The airplane departed controlled cruise flight, completed two descending 360-degree turns, and collided with desert terrain. The purpose of the accident flight was for the pilot to execute a 3-hour flight test mission following a predetermined test plan that he had created. The plan prescribed that he would perform a series of maneuvers (including stalls) all of which were to be conducted above 2,000 feet above ground level (agl). Witnesses heard the engine sputter and observed smoke emitting from the airplane. The airplane began to spiral and completed two 360-degree turns while descending. Prior to ground impact, the airplane assumed a wings level configuration and descended nearly vertically toward flat desert terrain. The airplane impacted with little horizontal velocity. A United States Air Force squadron commander who was operating a jet in the accident area the day of the accident stated that he had previously coordinated simultaneous operations with the accident pilot. The commander did not hear or receive a radio call from the accident pilot nor did he make visual contact with the airplane, as he had anticipated. The accident pilot was in communication with Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) personnel and receiving traffic advisories. The pilot’s last known communication occurred about 8 minutes prior to the accident. The radar data revealed that the airplane was in cruise flight heading southwest between 4,300 and 4,600 feet agl. The last radar return was recorded approximately 0.58 nautical miles (nm) northeast of the accident location. The accident airplane, an experimental amateur-built that was purchased by the operator for a classified research program, was typical of other Velocity models in its assembly and design configuration. The airplane was loaded with an aft center of gravity (CG) that was 0.4 inches aft of the kit manufacturer’s recommended CG envelope; however, the kit manufacturer said the airplane would have been controllable without adverse handling characteristics. The pilot’s actions and the airplane’s flight characteristics were recorded during the flight by data acquisition units and any deviation from the test card would have been seen by the operator upon the return of the flight. Witnesses in the area observed clear skies at the time of the accident. The airplane and all the equipment onboard were thermally destroyed. During the post accident examinations of the wreckage, no anomalies were found with the airframe or engine.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows: a departure from controlled flight for undetermined reasons, resulting in a collision with terrain.
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Posted By: Brett FerrellWednesday April 12th, 2006 at 10:49 AM