, and then an explosion. Subsequently, he saw fire at the accident site, about 800 ft south of his location. He said that the engine sounded normal during the flight. 

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane touched down left of the approach end of the runway in the runway safety area (RSA), and left 200-ft-long tire tracks in the dirt and gravel. The tracks veered left toward the visual approach slope indicator, where the left turn increased. The tracks continued toward the taxiway into a grassy area in front of the pilot's hangar. The two tracks, the right larger than the left, continued 20 ft into low vegetation and then another 30 ft and ended near the pilot's truck. The airplane came to rest along the truck's left side. The airplane and truck sustained impact and fire damage. See figure 1 for an aerial view of the accident site.

Figure 1. Aerial View of the Accident Site

Pilot Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial
Age: 78, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Front
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Single-engine
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/01/2013
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 04/27/2012
Flight Time: (Estimated) 1977 hours (Total, all aircraft), 6 hours (Total, this make and model) 

The 78-year-old pilot held a commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates, with airplane single-engine land airplane ratings. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class airman medical certificate was issued on June 29, 2013, with the limitation that he must wear corrective lenses. Although his medical certificate was expired, it was not required when flying the accident airplane. The pilot reported on the medical certificate application that he had accumulated 1,800 hours of flight time, 8 hours of which were in the last 6 months. 

The pilot's last logbook entry, on November 30, 2016 showed that he had accumulated 1,977.2 total hours of flight time. The pilot had his check-out flight in the accident airplane on September 28, 2016, and had three more flights in the accident airplane the following November, which totaled 6 hours.

In April 2011, Leon Shaeffer gives flight instructions to passengers Apryl Neal and her children, Chandler and Autumn, prior to taking off at the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 90’s annual Young Eagles Flight Rally at the Oakdale Airport.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CHALLENGER
Registration: N2621T
Model/Series: II
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1999
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate:
Serial Number: CH2-0199-CW-1838
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 
Engine Manufacturer: ROTAX
Engine Model/Series: 503 DCDI
Registered Owner: Darwin Leon Shaeffer
Rated Power: 50 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The two-seat, high-wing, tricycle-gear airplane, serial number CH2-0199-CW-1838 was manufactured in 1999. It was powered by a 50-horsepower Rotax 582 Model 99 engine. The airplane was also equipped with a three-bladed fixed-pitch propeller.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KMOD, 73 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1753 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 221°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  3 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 4 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 90°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.16 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 17°C / 14°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: Moderate - Haze; No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Oakdale, CA (O27)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Oakdale, CA (O27)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1020 PST
Type of Airspace:

At 0953, Modesto Municipal Airport, Modesto, California, located 11 miles southwest of the accident site, reported wind 90° at 4 knots, visibility hazy, clear sky, temperature 17°C, dew point 14°C, and an altimeter setting 30.16 inches of mercury.

Airport Information

Airport: OAKDALE (O27)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 236 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 10
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3013 ft / 75 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Traffic Pattern 

O27 was located at an elevation of 236 ft mean sea level. It was equipped with a single paved runway, designated 10/28, which was 3,013 by 75 ft. The runway and taxiway was surrounded by a grass covered RSA. The left traffic pattern was recommended for runway 10. O27 was not equipped with an air traffic control tower.

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 37.758056, -120.803333 

The examination of the wreckage revealed that the wings and cabin area were substantially damaged by postimpact fire. The left wing had separated from the airplane and was mostly consumed by post-impact fire; only the inboard trailing edge structural tubing and inboard section of the flaperon remained. The right wing remained attached to the airplane and exhibited thermal damage. 

The empennage remained intact, and flight control continuity was established through an elevator control tube and rudder control cables that were separated near the cabin area.

The fuel tank had separated and was found near the main wreckage partially consumed by fire. The engine was found loose from its mount near the pilot seat and exhibited excessive thermal damage to the cylinder head and attached accessories. The propeller drive belt exhibited thermal damage, and belt remnants remained on both drive gears. Two propeller blades were found about a hundred ft from the main wreckage and propeller strike damage was found near the engine mount. The engine and its components revealed no mechanical anomalies.

Seat belt hardware was found, and the buckles were found unfastened. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office, Modesto, California, conducted an autopsy on the pilot. The pilot's cause of death was reported as "flash-fire burn with acute soot and smoke inhalation."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology on specimens from the pilot. The tests were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide and volatiles. The testing detected 13.6 ug/ml of acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol) in urine, which is a nonimpairing pain reliever.

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA077
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, March 11, 2017 in Oakdale, CA
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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 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.

On March 11, 2017, about 1030 Pacific standard time, an unregistered experimental amateur-built Challenger II airplane, collided with a parked vehicle during landing at the Oakdale Municipal Airport (O27), Oakdale, California. The Commercial certificated pilot, sole occupant, was fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal local flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed.

The airport caretaker reported that the airplane departed from runway 10 and entered the left traffic pattern. He heard the airplane on downwind and stated that he didn't see the airplane on the final approach or landing, but heard an explosion, and responded to the accident site. 

Initial examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane landed in the runway safety area (RSA) leaving tire tracks about 200 feet in length in the dirt and gravel. The tracks veered left towards the visual approach slope indicator (VASI), continued over the taxiway and terminated where the airplane impacted a truck that was parked adjacent to a hangar. A postcrash fire insured. 

The airplane was recovered to a secured facility for further examination.  

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