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Preliminary report of the Lancair Evolution accident is available

The NTSB has released their preliminary report of the Lancair Evolution accident that I discussed in this blog post. There isn't much information provided as is true of many preliminary reports, but...

Here is the text from this report:

On May 28, 2021, about 1048 eastern daylight time, a Lancair Evolution airplane, N515DL, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near McDermott, Ohio. The private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A review of preliminary air traffic control (ATC) information revealed the airplane departed about 1014 from Bellefontaine Regional Airport (EDJ), Bellefontaine, Ohio on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan, with a destination of Charleston International Airport (CHS), Charleston, South Carolina.

After departure from EDJ, the airplane climbed to flight level (FL) 250 and accelerated to 215 knots groundspeed. During the next 1 minute and 43 seconds, while in level flight on a southeasterly heading, the airplane gradually decelerated to 146 knots groundspeed. The airplane subsequently made a left turn and a rapid descent. During this timeframe, the pilot’s transmitter became stuck and a distressed conversation between the pilot and passenger was audible. The controller made unsuccessful attempts to contact the pilot and radar contact was lost. A ground witness observed the airplane in a spiral descent and that it “may have been missing a wing.”

The airplane impacted into forested terrain with a vertical nose down attitude and a fire ensued. The airplane was equipped with a parachute recovery system; the ballistic charge for the system expended during the fire. The right wing (outboard 9 ft) was located about ½ mile northeast of the main wreckage.

Examination revealed engine and propeller rotational signatures consistent with the engine producing power during ground impact. No mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation were observed.

An Airman’s Meteorological Information (AIRMET) for icing was valid up to 22,000 ft, and an AIRMET for moderate turbulence was valid from 25,000 ft to 42,000 ft. Both AIRMETs covered EDJ and the accident location.

This certainly indicates there was a catastrophic event that occurred (assuming this started at cruise altitude) given the "open mic" conversation heard by ATC as things started to go awry. I would think if the windscreen departed the aircraft (as has happened in a couple of other Lancair Evolution accidents), ATC would have had a difficult time hearing the conversation as well as they apparently did. This leaves a lot of questions, but the report confirms that the ground speed continued to decrease over time while at cruise altitude. If this was occurring as a result of icing conditions (airspeed loss) then the autopilot or pilot will continue increase the angle of attack to stay at the assigned cruise altitude. Then it's only a matter of time before an "unknown" stall speed is reached.

Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise™

Dr. Scott Dennstaedt

Weather Systems Engineer

Founder, EZWxBrief

CFI & former NWS meteorologist

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