(A Witness) Heard The Engine “Popping” Like It Was Backfiring

Location: Hilliard, FL Accident Number: ERA20LA324
Date & Time: September 21, 2020, 14:37 Local Registration: N800PB
Aircraft: Vans RV 8 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:

On September 21, 2020, about 1437 eastern daylight time, a Vans RV8, N800PB, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Hilliard, Florida. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to the pilot’s son, they flew together in the airplane earlier during the day from Flagler Executive Airport (FIN), to the Polk County Airport (4A4), Cedartown, Georgia. They departed around 0900 and landed about 1100. They flew to 4A4 because the son purchased another airplane and was going to fly it back to New Jersey, and his father was going to fly back to FIN. They departed 4A4 around 1330 and his father flew towards FIN and he turned towards New Jersey. He stated that he flew his father’s airplane often and it flew “great” with no anomalies noted.

A witness, standing in her front yard, heard an airplane flying over. She heard the engine “popping” like it was backfiring. She looked up at the airplane and said it was “very low,” maybe 500 ft. The airplane disappeared behind some trees and shortly afterwards she heard the airplane hitting tree branches. She went inside and told her sister; they drove in the car to go look for the airplane. They went down a dead-end road and saw smoke. She called 911 and waited for the fire department.

Examination of the airplane revealed that the engine was consumed by fire. Heavy black soot coated the entire engine compartment. Smoke striations from the cowling into the cockpit were consistent with an in-flight fire. A large hole was observed at the No. 2 cylinder case half. The connecting rod remained attached to the piston and the piston was still inside the cylinder. The connecting rod cap, bearing and bolts were missing.

The top spark plugs were removed, and the engine was rotated by the propeller. Thumb compression was established on cylinders Nos. 1,3 and 4. Engine continuity was established through the engine. The right magneto impulse coupling activated when the propeller was rotated. The left magneto was an electronic style magneto. All the top spark plugs wires were destroyed in the fire. The fuel injection system was consumed by fire. The fuselage was consumed by fire and the instrument panel was destroyed in the fire. No useable instruments were identified. The wings remained attached to the fuselage and exhibited leading edge tree impressions on both sides. The aileron and flaps remained attached to the wings. Flight control continuity was established through the torque tubes and through the cut tubes made by recovery personnel.

According to FAA airworthiness records, the two-seat, single-engine, low-wing experimental airplane was manufactured in 2004. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-360-B1DA2, 180-horsepower experimental engine.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov