What is this plane?
August 27, 2008 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Whilst backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a friend of mine came across what appeared to be the detritus of an aircraft crash.

He found a propeller and some aluminum skin and plastic (photos of the prop: here and here). The only other bit of information they could glean was the prop had "NOT FAA APPROVED" stamped on it.

Based on this (extremely limited) information, are there any reasonable assumptions as to the size of the aircraft and its purpose?
posted by basicchannel to Travel & Transportation around Nevada (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Size is a bit tricky, but non-FAA says to me maybe a prototype, or even something like a powered paraglider. In the US there's almost no regulation and no license for PPGs.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 11:46 AM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: I've been told by my friend there have been a number of crashes in the area since 1958 (when the FAA was established) and that searching the NTSB site is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
posted by basicchannel at 11:49 AM on August 27, 2008

Was this on Forest Service managed lands? I only ask because *some* districts keep pretty meticulous records about even potential crashes/incidents in their district. Even if they never found the wreckage there may be some info available. Also, having worked for the FS, I do know that they often dont bother cleaning up the wreckage even if they do find it. Anyway, there may be some info out there if you felt like being all detective-like. Take a GPS point and bring it in to the ranger station and see what they can do.

Additionally, if the wreckage was even anywhere near a fire lookout station, the guys who man those stations are required to report darn near everything they see and you'd be amazed at the random data that comes from the very bored pens of lookouts. That info is stored and its public, although I imagine you'd have to be pretty dedicated to access it if you werent a Federal employee. Happy hunting.
posted by elendil71 at 12:06 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is this within the search parameter box for the missing Steve Fossett? Maybe your local FSDO --FAA Flight Standards District Office would be interested. You can find one at your nearest meduim-sized airport. Or look on www.Faa.gov
posted by eaglehound at 12:40 PM on August 27, 2008

The tail number is really important information, as well as a GPS fix. It is likely invisible from the air.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:42 PM on August 27, 2008

That propeller is likely from a much higher performance aircraft than a PPG- it's one blade of a controllable-pitch prop- see the counterweights and the bearing surfaces around the base? It's also possible that it a prop blade that was shed mid-flight, especially if there is no significant other wreckage nearby (within, say, 1/4 mile). There was an ad or a group on youtube or Flickr recently that was looking for a prop that some guy lost from his plane out west somewhere- highly unlikely, but maybe worth Googling around for. (It has a $1000 reward attached to it IIRC.)
posted by pjern at 12:55 PM on August 27, 2008

Oh, and the blades of controllable pitch props have serial numbers on or near the base. These are recorded in aircraft maintenance logbooks.
posted by pjern at 12:56 PM on August 27, 2008

Also- military aircraft don't (or at least didn't used to) have to use FAA-Approved parts.
posted by pjern at 12:59 PM on August 27, 2008

You might want to check around on this site or email them to see if they have any information on the wreck.
posted by bondcliff at 1:19 PM on August 27, 2008

In fact this site has a forum you can ask at.

You can find more resources by googling "Aviation Archeology" It's actually a pretty fascinating hobby.
posted by bondcliff at 1:28 PM on August 27, 2008

The missing prop mentioned by pjern has been found (great domain name, eh?).

I second the idea of trying to read the serial numbers from the prop blade. Maybe contact the NTSB? I seem to recall someone found a landing gear door or the like in this neck of the woods last year and the authorities didn't seem to care, but this find seems more serious.
posted by exogenous at 2:16 PM on August 27, 2008

There's low likelihood of a match, but the Steve Fossett search effort would probably want to hear about this. (One way or another.) In any case he isn't the only aviator lost in the region.
posted by dhartung at 4:56 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments and suggestions. The blade looks like it could fit a number of planes including Fossett's Super Decathlon.
posted by basicchannel at 6:04 PM on August 27, 2008

Are there pictures of the rest of the wreckage? People could probably tell more from that.
posted by procrastination at 6:10 PM on August 27, 2008

Mr. Cocoa was a certified aviation maintenance tech in a former life. He says,

"This doesn't belong to a powered parachute or powered paraglider. It belongs to something with a greater than 100 horsepower reciprocating engine. To my eye it looks like a Sensenich prop or Hartzell prop.

The curling on the end indicates how and whether it was under power on impact. For example, an insurance adjuster would be able to look at that curl and tell whether it was still attached to the plane on impact and in what direction and under how much power the prop was at the time, versus whether it fell off a plane in mid-air and simply fell to the ground. Here's a sample picture of what I mean. The curl would would indicate, for instance, whether or not it would be useful to search for wreckage nearby.

The "Non FAA Approved" doesn't make sense to me, but I'm glad to see the FAA is on the job even out there in the Sierra Nevada, because that does not look like an air-worthy prop to me either. :-)

Here is the part number for the Super Decathlon:
Hartzell HC-C2YR-4CF/FC7666A-2 (description: Acrobatic Constant Speed 74" Propeller)"
posted by cocoagirl at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2008

Best guesses: an experimental class / homebuilt aircraft. It is not fresh wreckage. It was attached to the airplane and still spinning when the aircraft crashed. As mentioned above, probably a constant speed prop, and size = largish or higher performance small aircraft. Crashed in the wintertime.

It may be worth running this down. I'd suggest contacting the NTSB as a start.
posted by coffeefilter at 7:32 PM on August 27, 2008

Note: it is not this, as that incident predates the FAA.
posted by coffeefilter at 7:42 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: Some more photos of the parts found. You can actually read the text imprinted on the prop now which is as follows:

HAM STD 10151-0-102 CHG E.
MFG N 800094

Looks like Hamilton Standard is the manufacturer of the prop with 10151-0 being the part number. Anyone familiar with them?
posted by basicchannel at 8:56 PM on August 27, 2008

P.S. - I think pjern is right - it's military. That explains the not FAA certified stamp -- and also the drab green paint!

Maybe something like an OV-1, OV-10, or T-41 trainer.
posted by coffeefilter at 2:19 AM on August 28, 2008

Response by poster: An NTSB investigator replied to an email from my friend and said he has forwarded the information to offices in the area. I don't expect a response but will update this post/metatalk thread if they come up with any answers.
posted by basicchannel at 11:34 AM on September 2, 2008

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