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On July 5, 1994, approximately 0940 central daylight time, a SIAI Marchetti F.260, N260MS, was destroyed while maneuvering 3 miles west of Dover, Oklahoma. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the 14 CFR Part 91 demonstration flight.
The demonstration flight consisted of two Marchetti F.260 aircraft, the accident aircraft and N260MT. Each aircraft had a passenger onboard, who were employees of KFOR, channel 4, an Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, television station. Both pilots owned their aircraft and were part owners of Air Strikes International Inc., (ASI) based in McKinney, Texas. Air Strikes International was the operator of both aircraft and held no operating certificate.
The demonstration flight was arranged by KFOR and the operators. The television station intended to do a story and ASI was to be paid with 2 minutes of air time.
The planned flight was to include a pass parallel to the station's helicopter, simulated air-to-air combat between the two aircraft, and a simulated attack on a bridge. Both aircraft departed Wiley Post Airport, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, approximately 0835. They were cleared for a formation departure and executed it as planned. N260MT was designated as the lead or number one aircraft for the demonstration. En route, the aircraft were joined by the helicopter. After making several photo passes parallel to the helicopter, and additional maneuvering, N260MT returned to Wiley Post Airport because the passenger was not feeling well. N260MS and the helicopter proceeded to the Loyal Bridge across the Cimmaron River. The helicopter crew unloaded the camera operator who was to video tape the simulated attack on the bridge.
Witnesses observed the airplane make two passes at the bridge from east to west. According to video tape taken by KFOR, each pass terminated with a steep pull up to a point past the 90 degree position above the horizon, followed by a wingover type maneuver and recovery. Audio from the airplane cockpit video camera indicated that the east to west approach to the bridge restricted the aircraft from descending lower due to high tension wires at the approach end. The third pass was from west to east and was initiated approximately 50 feet above the river bed.
Review of video tapes of the final pass revealed that the airplane pulled up steeply, went past the 90 degree point, did a left wingover type maneuver, and flew into the ground past the bridge. The onboard camera recorded an expletive from the pilot just prior to impact and a simultaneous left roll towards wings level.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot of the accident aircraft did not hold an airman or medical certificate. His last medical certificate was dated July 15, 1985, when he was a United States Navy flight student. Mr. Michael Michaelis, the operator's director of flight operations, stated that the pilot showed him what appeared to be a commercial pilot certificate. Mr. Michaelis further reported that the pilot told him that he had obtained a medical certificate.
According to official records, the pilot joined the navy in April 1980 as a seaman apprentice. He was commissioned an ensign in April 1984, and was designated a naval aviator in April 1986. He was then assigned to Attack Squadron 42, a fleet replacement squadron, for transition to the A-6E. After two boards of review regarding his difficulty in aircraft carrier qualification in the A-6E, the pilot was removed from flight status due to "a fundamental lack of the skills necessary to function as a Naval Aviator." Additional navy records regarding the pilot stated "that his basic lack of aeronautical skill is the fundamental cause for his unsatisfactory performance during carrier qualification...since he was deemed unsafe during the daytime." Following the board reviews and subsequent removal from flight status he was designated as a cryptologist. He remained on active duty with the navy until January 1994. There was no evidence in navy records or his navy log book that he returned to flight status with the navy.
According to his navy flight log, total military experience for the pilot was 418 hours. His last navy log entry was dated May 12, 1987. Operator furnished records indicated that he had about 80 hours in the accident make and model airplane. There was no documentation of any other civil flight training or activity.
The pilot circulated a resume describing himself as a former naval fighter pilot and a veteran of Desert Storm in that capacity. Information provided by other witnesses, including fellow pilots at ASI, revealed that the pilot had identified himself as a former instructor in the navy's top gun program.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage scatter was aligned on a magnetic heading of 290 degrees. The first pieces of wreckage, the left aileron and right wing tip, were 30 feet apart and in 6 inches of water. At the 30-foot mark was the pitot tube, bent straight back. Just beyond was a sandbar and, at the 60-foot mark, was the propeller.
Control continuity was established both at the scene and during follow-up wreckage examination. There was no evidence of foreign objects that would have restricted control inputs. Cockpit video recorded no evidence of aircraft malfunction.
Also located on the sandbar were both flaps, pieces of canopy, and a red position light. In shallow water, at the 205-foot mark, were a fuel vent, a fuel tank cap, and the carburetor.
The main wreckage was at the 235-foot mark, aligned on a magnetic heading of 120 degrees. The horizontal stabilizer, with elevators attached, was rotated; the right side was pushed back 2 inches and the left side was forward by 2 inches. The vertical stabilizer and rudder were intact.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In addition, FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute conducted a toxicological screen. The results of the screen were negative.
Air Strike International Incorporated was formed in January 1994.
The business offered customers simulated aerial combat missions, including air-to-air and air-to-ground scenarios, for monetary compensation. There were four officers in the company. Two of the officers were pilots; one was the accident pilot and the other was Mr. Michailis. They individually purchased the two airplanes used by the company. They were registered to the individuals and not the corporation. ASI had requested a STC approval, for the installation of a smoke generator, which was later approved, on March 4, 1994. According to ASI, they had other pilots checked out in the airplanes but the airplane owners did most of the flying.
According to the operator's submitted statement their business was conducted under FAR Part 91 regulations. Mr. Michaelis had been advised by an inspector at the Long Beach, California, FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) that a similar operator in Fullerton, California, was a Part 91 operation. Mr. Michaelis also reported that two representatives from the Dallas, Texas, FAA FSDO visited the office of ASI and were aware of their operation under FAR Part 91. He stated that they "were not advised that we should be operating under a different FAR part. Hence we have continued to operate under Part 91 rules."
Mr. Michaelis stated that company policy prohibited low level flying below 500 feet above ground level (AGL) and no aerobatics below 1,500 feet AGL.
Personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration Dallas, Texas, FSDO involved with ASI were interviewed and submitted written statements, which are attached. Three inspectors had contact with the accident pilot. This included visits to the offices of ASI and phone calls. Information in the next two paragraphs is based on the interview and the inspector's statements.
One discussion concerned the application of a modification to the air frames of the two aircraft. Another meeting involved discussion of a waiver to perform flight maneuvers at a flight event in McKinney, Texas. The waiver was not granted and a certificate not issued due to a lack of aerobatic currency cards for those listed on the waiver application. The accident pilot pursued the waiver but was not listed on the request for waiver.
"On or about June 23, 1994," an inspector was on a "routine visit" to the McKinney, Texas Municipal Airport and was talking with local personnel about their flight event scheduled for July 3, 1994. During that visit the two primary pilots for ASI queried the FAA inspector about their waiver. After that discussion the accident pilot and the FAA inspector were engaged in conversation and the inspector asked the pilot for his pilot certificate. "At this point, he touched the various pockets of his flight suit, and stated that he 'left his billfold in his car when he went for lunch.' I stated that should he fly that day he should be sure to have his certificates with him." The inspector then left the property and had no further contact with ASI.
FAR 61.73 provides the ability for military pilots to convert their military ratings and qualifications if they have been on official flight status within the preceding 12 calendar months at time of application. This procedure requires that the applicant complete a written examination and possess a medical certificate before an airmen's certificate is issued. If a pilot has not been on flight status within the 12 preceding months at time of application he must also take a flight proficiency test in addition to the written requirements. The FAR also states in 61.73 (a) "that this section does not apply to a military pilot who has been removed from flying status for lack of proficiency or disciplinary action involving aircraft operations." Official records indicate the pilot did not apply for transfer of his military experience to a civil certificate.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on July 6, 1994.