Dan Wood Report (N94WB)

N94WB Seawind Crash

The report which follows has been reviewed and approved by the Family of Dan Wood. Our Condolences go out to all of Dan's and Jim's families and friends. Please note, this was a horrible and tragic crash, some of the pictures included below are graphic. Everyone who builds and flies their own airplane needs to review this article thoroughly, and often.

Dan Wood and his beautiful Seawind. Photo taken February 5th in Sebring Florida.

February 12th 2000. On Friday the11th of February at approximately 2:30 pm a Seawind (94WB) carrying Dan Wood and Jim Srock, both of Michigan, crashed in Virginia . No one survived. This aircraft belonged to Dan & Bill Wood.

February 14th, 2000. Preliminary report issued by the FAA.
Activity: Unknown Phase: Unknown GA-A/C: General Aviation


WX: UNKN Damage: Destroyed
C2. Injury Data:
# Crew: 1 Fatal: 1 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
# Pass: 1 Fatal: 1 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
# Grnd: Fatal: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
D. Location City: LEE COUNTY State: VA
E. Occ Date: 02/11/2000 Time: 20:00
F. Invest Coverage. IIC: Reg/DO: EA09 DO CTY: CHARLESTON
DO State: WV Others: NTSB
G. Flt Handling. Dep Pt: UNKN Dep Date: / / Time:
Dest: UNKN Last Radio Cont: UNKN Flt Plan: UNK
Last Clearance: UNKN WX Briefing:
Note: Dan Wood and Jim Srock were reported to have been aboard. Location is at southwestern tip of Virginia. Near Ewing VA.

February 15th, 2000. After a long day of discussions with Bill Wood (Dan's Son) ,The FAA, and Park Rangers the following was learned: First, the aircraft is deep in the woods and seems to have hit trees destroying the airplane. Both wings are separated from the airplane but the flying surfaces, flaps & ailerons are somewhat intact. The stabilizer and elevator are at the wreckage, one horn is torn off, some skin damage. They are separated from the tail. The fuselage is heavily damaged. The engine is still on the tail but at an acute angle with three motor mounts broken. There were three witnesses. They are talking to the FAA and NTSB. Investigation is on going.

On Wednesday, an ISPA member drove to Kentucky to meet with Bill Wood and a Park Ranger to hike into the site. The insurance company planned to extract the airplane on Thursday or Friday.

Some background of the previous week:

Dan Wood was at the Lake Flyers Convention in River Ranch, Florida since Saturday night the 5th of February. He landed at Sebring on Saturday night (the 5th) and took a cab to River Ranch. On Sunday Morning Dan, Jim Srock and Russ Kotlarak flew to Sebring from River Ranch in a friend's Seawind so that Dan could bring his airplane back to River Ranch.

On Monday Dan went to fly with Art Stifel (instructor) to get some water time in the Seawind. They found, during the run-up that a magneto had a miss. Harry Shannon of Amphibians Plus was called to check out the mag. Harry decided to change the mag with a new one. It was installed on Tuesday evening and the engine ran fine.

Wednesday was a very windy day so not many people flew their airplanes.

On Thursday the convention was over and everyone was leaving. Dan was flying with Art Stifel to do some water work. His airplane was running perfectly. After flying with Art, Dan and Jim flew to Jack Gilson's house in Ocala to spend the night.

On Friday, Dan left about 8:45 in the morning and landed at Dunellin Florida for fuel, where he got 70 gallons. He then flew north. The crash was at about 2.30 p.m. in Kentucky.

February 17th, 2000. No information was released to the news media until Tuesday the 15th. Everything the media had prior to that was supposition, as both the park rangers and the FAA were not releasing information except to the family.

This was a terrible crash. Here is what happened according to witnesses, Park Rangers (who were at the site within 1 hour) and the FAA. To know where this happened, look at a road map where Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee meet. In the point of Virginia there is the Cumberland Gap national park. The closest city is Middlesboro Kentucky. The closest airport to the site was 3 miles away in the town of Middlesboro (KY65).

The aircraft was seen by 4 people flying up the valley on the east side of the Cumberland Gap. It seemed to be following the approximate route of highway 63. One gentleman (that had not spoken to the FAA) was working at a school where highway 63 meets highway 25E. He saw a blue and white airplane go overhead. He said the airplane was strange because the engine was on the top. The airplane was traveling northeasterly following the mountain line. He saw it turn left like it was going to go through the gap to the other side. (On the other side of the Gap is the airport KY65.) He then lost site of it. Weather at the time was 1200 overcast, mountains obscure at times, light rain showers occasionally.

