Sunday, February 24, 2019

Loss of Control in Flight: Pietenpol Air Camper, N709HR; accident occurred August 09, 2017 at Bendigo Airport (74N), Tower City, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania


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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms


Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

http://registry.faa.gov/N709HR



Location: Tower City, PA
Accident Number: ERA17LA269
Date & Time: 08/09/2017, 0926 EDT
Registration: N709HR
Aircraft: ROSE HERBERT D PIETENPOL AIR CAMPER
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Flight Test 

Analysis 

The private pilot was flying his airplane as part of the phase I test period for amateur-built aircraft. Preflight, ground operations, and engine run-up were uneventful. He taxied to the end of the runway for takeoff. He began the takeoff roll, felt the tailwheel rise, and then fainted. He did not recall any subsequent events about the accident. Airport surveillance video showed the airplane pitch up into a steep, nose-high attitude; roll to the left; and then descend toward the ground. The airplane contacted the ground left wing first in a steep, nose-low attitude. Postaccident examination of the wreckage did not reveal any evidence of a preimpact mechanical malfunction or failure that would have precluded normal operation, and the pilot reported that there were no mechanical issues with the airplane before the accident. After the accident, an extensive medical evaluation identified that the pilot had severe aortic regurgitation that required a valve replacement and repair of the aortic root. Although aortic regurgitation does not commonly cause fainting, it can interfere with the forward flow of blood from the heart and increases the risk of an arrhythmia. It is likely that the pilot was incapacitated by complications from his previously undiagnosed heart condition.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's incapacitation due to fainting as a result of complications from a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

Findings

Personnel issues
Cardiovascular - Pilot (Cause)

Factual Information

On August 9, 2017, at 0926 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Pietenpol Air Camper, N709HR, was substantially damaged following a loss of airplane control during takeoff at Bendigo Airport (74N), Tower City, Pennsylvania. The private pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 91 as a test flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the flight to Deck Airport (9D4), Myerstown, Pennsylvania.

According to airport surveillance video, the pilot initiated the takeoff roll on runway 5 and the nose of the airplane veered to the left. The takeoff continued, and the airplane pitched up into a steep, nose high attitude, rolled to the left, then descended toward the ground. The airplane contacted the ground left wing first in a steep, nose-low attitude. The propeller was turning throughout the accident sequence.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the airplane came to rest in the grass, adjacent to the runway. The fuselage and wings were structurally damaged. There was no fire. The wooden propeller blades were broken off and splintered at the blade roots. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit controls to the control surfaces.

The pilot reported that he was flying the airplane on its first flight away from 74N, still within the phase I test period. He flew the airplane locally the day before and all aircraft systems were normal. Preflight, ground operations, and the engine runup were uneventful. He began the flight with a full fuel tank of fuel (12 gallons) on board. He taxied to the end of the runway for a takeoff on runway 5. He specifically recalled seeing his hand push the throttle forward to initiate the takeoff roll. He saw the gauges "come to life" and the takeoff commenced. He felt the tailwheel rise, and then "the lights went out." He did not recall any subsequent events pertaining to the accident. He reported that there were "absolutely no mechanical issues" with the airplane prior to the accident.

The total time on the airframe at the time of the accident was 9.8 hours and within the Phase I test period in accordance with 14 CFR part 91.319(b). The pilot was the registered airplane builder and held a FAA experimental aircraft builder certificate.

The pilot reported in an interview that he had allowed his medical, last issued in 2010, to lapse because he had been treated for thyroid cancer. The pilot's postaccident medical treatment records were obtained and reviewed. At the time of the accident, the pilot was 60 years old. His injuries included a fracture of the occipital condyle with dissociation of the altanto-occipital joint associated with epidural hematoma of the spinal cord, a traumatic brain injury, pulmonary contusions bilaterally, damage to the left retina, a mediastinal hematoma, a large laceration of the chin including arterial damage and bleeding that required embolization, multiple broken teeth, fracture of the thyroid cartilage, a laceration of the right hand, a clavicle fracture, and fractures of the left scaphoid and radial styloid.

The pilot was intubated before being flown to the trauma center for emergent care. Once extubated, he reported having a history of hypertension, hypothyroidism resulting from a thyroidectomy to remove a thyroid cancer in 2009, and migraine headaches. In addition, he immediately reported that he believed he had fainted during takeoff which resulted in his crash (sudden unexplained fainting is known as syncope). An extensive evaluation for the source of the pilot's syncope was performed and he was eventually diagnosed with severe aortic regurgitation. The condition was so severe he underwent an aortic valve replacement several months after the accident. Although no arrhythmias were identified during the pilot's hospitalization and aortic regurgitation does not commonly cause syncope, two cardiologists documented in hospital notes or letters to the NTSB that the severity of the aortic regurgitation was enough to put him at risk of syncope from poor cardiac output or as result of an arrhythmia.

History of Flight

Initial climb
Loss of control in flight (Defining event)

Uncontrolled descent
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)



Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 60, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Rear
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/19/2010
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  900 hours (Total, all aircraft), 12 hours (Total, this make and model) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: ROSE HERBERT D
Registration: N709HR
Model/Series: PIETENPOL AIR CAMPER NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 2017
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 1728
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 06/01/2017, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1320 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 9 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 9 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Subaru
ELT: C126 installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: EJ 22
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 150 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: MUI, 487 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 9 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0958 EDT
Direction from Accident Site: 180°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.24 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 23°C / 14°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Tower City, PA (74N)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Myerstown, PA (9D4)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0926 EDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Bendigo Airport (74N)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt; Concrete
Airport Elevation: 790 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 05
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2325 ft / 60 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: None

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude:  40.558889, -76.559722 (est)

























NTSB Identification: ERA17LA269 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 09, 2017 in Tower City, PA
Aircraft: ROSE HERBERT D PIETENPOL AIR CAMPER, registration: N709HR
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 August 9, 2017, at 0926 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Pietenpol Air Camper, N709HR, was substantially damaged following a loss of airplane control during takeoff at Bendigo Airport (74N), Tower City, Pennsylvania. The private pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 91 as a local, flight test flight. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed.

According to airport surveillance video, the pilot initiated the takeoff roll on runway 5 and the nose of the airplane veered to the left. The takeoff continued, and the airplane pitched up to a steep, nose high attitude, rolled to the left, then descended toward the ground. The airplane contacted the ground left wing first in a steep, nose-low attitude.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the airplane came to rest in a grass area adjacent to the runway. The fuselage and wings were structurally damaged. There was no fire. The wooden propeller blades were broken off and splintered at the blade roots.

The total time on the airframe at the time of the accident was 9.8 hours and within the Phase I test period in accordance with 14 CFR part 91.319(b). The pilot was the registered airplane builder and held a FAA experimental aircraft builder certificate.

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