HISTORY OF THE FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On April 17, 1994, at 1850 central daylight time, a Siai Marchetti F.260C, N14FD, was destroyed when it struck the ground in a pasture near Watson, Arkansas and burned. The airplane, owned by Mr. Mike Blackstone and operated by Air Combat USA, and flown by a ATP pilot, was the number two airplane in a flight of two on a cross country positioning flight. There was no flight plan filed and visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries.
Both pilots were employed by a company that specialized in offering simulated air combat flights. The two airplanes had operated at an air show in San Antonio, Texas, over the weekend. The flight leader was interviewed in person on the morning following the accident. According to the leader, who was flying a similar airplane, the flight departed San Antonio, refueled in Shreveport, Louisiana, and was en route to their home base in West Memphis, Arkansas. He stated that after takeoff from Shreveport, they climbed to 5,500 feet MSL, then later descended to 1,500 feet because of increasing head winds. According to recorded radar data from Shreveport ATC, after departure, the airplanes climbed to 3,600 feet MSL and leveled off. The last radar hit was recorded at 1756, with the airplanes level at 3,600 feet, 47 miles northeast of Barksdale AFB, on a heading of 065 degrees.
The surviving pilot stated that they were en route at 1,500 feet AGL in loose trail formation with a mile separation, when the second pilot called on their air to air frequency and stated "this is not good, I'm going to try to make that field." The lead pilot stated that he turned 90 degrees in time to see a fireball erupt. He further stated that he then circled at altitude until he was sure that emergency equipment was on the way and then flew to Dumas, Arkansas, where he landed and reported to law enforcement authorities.
Later in the investigation, the flight leader stated in a written statement that "a couple of times over sparsely populated areas I dropped down to lower altitudes but at all times abiding by FAR 91.119." He further said that "I cannot speak for the mishap pilot. He flew down at lower altitudes also, but exactly how low I don't know."
Numerous witnesses in the area reported to law enforcement officers that they observed two military style airplanes flying in the area and doing air combat maneuvers at altitudes of between 50 and 200 feet AGL. The airplanes were distinctive due to their silver paint and orange fluorescent painted tip tanks. A witness, who lived at the hunting club and turned in the accident to the Dumas 911 emergency operator, stated that following the accident, the second airplane continued to circle the area and made several low passes over the accident site, at altitudes of between 10 and 30 feet above the tops of the trees.
The pilot had flown with Air Combat U.S.A, as an aerial combat demonstration pilot, for about one month prior to the accident. During that time, he had accumulated about 58 hours total time in the accident make and model. It was also determined that he flew Douglas DC-9B transport aircraft for the U.S. Navy Reserve out of Memphis. During the investigation, it was rumored that the pilot was a diabetic. There was no evidence to substantiate the rumor. At the time of the accident, he held a current Class I medical certificate from the FAA and a current Class II medical and a clearance slip from his reserve unit's flight surgeon.
The airplane was certificated in the Normal, Utility, and Acrobatic categories, depending on the gross weight it was operating at. A review of the airplane's maintenance records did not reveal any outstanding deficiencies and the last maintenance performed had been the replacement of the manifold pressure gauge while the airplane was in San Antonio. The airplane had been topped off with 100LL aviation fuel prior to departure from Shreveport and had no other service. It was within the prescribed limits for weight and center of gravity at the time of the accident.
The airplanes did not communicate with air traffic control after they departed the control area at Shreveport. According to the flight leader, they were in communication with each other throughout the flight. He stated that the second pilot had not reported any discrepancies in his airplane or any emergency conditions until the point where he said "This is not good. I am going to try and make that field."
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed on the property of the Yankopin Hunting Club, in an open oat field that had once contained a 2,200 foot private sod strip that, according to property owners, had not been used in several years, but was still visible from the air. Orange fluorescent paint and red navigation lens material was found in the bottom of the initial impact gouge. Ground scars and imprints led from the initial impact point, 20 feet, to the main impact crater which was measured at 8 feet in diameter and about 18 inches deep. The main wreckage was located 18 feet to the southeast of the main crater and had come to rest on a measured heading of 030 degrees.
All of the airplane flight controls were accounted for at the accident site. The left wing was found separated in two places; one at mid-span, at the aileron/flap gap and at the outboard section near the left tip tank attachment. The right wing remained attached to the fuselage and was found intact, except for fire damage, with the control surfaces attached. The right tip tank was found attached; however, the welded seams had separated. The empennage survived the fire and all of its flight control surfaces remained attached. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were found bent upward at mid-span.
Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit to all of the surfaces on the empennage. In addition, continuity was established to the left aileron and the carry through cable. The right cable was found separated. The length of the separated cable outboard from the cockpit corresponded to a point where a serrated cut was found in the leading edge of the right wing. The cut was located about 18 inches outboard of the wing tank filler cap. In addition to the serrated cut through the leading edge skin, back to the forward spar, scrape marks were found inboard of the cut and led up to the cut. At their initial point, the scrape marks were faint and then progressed deeper into the leading edge skin up to the point of the cut.
The engine remained attached to its mounts and the fire wall, but was bend downward. The propeller had separated and was found under the engine. Examination of the blades revealed a smooth rounded nick in the leading edge of one blade. This blade was twisted and curled. Another blade was found curled forward.
According to the flight leader, the mishap pilot was flying from the right seat as was his normal habit. He was not wearing either his helmet or his parachute. The right seat was found separated and was found on the right wing walk area. The single piece canopy was found separated and outside of the fire pattern.
No cut or downed wires were located in the vicinity of the accident site and inquiries to the public utility services revealed that there had been no complaints of service interruption in the general area around the accident site. The accident site was located about 2.5 nautical miles south of an old Union Pacific railroad trestle that crossed the Arkansas River. The trestle had been taken out of service for several years and had been rotated 90 degrees to the normal tracks allowing free water access up and down the river. The old telegraph and other lines had not been removed from the top of the trestle when it was decommissioned. During the investigation, law enforcement officers were asked to inspect the bridge for evidence of downed wires and wire strike evidence. During their investigation, they found four downed wires hanging in the river. According to the officials, these were the only downed wires that they could find. Samples of the wires were obtained and forwarded to the NTSB for analysis. See separate attached metallurgical report for the findings.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy and toxicology studies were ordered. The autopsy was performed by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Medical Examiner Division. The toxicology studies were performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. There were no significant findings on either report.
The flight leader and a ground witness stated that the airplane exploded on impact. Examination of the wreckage showed fire damage to both wings, the aft section of the engine, and the cockpit cabin area, in addition to the surrounding vegetation. The fire pattern extended from the point of initial impact and encompassed a circular area, 360 degrees around the wreckage.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Metallurgical Examination of Airplane Components: Sections of the right wing, including the serrated cut and the scrape marks were cut out of the wings and submitted for examination along with the nicked propeller and wire samples obtained from the railroad trestle. Deposits found in the scrape marks and along the leading edge of the right wing in the serrated cut area as well as the nick in the propeller blade matched two steel cables submitted from the bridge. These matches were determined both metallurgically and dimensionally. See the separate report for the details of the examination.
Wreckage Release: The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on August 4, 1994. All of the retained airplane records and components were returned at that time.