Buckle Up For Safety
This sad bizarre accident points out the importance of securing your seat belt harness.
CEN11FA634 09/07/2011 Winfield, KS United States N554JR RIFFEL JERRIS L RV-7A 1 VMC CRUISE
The private pilot was flying his experimental home-built airplane on a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country flight. While en route, the pilot requested VFR flight following services from air traffic control. A review of radar data revealed that, at the time of the request, the airplane was level at 8,500 feet. About 6 minutes later, radar and radio contact were lost. No distress calls from the pilot were reported. A witness who was working near the accident site reported hearing a very loud revving engine noise. When he looked up, he saw the airplane flying upside down. He also stated that he did not see a cockpit or a pilot in the airplane. A few seconds later, the airplane passed behind a stand of trees and out of sight. He went to the impact site and found the wreckage but not the pilot.
First responders reported that the wreckage was mangled and spread across a soybean field in a southerly direction. Ground scars at the accident site indicated that the airplane impacted the ground at a high velocity in a wings-level, slightly nose-down attitude and inverted. The engine and propeller assembly exhibited evidence consistent with high power at impact. All of the flight control surfaces were accounted for at the main wreckage site. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit to all of the flight control surfaces, and no evidence indicated that any of the flight controls were disconnected or otherwise separated before impact. The pilot’s body was found about 1 mile northwest of the airplane wreckage. Canopy parts were found about 3/4 mile northwest of the wreckage, and various pieces of the acrylic canopy were found scattered for about 1/2 mile southward.
One of the canopy roller tracks was not found. The found roller track exhibited deformations about 8 inches aft of the forward ends on its left and right sides consistent with the attachment rollers being pulled from their tracks in an upward direction. The pilot and copilot lap seat belts were found attached to their respective anchor points with no evidence of overload failures or stresses on any of the latching blades or buckles consistent with the buckles not being latched at the time of impact.
The pilot’s autopsy findings did not show any evidence of incapacitation, and toxicological tests were negative for drugs and alcohol. The on-scene evidence indicates that the airplane was likely controllable and that the engine was producing power at the time of impact. Given the location of the pilot’s body and the acrylic canopy parts and the witness’s statement, it is likely that the pilot lost control of the airplane, which then inverted, and that the pilot subsequently fell through the open canopy. The reason for the pilot’s loss of control of the airplane could not be determined.
Raleigh, NC Area
RV-4, RV-7, ATP, CFII, MEI, 737/757/767