The next witness, who was located at the junction of highway 25E and 58, just about below the crash site, said that he heard the airplane but did not see it. He heard the engine RPM go higher then a sound like BANG, BANG, BANG. (The FAA and the Ranger think that was the sound of trees breaking.) He then heard the engine stop and called 911.

The Cumberland Gap is a pass through a long line of mountains. The Gap is about 1/4 of a mile wide and has straight up walls over 1000 feet. The surface elevation in the valley is 1400 ft msl and the top of the Gap is [shown on the charts at] 2440 ft msl at the pinnacle. The airplane hit the first tree at 2460 feet. Right at the top of the pinnacle. The airplane was either in a hard right turn, 90 degrees or more, or it was inverted. Under the first tree was the right float, broken off clean at it's attach point to the wing, 8 feet of the top skin of the right wing, in two pieces. One piece about 4 feet and included 2 fuel caps. The other piece was from the main fuel tank cap inboard. Both pieces separated from the leading edge to the spar cap. Also found were two shattered pieces of the Canopy Plexiglas. One piece was of the curve where the canopy ends at the back of the right side. A piece of a headset was also found, and a baseball cap with the Seawind logo. Also found was a small piece of the stabilizer about 5 inches square. It was a piece of carbon fiber so it could not been from any other part. It was sent it to Craig Easter to confirm it's location. Other small items were found, landing light, Plexiglas from the lens, wires, etc.

The rest of the airplane was located about 300 feet down the mountain. It was too steep to climb, so the remainder of the crash site had to be reached by another route around the side of the mountain. There was no debris between the place where the first tree was struck, and the main site. Above the resting place of the aircraft is a tall tree, over 50 feet, and the left wing perched in the branches of a tree. It had the aileron attached and looked to be complete. It broke off at the wing root. In fact, both spars broke outside of the fuselage. The right spar cap, which is about 10 feet long, peeled off and delaminated from the I beam of the spar, and is still attached to the fuselage. The elevator and stabilizer sheered off at the root where it joined the fuselage. The elevator was still attached to the stabilizer with the right horn de-attached, and some top skin missing. The trim is in the neutral position according to the motor location. The engine is still attached to the motor mount with one lug. The bottom lugs are broken where they attach to the motor. The engine looks to be in one piece but had a slight oil leak from a crushed valve cover. The oil caught on fire as it ran down the large rock it was sitting on, and when the Park Rangers got to the site the small fire was going out.

Strangely the Park Ranger did not see any fuel, but the FAA man said that they did have a fuel smell about 50 to 100 feet up the mountain. The fittings to the header tank were opened, no fuel was found, although in the position it was in, it could only hold about 10 tablespoons if there was any. The aircraft was so damaged that it was very hard to surmise the fuel situation. The only fuel tank that would be intact was in the left wing, up in the tree, which would have to be removed by helicopter.

They did purchase 70 gallons of fuel in Dunnellin Florida about 3.5 hours away at a cruise speed of 170 mph. That fuel was purchased at 8:45 in the morning and the crash occurred at 2:30 pm. The fuel switches were on the main tanks. The throttle , Prop control and mixture were all full forward. Strangely, the propeller suffered little damage. Although it is bent , it is not bent the way a prop usually is when under power hitting objects. The fuselage from bulkhead 141 forward is completely demolished. The front seat rails and the seat roller attachment failed and the seats came out of the fuselage. The seat belts pulled out from the stringer on the passenger side and the fuselage bottom on the pilots side. Neither person was found in the wreckage.

The airplane is not repairable. The NTSB requested the engine and it was to be shipped to Lycoming by the insurance company.

SUMMARY: The aircraft was traveling in a northeasterly direction when witnesses saw it turn westerly (left) like it was heading through the Gap. The debris is in a west to east direction, opposite to the direction in which the plane was heading, from the top of the mountain down the east side.

