On February 26, 1999, about 1945, eastern standard time, a Cessna 152, N25856, was destroyed when it contacted wires while attempting an off airport precautionary landing, near Sublett, Kentucky. The certificated private pilot received minor injures. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the training cross country flight that originated from Murfreesboro Muni Airport, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, destined for Raleigh County Memorial Airport, Beckley, West Virginia. A visual flight rules flight plan had been filed and activated for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to the pilot, he checked weather via the Direct User Access Terminal System (DUATS) and then used the system's flight planning option to calculate en route times and fuel required. The pilot planned to depart Murfreesboro, then over fly the Livingston, London, and Hazard VORs before landing at Beckley. In addition, a pilot rated passenger was scheduled to accompany the accident pilot but cancelled at the last minute.
The pilot conducted the preflight, and visually verified both fuel tanks were full. About 1600, he started the airplane's engine, taxied to runway 18 and departed. While climbing to a final altitude of 7,500 feet msl, the pilot contacted Nashville Radio and activated his flight plan.
After activating the flight plan, the pilot changed the radio frequency to Memphis Center and requested radar traffic advisories. Memphis assigned a transponder code and reported the airplane was in radar contact. The flight continued, and between the Livingston VOR, and the London VOR, Memphis gave the pilot a frequency change to Indianapolis Center.
When the pilot arrived over the London VOR (which was located 3 miles to the northeast of the London-Corbin Airport, Magee, Kentucky), Indianapolis advised the pilot that the airplane's primary transponder signal was not being received. The pilot cycled the transponder, but the problem continued. After cycling the transponder, the pilot noticed the transponder reply light was steady, but dim. In addition, while over the VOR, the pilot noted the right fuel tank was indicating empty, and the left one was indicating half a tank. This contradicted his preflight planning figures. According to the pilot, both the airplane's left and right fuel tank quantity gauges should have been indicating approximately half a tank. The pilot continued the flight figuring the right gauge was faulty.
Approximately 20 miles to the east of the London VOR, the pilot lost radio contact with Indianapolis Center, and could not obtain a reliable signal from any VOR in the area. He attempted to establish radio contact with several different facilities using his headset, and then the hand mike and cabin speaker, but nothing seemed to work.
While trying to establish radio contact, the pilot allowed the airplane's heading to drift from 082 degrees magnetic to approximately 360 degrees, and he became disorientated. At this point in the flight, visibility was about 4 miles in smoke, the right fuel tank indicated below the "E" line, and the left tank indicated at the "E" line.
The pilot then decided to make an off airport precautionary landing. He started a descent and identified a field to land in. He overflew the field in an attempt to identify any hazards, but did not notice the wires on his intended approach path. The pilot maneuvered the airplane, and while on final approximately 50 feet above the ground, the airplane contacted the wires, stalled, and impacted the ground in a nose low attitude. The airplane came to rest inverted.
The pilot added that once both fuel gauges indicated empty he started to doubt his initial assessment that the right gauge was faulty. He also made no mention of any mechanical problems or electrical power problems with the airplane.
The pilot had about 40 hours of flight experience in the accident airplane make and model, 50 hours of cross country flight, and a 130 hours of total flight experience. In addition, he had completed two cross country flights by dead reckoning and pilotage.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector that examined the wreckage found 5 gallons of fuel in the left tank, and 6 gallons in the right tank.
Under the direction of the FAA Inspector, the commutation radio, navigation radio, and transponder were tested. All three were found to be within the manufacture's specifications. In addition the airplane's alternator was tested, and produced 24 volts and 50 amps at an alternator RPM of 4,000. The FAA approved maintenance facility that conducted the alternator test stated that the alternator was "Good."
Examination of moon and sun angle information for the date and time of the accident revealed that the sun was 16.7 degrees below the horizon, and the moon was 53.3 degrees above the horizon. Moon illumination was calculated at 89 percent.