NTSB Identification: LAX02FA210.
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Accident occurred Saturday, June 29, 2002 in Chambers, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2005
Aircraft: Beech C35, registration: N5856C
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

During a nighttime cross-country flight in clear visual meteorological conditions, the airplane departed from controlled flight and broke up during a steep high speed descent. Wreckage was located over a 1,650-foot-long southerly path about 0.4 miles from the last recorded radar position, with the right wing and right stabalator found early in the debris field. The pilot had awakened at 0600 and reported for work at 0750, and he had flown five contract flights dispersing fire retardant chemical on wildfires for a total of 7.4 flight hours on the day of the accident. Upon completing his last flight about 1900, the pilot was overheard stating "we had a tough one today." He then laid his head down on the airplane's wing and said, "dang I'm tired." A second associate reported that the pilot had experienced difficulty completing the required end of day paperwork, making arithmetic errors during simple addition calculations. This associate thought the pilot was tired and "mentally exhausted." The pilot told this associate that he was going to spend the night in a local hotel, but instead he departed about 2022. The pilot requested and received VFR radar flight following service, and at no time did the pilot indicate he was experiencing any difficulties or request assistance. Following about an hour of cruise flight at 10,500 feet, during the last 19 seconds of radar-recorded flight, the airplane's average ground track changed from 241 degrees to 170 degrees, while its altitude increased from 10,900 to 11,000 feet. There were no further altitude readouts. The airplane broke apart in flight and impacted flat, desert terrain at an altitude of about 6,200 feet mean sea level. The right wing spar fractures were positive overload failures and evidence shows that it separated and impacted the right stabilizer, which also then separated.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's loss of airplane control after falling asleep due to fatigue, which resulted in a structural failure of the airframe during a high speed descent after the design stress limits of the aircraft were exceeded.

Full narrative available

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