LAX99FA080
LAX99FA080

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On January 23, 1999, at 1412 hours mountain standard time, a North American T-6G-NA, N2757G, crashed while performing aerobatics 3 miles south of New River, Arizona. The aircraft was destroyed by impact and postcrash fire. The airline transport pilot and his passenger received fatal injuries. The aircraft was being operated as a personal flight under 14 CFR Part 91 by the pilot/owner when the accident occurred. The flight originated from Phoenix, Arizona, about 1400 as a planned flight of two T-6 airplanes. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed.

A preflight briefing of the planned flight was given by the accident pilot. The pilot of the second aircraft reported that he was told that no negative g maneuvers, snap rolls, or spins were planned. The maneuvers that had been briefed were climbs, dives, turns, barrel rolls, and loops. The tower controller at Deer Valley airport reported to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors that the accident aircraft took off as a flight of two on runway 25L. A letter of agreement (LOA) between the tower and the accident pilot was on file in the Deer Valley ATC facility for the operation of multiple aircraft flights within class D airspace.

The second airplane's pilot reported that he had been in loose trail behind the accident aircraft when the accident aircraft began a high g pull-up. At the top of the climb, the aircraft began a slight left turn. The left turn became a hard left that turned into a partial snap roll with a resulting spin to the left. He had actually observed about 3 to 4 rotations when he saw the aircraft began his recovery, but estimated that the aircraft probably completed about 7 rotations. Before the aircraft was able to completely recover, it struck the ground in a near level, tail low attitude.

The second airplane's pilot said that prior to the accident their altitude had ranged from 2,000 to 5,000 feet agl. The separation between the two aircraft had been 200 to 300 feet. The final maneuver of the accident aircraft was estimated to have begun between 3,000 and 4,000 feet agl. Previously, they had done a number of high g maneuvers.

After the accident the second airplane's pilot made a radio call, notifying Deer Valley airport controllers of the accident. He circled the accident site for several minutes before returning to the Sky Ranch airport in Carefree, Arizona. He was later contacted by Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputies for details of the accident.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot had been licensed for over 30 years, and a flight instructor for over 10 years. In addition, he was an A&P mechanic with current inspection authorization (IA). He was personally involved in the maintenance of the accident aircraft.

He was designated by the FAA as a zero altitude airshow pilot in the T-6G and was also an International Council of Air Shows Ace (FAA zero altitude designated examiner). He was type-rated in a B-17.

The pilot's logbook was not available for review by Safety Board investigators.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The aircraft's forms and records were not available for review by Safety Board investigators. The aircraft's crew chief told Safety Board investigators that the aircraft had been given an annual inspection in September 1998, and at that time it had a total of 8,655 hours on the airframe. He estimated that it may have flown about 25 to 30 additional hours before the accident.

The pilot operator handbook (POH), also known as AN 01-60FFA-1, for this aircraft states that the spin entry is with the ailerons in the neutral position, full rudder application in the desired direction of the spin, and the stick in the full aft position at the point of stall. The spin stabilizes after three turns with the nose 30 degrees below the horizon. The aircraft can be expected to lose 500 feet of altitude during each full spin rotation after the spin has stabilized. When initiating spin recovery, the aircraft's nose will drop and the last turn will accelerate as the aircraft exits the spin in a 70-degree nose down dive.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

The pilot of the second aircraft reported that he did not encounter any weather condition that would have effected or limited the planned flight.

COMMUNICATIONS

During the time of the maneuver that preceded the accident, there was no communication received from the accident pilot.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The burned aircraft was located approximately 6 miles west of U.S. Interstate 17 and about 150 feet south of New River Road. The accident site was situated on level desert terrain with sparse vegetation. Investigators noted that ground elevation at the accident site is approximately 2,000 feet msl.

The engine accessory case and engine mounts were still attached to the fuselage and were lying just outside of the postcrash fire area. The fuselage was fully involved in the postcrash fire was found on its right side, on top of the now separated left wing. The right wing was still attached, exhibiting some fire damage as well. The left main gear was separated from the main wreckage as were the engine power section and propeller. The cockpit clock was found stopped at 2:12. The direction of the ground scars were along an axis of 015 degrees in the direction of impact. The distance from the initial ground scar to the forward most piece of wreckage was about 75 feet.

The aircraft was recovered by Air Transport of Phoenix, Arizona. It was examined on January 25, 1999, at their facility by Safety Board and FAA investigators. All the flight control surfaces were accounted for; however, due to the impact damage and fire, it was not possible to establish full control continuity. The fuel selector was found on the left tank. The left metal fuel tank exhibited evidence of hydraulic imprinting and deformation.

Remains of the rear control stick were not found in the female attachment fitting. The spouse of the passenger reported that it was in place when the aircraft departed but it is possible to be removed and stow the stick once the aircraft is airborne.

The spouse of the passenger on the accident aircraft performed an inspection of the left tank during the preflight. He reported that it was full when he removed the cap. Each tank's capacity is 55 gallons. The aircraft's crew chief reported that there were between 15 and 20 gallons in the right tank.

The engine was inspected and the rocker covers and spark plugs were removed. There was evidence of lubrication on the rocker arms. The spark plugs exhibited wear patterns and coloration consistent with normal wear and operation according to Champion Spark Plugs Check-A-Plug chart. Due to the extent of impact damage, the engine could not be rotated by hand.

There was no evidence of blockage in the exhaust system.

The propeller blades both remained in their grips. Both blades exhibited chordwise scarring as well as leading edge gouges.

MEDICAL AND IMPACT INFORMATION

On January 24, 1999, an autopsy was conducted by the Maricopa County Corner's Office, with specimens retained for toxicological examination. The toxicological examination was negative for alcohol and all screened drug substances except for sertraline (Zoloft) and desmethylsertraline, a sertraline metabolite.

The FAA Medical Records branch reported that sertraline (Zoloft) is a grounding medication and that no waivers have been or are being issued for its use. The branch also reported that the pilot did not report the use of sertraline (Zoloft) in his most recent application for an FAA medical certificate.

FIRE

According to witnesses, a postcrash fire ensued immediately upon impact.

SURVIVAL ASPECTS

Both occupants wore a 5-point restraint system as well as a parachute. Both restraint systems were found latched. There was no evidence showing that the canopy had been unlatched or opened.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A review of radar track data revealed that the flight path of the lead aircraft coincides with the description given by the witness-pilot of the trail aircraft. The lead aircraft was not utilizing its mode C capability; therefore, no profile (altitude) data was available for display.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The wreckage was released to Bill Bertles of USAIG, a representative of the registered owner on September 8, 1999.

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