The Passenger Reported That The Flight Was Airborne For About 3 To 5 Minutes

Location: Fitzgerald, GA Accident Number: ERA23FA370
Date & Time: September 13, 2023, 16:54 Local Registration: N2796H
Aircraft: Ercoupe 415 Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On September 13, 2023, about 1654 eastern daylight time, an Ercoupe 415-C, N2796H, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Fitzgerald, Georgia. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14?Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The passenger, who held a student pilot certificate, reported he was interested in buying the airplane and had been in communication with the pilot, who told him the day before that the annual inspection was just completed and to come to the airport the next day to go flying. After the passenger arrived at the airport on the day of the accident, the pilot stated that the airplane was flown earlier that day. The passenger further reported that the pilot performed a “walk around” inspection which included a check of the wings, lights, aft empennage, and control surfaces. Both occupants boarded the airplane, and the passenger was seated in the right seat. He added that prior to the flight he was not aware that the airplane was equipped with lapbelts, thus he was not wearing it. After engine start the pilot taxied the airplane to the approach end of the runway where the passenger questioned the pilot about the need for an engine run-up; however, the pilot said that it was not necessary because he had done one earlier that day.

The airport director, who was at the airport reported that while the airplane was taxiing, he heard the engine misfiring, “not bad, but it was misfiring.” He watched the airplane takeoff to the south and reported that during the takeoff roll the engine sounded normal. The airplane climbed slowly, or more slowly than he thought it should, to between 600 and 700 feet. He lost sight of the airplane and went home.

The passenger reported that the flight was airborne for about 3 to 5 minutes. He recalled that the pilot said there was a wind gust and then he pulled aft on the control yoke, while the airplane was close to the tops of nearby trees. The next thing the passenger recalled was waking up postaccident. When asked if he detected a change in engine sound from takeoff to the accident, he said that although he was not wearing a headset, he did not detect any change in engine sound.

A witness near the accident site who was in her home reported hearing the engine operating and attributed the airplane to be flying low because of the sound. She then heard the engine sound stop, followed by the sound of impact.

The airplane impacted a shallow ditch in a residential area and came to rest upright. The airplane was recovered for further examination of the airframe and engine.