Deregistered Airplane In Accident After Maintenance

Location: Boynton Beach, FL Accident Number: ERA20FA119
Date & Time: 03/06/2020, 1316 EST Registration: N5757L
Aircraft: American Aviation AA 1 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation –

On March 6, 2020, about 1316 eastern standard time, an American Aviation AA-1, N5757L, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Boynton Beach, Florida. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

Security cameras at Palm Beach Count Airport (LNA), West Palm Beach, Florida captured the accident airplane at the door of the hangar where it was being worked on at 1242. At 1246 the airplane was no longer in frame. The airplane departed runway 28 at LNA about 1256.

Preliminary radar track data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and correlated to the accident airplane, indicated that after departing LNA the airplane first appeared on radar at 1313:52, when it was about 1.43 nm southeast of the airport at an altitude of 1,350 feet msl. At that time the airplane was heading east-southeast in a climbing right turn, with a ground speed of about 84 knots. The track data continued in a right turn, arcing and climbing to about 1,700 feet msl, and then turned momentarily to the west-northwest, before turning left to the southwest, and then west-southwest. The airplane then began to descend, with ground speed also decreasing until the track was lost at 1315:41, at an altitude of 550 feet msl, with a ground speed of about 43 knots, in close proximity to the accident site.

According to a witness, who observed the airplane moments prior to the accident, the airplane’s wings appeared to “waggle” up and down, and the airplane suddenly appeared to go inverted, so the belly of the airplane appeared to point skyward. The nose of the airplane then pointed at the ground, and the airplane began to corkscrew rapidly while losing altitude and disappeared behind a tree line. Another witness, who resided near the accident site, and had the back windows of her home open, she then heard what she thought sounded like a boat having engine trouble then heard a loud thump.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane had struck a 40-inch diameter, 18 foot high palm tree, severing it about 5 feet above ground level. The airplane came to rest against a fence in a 22° nose-down attitude, on a 33° magnetic heading, about 30 feet from the back wall of a residence. A debris path composed mostly of debris from the palm tree, light objects from the interior of the airplane, and Plexiglas from the windshield and sliding cockpit canopy, continued from the main wreckage on a magnetic heading of 44° for about 71 feet, until it met the western edge of the Lake Ida Canal which paralleled the backyards of the residences surrounding the accident site.

Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any preimpact fire or explosion. The left wing was found to be partially separated from the fuselage. The left wing appeared largely intact, with the wing flaps and ailerons remaining attached. The wing was curled forward with the leading edge showing evidence of impact damage with roughly five separate wrinkles in the skin of the leading edge, The pitot tube was found separated from its mounting position. The right wing was found partially separated from the fuselage mounting points and remained attached to the fuselage by the flap and aileron control tubes. The right wing was broken nearly in half at mid span with both the aileron and wing flap assemblies damaged and bent rearward with the arc of the bend matching the circumference of the broken off palm tree which displayed paint transfer and debris from the wing, which was were imbedded in the lower portion of the tree. Evidence of tree material was also present inside the structure of the right wing.

Flight control continuity was established from the rudder and elevator control surfaces, to the cockpit, and from the left aileron and wing flap, and right aileron and wing flap to the cockpit. Examination of the cockpit revealed that the throttle control was out about 2 inches, bent to the left, and broken off. The mixture control was full forward, and the engine primer was in and locked. The fuel selector handle was bent to the left, towards the left tank position. The tachometer indicated 2,031.7 total hours of operation. No emergency locator transmitter was installed, nor was an automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast unit.

Examination of the fuel system revealed that the left wing fuel tank displayed significant damage and was ruptured at the inboard end near the fuselage, and the right wing fuel tank was ruptured at the inboard end and middle section. There was no evidence of residual fuel inside either of the fuel tanks, there was no odor of fuel, and no observed fuel blight (browning of vegetation).

Disassembly of the fuel selector valve revealed that it was devoid of fuel, and it was not in the detent, for either the left or right fuel tanks. Disassembly of the engine driven fuel pump also revealed that it was devoid of fuel, and disassembly of the carburetor reveled that a trace amount (about 2 drops) of fuel were present inside the carburetor float bowl.

Examination of the propeller revealed that one blade of the two-bladed propeller was bent back about 20°, and the other blade was relatively straight with a slight wave in it about mid-span. Neither propeller blade displayed leading edge gouging, chordwise scratching, or S-bending. Examination of the engine revealed that there was oil in the sump, galleries, and rocker boxes, the left magneto would produce spark at all four towers, and the right magneto though impact damaged, when disassembled and examined internally, displayed no evidence of any preimpact failure or malfunction. Thumb compression and suction was present on all four cylinders, and continuity was confirmed from the crankshaft to the accessory gears and to the valvetrain.

According to the airplane’s maintenance records its most recent annual inspection was completed on January 6, 2016. At the time of the inspection, the airplane had accrued about 1,961.9 total hours of operation. According to FAA aircraft registration records, the airplane’s registration had expired on September 30, 2019, and the airplane was deregistered by the FAA on January 6, 2019.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane, and a mechanic certificate with ratings for airframe and powerplant. According to an airman certificate and rating application dated August 4, 2018, the pilot had accrued about 350 total hours of flight experience, about 249 hours of which, were in single engine airplanes.