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Cause of MCGRATH ROBERT F SONEX Air Crash in Louisville, OHIO, USA on 4/25/2009





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Final Report on Probabable Cause of Crash

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 25, 2009, at 1053 eastern daylight time, an experimental-amateur built McGrath Sonex, N692RM, collided with trees while landing at the Yoder Airport (10A7), Louisville, Ohio. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The personal flight was being operated under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight departed from the Salem Airpark (38D), Salem, Ohio.

According to the pilot’s son, the pilot departed 10A7 and was going to get fuel at 38D. He was then going to fly over Barber Field (2D1), Alliance, Ohio, before returning to 10A7. He stated that the global positioning system (GPS) used by the pilot during the flight showed he flew a total of 40 minutes and a distance of 56 miles. The pilot’s son stated there was no ground track data stored in the GPS.

The pilot’s wife stated he departed 10A7 around 1005 and circled once over the airstrip prior to departing the area. She stated he departed with 9 gallons of fuel on board and that the airplane usually burned about 4 gallons per hour. He was planning on obtaining fuel at a nearby airport prior to returning to 10A7. In addition, she stated that the winds were calm when he departed, but the speed increased to 23 miles per hour with gusts to 32 miles per hour prior to the accident.

The airport manager at 38D reported the pilot flew into the airport on the morning of the accident. He stated the pilot had breakfast and visited with other pilots who occasionally met at the airport. The pilot did not purchase fuel. The manager stated he knew the pilot by his airplane which was a red, blue, and silver Sonex. The airport manager stated that the wind speed increased during the time that the pilot was at the airport.

Several witnesses reported seeing the airplane just prior to the accident. One witness stated the propeller was not turning and he could not hear the engine. He stated the airplane tipped to the left, the right, and then it descended straight down. Another witness reported the airplane rose slightly then “nose dived straight into the ground.” A third witness reported the airplane “tip stalled” prior to rolling to the right. Another witness reported hearing the engine cutting out. He stated it looked as if the pilot was trying to glide back to the airport. The airplane then made a U-turn once the engine stopped. The airplane then “almost stopped in mid-air and turned on the side as if the wind caught the wing.” Other witnesses also reported that the propeller was not turning and the airplane rolled to the right prior to descending.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot-in-command, age 87, held a private pilot certificate that was issued February 19, 1941, by the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The first entry in the pilot’s logbook was dated November 23, 1963. The last entry was dated March 14, 2009. The total flight time recorded in the logbook, including the 100.2 hours brought forward from a previous logbook, was 325.48 hours. The pilot logged approximately 10 hours of flight time in the accident airplane, 4 hours of which were in 90 days previous of the accident. The pilot completed a flight review on August 31, 2007.

The pilot was issued a third-class medical certificate on March 21, 2007. The medical certificate contained the limitation, “Holder shall possess glasses that correct for near vision.”

The pilot held an Experimental Aircraft Builder certificate issued July 14, 2008. This certificate contained ratings and limitations for the accident airplane.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The accident airplane was an experimental amateur-built Sonex, serial number 0692. The Sonex is a two-place monoplane. The pilot purchased the kit on February 17, 2006. On June 9, 2008, the airplane was issued an experimental airworthiness certificate. The total time on the airplane was approximately 10 hours. The pilot was in the process of flying the required 40 hours in an assigned geographic area as designated under Phase I of the Experimental Operating Limitations for the airplane.

The airplane was powered by an 80 horsepower, AeroVee Conversions 2180cc engine, serial number 0188.

The airplane was not equipped with a fuel quantity indicator. The pilot used a calibrated yard stick to measure the fuel quantity. According to the pilot’s son, the fuel level was measured as being 9 inches on the yard stick just prior to takeoff from 10A7. The pilot’s son stated that according to his father’s calibrations, that equated to 3 to 4 gallons of fuel. The airplane’s fuel capacity was 16 gallons.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

The weather conditions reported at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport, located 10 miles west-northwest of the accident site at 1051, were: Wind from 240 degrees at 18 knots gusting to 26 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; few clouds at 6,500 feet, scattered clouds at 25,000 feet; temperature 25 degree Celsius; dew point 12 degrees Celsius; altimeter 30.18 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The main wreckage came to rest in a wooded area approximately one-quarter mile northeast of 10A7, near the intersection of Meese Road and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks. The airplane traveled approximately 83 feet from the first visible tree strike to where it came to rest. The airplane came to rest on its right side with the left wing propped up against a tree. Both wings and the forward and aft fuselage sustained impact damage. The wooden propeller remained attached to the engine with one propeller blade fractured near the hub and the other blade intact.

The clear fuel tank was located lying on its side. There was approximately one-quarter inch of fuel, less than 5 ounces, of fuel in the tank. This fuel level was below that of the filler opening. No fuel was present in the gascolator or fuel lines. There was no odor of fuel in the area surrounding the accident site.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot on April 26, 2009, at the Stark County Coroners Office, Massillon, Ohio. The autopsy report listed the cause of death as “Multiple Traumatic Injuries.”

Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Reports were prepared for the pilots by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results for all tests conducted were negative.

Initial Report

The pilot departed his home airstrip with 3 to 4 gallons of fuel on board to fly to a nearby airport for fuel. The winds at the time of departure were calm. The pilot landed at a nearby airport, but did not purchase fuel. He then took off to fly back to his home airstrip. The accident occurred as the pilot was approaching his home airstrip land. According to witnesses, the engine was not producing power when the airplane banked to the right and descended nose first, consistent with an aerodynamic stall into a wooded area just northwest of the runway. Post accident inspection of the airplane revealed that less than 5 ounces of fuel was present in the fuel tank. No fuel was present in the fuel lines or gascolator, nor was there an odor of fuel at the accident site. According to a global positioning system used by the pilot, the flight was approximately 40 minutes long. The airplane consumes about 4 gallons of fuel per hour. Winds reported 10 miles from the accident site were from 240 degrees at 18 knots gusting to 26 knots.
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