There are two possible scenarios. Either the pilot was turning to the right, hard (90 + degree bank) , trying to avoid the mountain and he struck the tree. A more plausible scenario is he was pulling up , very steeply in a right turn and stalled. The airplane started to go into a spin to right and hit the tree inverted. The reason for saying this, is because an 8 foot section of the top of the right outboard wing skin, right glass from the canopy, right float, and a small part of the top of the stabilizer or elevator were all found at the first tree. The left wing separated at about the 6th or 7th tree hit and remains in the tree. The fuselage impacted a large rock on the right side .

February 20th, 2000. The following is shared from Dan:

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies of laughter-silvered wings.

Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared

And swung high in the sunlit silence.

Hov'ring there, I've chased the shouting

Wind along, and flung my eager craft

Through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I've topped the windswept heights with

Easy grace where never lark, or even

Eagle flew - and, while with silent

Lifting mind I've trod the high

Un-trespassed sanctity of space, put

Out of my hand and touched the face of God

February 29th, 2000. Preliminary NTSB report.
NTSB Identification: IAD00LA021
Accident occurred FEB-11-00 at CUMBERLAND GAP, VA
Aircraft: Wood SEAWIND 3000, registration: N94WB
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On February 11, 2000, about 1435 eastern standard time, a homebuilt Seawind 3000 amphibian airplane, N94WB, was destroyed after colliding with trees and mountainous terrain while maneuvering over Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, Cumberland, Virginia.

The certificated private pilot/owner/builder and student pilot passenger were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight originated in Douglas, Georgia destined for Pontiac, Michigan. No flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

A witness who lived near the park was in his house when he heard the airplane. He was interviewed via the telephone by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector. According to the record of conversation, the witness said: "Approximately 3:00 pm - no sight - only heard airplane from indoors. The engine was sputtering, and was coming on and off. He ran outside to the back deck and looked up. There was a lot of fog but he did not see the airplane. He still heard sputtering for about five seconds, then heard the sound of the airplane hitting trees, then silence."

An engineer who also lived near the park heard the airplane. In a written statement, he said: "I heard a small plane with the engine at full throttle, about 7 to 10 seconds with no missing sound, but full rev. Also, what sounded like a crash and the cracking of timber and then the engine went silent. I noticed the possible strong wind gusts at 1,300 feet and the accident site was approximately 2,400 feet.

Another witness, an auto mechanic, lived near the park and was in his yard working when he observed the airplane flying over his home. He was interviewed via the telephone by an FAA Inspector. According to the record of conversation, the witness said: "It was approximately 1430 when he first saw and heard the airplane heading towards the Middleboro airport, Middleboro, Kentucky. The airplane was white in color. The airplane went directly over his home and made a right turn toward the Pinnacle, which is the highest peak in the park. When the airplane turned right, he heard the airplane go full power towards the Pinnacle which was fogged in. The airplane disappeared over the ridge into the cloud cover and then heard a cracking noise of trees then silence. He stated the weather was very cloudy and the Pinnacle area was socked in with heavy fog. He was confused as to why the airplane turned off his original heading toward the airport."

The airplane crashed inside the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park approximately 5 nautical miles southeast of Middleboro Airport (1A6), Middleboro, Kentucky. The airplane was examined on-site by two FAA Inspectors. They reported the wreckage path was approximately 250 yards long, at an approximate elevation of 2,200 feet msl. Both wings were sheered from the airplane at the wing root. The fuselage came to rest on the right side, and the engine separated from the pylon. The inspectors noted that there was no odor of fuel at the accident site.

The airplane originally departed from Dunellon, Florida, earlier that day. Prior to departure at 0844, a fuel receipt indicated the airplane was serviced with 70.2 gallons of 100 LL fuel. The pilot then flew to Douglas, Georgia, and purchased some oil. While on the ground, around 1125, the pilot contacted the Macon Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) via telephone and stated he was VFR (visual flight rules) from Douglas, Georgia to Pontiac, Michigan. The AFSS provided weather information to the pilot. The pilot did not purchase fuel in Douglas, Georgia. A preliminary survey of other potential fuel stops along the intended route of flight revealed that N94WB was not serviced with fuel. Weather conditions at Middleboro Airport (field elevation 1,554 feet msl) at 1501, were ceiling 1,300 feet overcast, visibility 10 nautical miles, wind 330 degrees at 7 knots. The pilot held a private certificate for single-engine land airplane. He did not possess an instrument rating. According to the FAA, the airplane had been flown approximately 55 total hours prior to the accident.