The Engine Coughed A “Number Of Times” Before Running Smoothly

Location: Tehachapi, CA Accident Number: WPR20LA237
Date & Time: July 24, 2020, 11:59 Local Registration: N138PM
Aircraft: Vans VANS RV-8 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On July 24, 2020, about 1159 Pacific daylight time, a Vans RV-8, N138PM, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Tehachapi Airport (TSP), Tehachapi, California. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

A witness reported that he had just finished landing and he stopped to watch two airplanes coming in to land. The first airplane was the accident airplane, he observed it touch down onto the runway tailwheel first. The airplane then oscillated between its tailwheel and main landing gear a few times before it tipped up onto the left main gear. The airplane turned toward the right edge of the runway and appeared to slow. The witness reported that he turned away because he thought the pilot finished landing. But when he looked back a few seconds later, he observed a cloud of dirt as the pilot abruptly reapplied power. The engine coughed a “number of times” before running smoothly. The airplane lifted off quickly but made a “perceivably slow” turn to a left crosswind. The nose of the airplane was “alarmingly” high; the left turn steepened as the airplane flew behind some trees. A couple seconds later the witness heard the engine “cut out,” and almost immediately thereafter he heard the impact.

The pilot of the second airplane reported that the two airplanes took off from Whiteman airport and flew in very close formation to TSP. Upon arriving at TSP, the accident airplane flew a straight in approach to land onto runway 29 with the second airplane following. The accident pilot’s approach speed looked “ok.” When the accident airplane touched down, it appeared as if it was having “directional control issues” on the runway. The airplane was along the right edge of the runway when the accident pilot transmitted that he was “going around.” At that moment, the second pilot observed a brief cloud of dust. The second pilot landed his airplane and when he rolled to a stop, he observed the accident airplane about 30 degrees left of the runway heading at about 150-200 feet. The nose of the airplane  was up, but it didn’t look like it was accelerating; more like it was descending. Shortly before impact, the  airplane disappeared behind the buildings nose up with the wings wobbling.

The airplane struck a commercial building and came to rest on the roof. It has been recovered to a secure location for further examination.