Sunday, January 26, 2020

Fuel Contamination: Rutan VariEze, N830S; accident occurred September 24, 2017 near Wings Field Airport (KLOM), Blue Bell, Whitpain Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

View of accident site.

View of Engine.

View of fluid in gascolator.

View of fluid in carburetor with water finding paste. 

View of contaminated fuel extracted from fuel system.

View of water on right fuel cap test.

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Ambler, PA
Accident Number: ERA17LA333
Date & Time: 09/24/2017, 1715 EDT
Registration: N830S
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel contamination
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On September 24, 2017, about 1715 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Vari EZ, N830S, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain near Ambler, Pennsylvania. The private pilot sustained serious injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the flight that departed Wings Field Airport (LOM), Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, just prior to the accident.

According to a witness, during takeoff, the engine sounded like it did "not reach full rpm" and it took the entire 3,700-ft-long runway for the airplane to lift off the ground. Then, about 200 ft above ground level the engine "stopped." Another witness reported hearing the engine "sputter." The airplane was "wobbling," descended, and impacted trees prior to coming to rest near a house.

Initial examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed that both fuel tanks were ruptured, and fuel was leaking from the wings. The canopy was separated from the fuselage and the forward section of the fuselage exhibited crush damage. The engine remained attached to the airframe and the propeller remained attached to the engine.

According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1984 and registered the pilot in May 2017. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-235-C series, 100-horsepower engine that drove a Sensenich propeller. According to airplane maintenance logbooks, the most recent condition inspection was completed on April 1, 2017, at 691.0 total aircraft hours.

The engine was removed from the airframe to facilitate further examination. The rocker box covers were removed, and rocker arm movement was noted on all cylinders when the propeller was rotated by hand. Compression and suction were noted on all cylinders. All spark plugs were removed and exhibited normal wear when compared to the Champion Check-A-Plug chart. The magneto was removed, operated, and spark was noted on all towers. Corrosion was noted throughout the engine. It was noted at the crankshaft end of the No. 2 connecting rod and all gears in the accessory section of the engine.

The gascolator was removed and water was noted in the fuel. Also, debris was noted in the fuel that restricted the flow of fluid from the gascolator. The carburetor was removed and disassembled. Water was noted in the carburetor when tested with water finding paste. The left fuel tank fuel cap was impact separated and the tank was breached. The debris noted in the fuel was consistent with a substance that was dried on the interior of the left fuel tank.

The right fuel tank contained fuel and tested negative for water. When water was poured over the right fuel tank cap while it was seated, then the cap was removed, the fuel in the right tank tested positive for water with water finding paste.

According to the pilot, as a result of his injuries from the accident, he was unable to recall any of the events leading up to the accident. However, he stated that it was routine practice for him to complete a thorough preflight inspection and does not believe there would be a reason that a thorough preflight was not completed on the day of the accident. He also stated that the airplane was kept outside.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 29, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Unknown
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present:No 
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3
Last FAA Medical Exam: 01/01/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N830S
Model/Series: VARI EZ
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate: Experimental
Serial Number: 2069
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/01/2017, Condition
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 691 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed
Engine Model/Series: O-235-C
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 100 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: LOM, 302 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1715 EDT
Direction from Accident Site:202° 
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 3 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 50°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 30.04 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 30°C / 18°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Blue Bell, PA (LOM)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1715
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Airport: Wings Field Airport (LOM)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 302 ft
Runway Surface Condition:
Runway Used: 06
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3700 ft / 75 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: 40.143333, -75.244444 (est)

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