Pilot Announced Unspecified “Engine Problems” Over The Radio
Location: Hampton, GA Accident Number: ERA20LA213
Date & Time: 06/12/2020, 1950 EDT Registration: N553KM
Aircraft: Vans RV8 Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation – Personal
On June 12, 2020, at 1950 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Vans RV8, N553KM, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at Henry County Airport (HMP), Hampton, Georgia. The airline transport pilot was seriously injured. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to the owner/operator of the airplane and several witnesses, the purpose of the flight was for the pilot to join the operator in the air for an airshow practice flight. The operator was already at altitude when the accident airplane departed.
During the initial climb after takeoff from runway 06, witnesses described the engine sound as “missing… popping… not making significant power… and couldn’t get to max power.” The witnesses also described black smoke trailing in the engine’s exhaust. The operator stated that the pilot announced unspecified “engine problems” over the radio.
Witnesses further described the airplane performing a 180°-turn for landing in the opposite direction on runway 24. They surmised that inadequate runway remained for a successful landing on runway 24 and watched as the airplane entered a subsequent 180°-turn for landing on the departure runway. At low altitude, and low airspeed, while aligned with the left base leg of the traffic pattern for runway 06, the airplane “stalled” and impacted terrain in a flat attitude at the approach end of the runway. The landing gear and cockpit canopy separated, and the wings and the fuselage were substantially damaged.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the airplane was manufactured in 2004. The airplane was powered by a JBA IO-360-BLXC3, 185 -horsepower, 4-cylinder engine and its most recent condition inspection was completed on February 10, 2020 at 1,894.7 total aircraft hours.
The airplane was examined by an FAA aviation safety inspector. Flight control continuity was confirmed. The engine was rotated by hand and continuity was confirmed though the powertrain and valvetrain to the accessory section. Compression was tested on each cylinder and found within the normal operating range. Timing on each magneto was confirmed, and both magnetos produced spark on all terminal leads when bench tested.
The fuel injection servo was separated from the engine and damaged by impact. All fuel lines and the flow divider were absent of obstruction and debris when checked visually and with compressed air except for the No. 2 fuel nozzle which was blocked. The obstruction was cleared with a length of safety wire. Examination of the spark plugs (top and bottom) revealed signatures consistent with “rich” mixtures in the Nos. 1 and 4 cylinders, and “lean” mixtures in the Nos. 2 and 3 cylinders.