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On June 28, 1995, at 2128 central daylight time, a Cessna 182Q, N759NU, was destroyed when it impacted terrain during an uncontrolled descent near San Angelo, Texas. The non-instrument rated private pilot/owner and his passenger received fatal injuries. The airplane departed Mathis Field at 2125 for the personal flight conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed.
At 1935, the pilot telephoned the San Angelo Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) and stated he was "checking on the weather as to if I can go to three Romeo three Austin Executive tonight." The pilot was advised of "pretty bad thunderstorms around the San Angelo area at this time" and that the storms were expected "to start dying down after ten o'clock tonight." He was further advised that if he "wanted to leave sooner," he could avoid "most" of the thunderstorms by departing "to the south and then head off east toward Austin." The pilot declined an offer to receive a standard weather briefing and terminated the conversation at 1937.
At 2021, the pilot again telephoned the San Angelo AFSS and stated: "I need to go three Romeo three Austin. When are you going to let me go?" The pilot was advised that the current conditions at San Angelo included a thunderstorm "in the vicinity of the station overhead." He was further advised that he "should remain out of any heavier thunderstorm or rain showers" if he departed "San Angelo due south for about fifteen or twenty miles" and then turned east towards Austin. The briefer stated "forecasted conditions along the entire route" included "thunderstorm and rainshower activity some possibly severe" which was expected "to diminish down after about ten pm." The conversation was terminated at 2024 by the pilot who stated: "I may go after ten o'clock."
At 2106, the pilot contacted Midland approach and reported that he was unable to contact Mathis Field tower and "would like to go to Eldorado." (Eldorado is located 30 nm south of San Angelo.) The approach controller informed the pilot that the tower was closed and, in response to the pilot's request for the "preferred runway," stated that traffic had been using runways 3 and 36.
According to radar track data, the airplane began its takeoff roll on runway 36 at 2125:02. After liftoff, the airplane entered a climbing right turn to a southerly heading and leveled out at 2,800 feet MSL. During the time period from 2126:58 to 2127:36, the airplane remained on a southerly heading and descended to 2,400 feet MSL. The last radar return was received at 2127:40 and indicated the airplane was at 2,200 feet MSL, approximately 2 nm southeast of Mathis Field.
Witnesses at the airport observed the airplane depart and described the weather conditions as "moderate" to "heavy" rain, "strong" winds, visibility of "5 miles or less" with "multiple lightning strikes" occurring in the immediate vicinity of the airport. A witness observed the airplane "about midfield downwind in level flight" and then, "at about the southeast edge of the field, the plane made an abrupt descent and exploded on impact."
Approximately 2300 to 2330, a U.S. Customs Service helicopter conducted an aerial search for the accident site. The helicopter pilot stated the site "was in a very dark area with hardly any ground lights" and reported "having trouble keeping a ground reference." The other helicopter crewmember reported he advised the pilot "several times during a sustained hover" that they were "moving backwards" and the pilot "would respond that it was very difficult to see outside the aircraft due to the darkness of the night."
The pilot purchased the airplane in January 1995 and leased it to the operator, Air Center II, Inc., dba Awesome Aviation. After completing the flight training for his private pilot certificate in Cessna 150 and 152 aircraft operated by Awesome Aviation, the pilot received his private certificate on April 27, 1995. According to the pilot's flight logbook, he "satisfactorily" completed a "Cessna 182 checkout" on May 13, 1995. The logbook indicated that, as of June 24, 1995, the pilot had accumulated 1.5 hours total instrument time and 10.8 hours total night time.
The following weather conditions were recorded at 2119 for Mathis Field:
Lowest cloud condition 800 scattered; measured ceiling 7,500 overcast; visibility 7 miles; thunderstorm and light rain shower; wind 080 degrees at 23 knots with peak gusts of 34 knots; altimeter setting 29.94 inches of mercury; thunderstorm with frequent lightning in clouds, cloud to cloud, and cloud to ground in vicinity of station all quadrants.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located approximately 2 nm southeast of Mathis Field at latitude 31 degrees 20.26 minutes north and longitude 100 degrees 28.40 minutes west. Examination of the accident site revealed a linear wreckage path, including tree and ground scars, extending for a total distance of 480 feet on a measured magnetic heading of 160 degrees. The main wreckage consisting of the fuselage, wings, and empennage was located at the 240 foot mark. Parts of the airplane were scattered for an additional 240 feet past the fuselage with the engine, the furthest piece of wreckage, located at the 480 foot mark. See enclosed wreckage diagram for further details.
An examination of the engine was conducted on July 13, 1995. Engine continuity was confirmed to all of the cylinders and to the accessory section. Both magnetos sparked at all terminals when rotated with a drill motor. Disassembly of the vacuum pump revealed an intact drive shaft, broken vanes, and circumferential scoring on the interior of the case. The propeller separated from the crankshaft. One blade was loose in the hub and displayed S-bending. The other blade was twisted toward the non-cambered side and exhibited chordwise scratches on the cambered side.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was performed by Roberto J. Bayardo, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner of Travis County, at Austin, Texas. Toxicological findings were negative.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner.