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On September 13, 1995, between 0230 and 0618 central daylight time, a Cessna 172M, N61899, registered to Cobb Aircraft Inc., and operated under Title 14 CFR Part 91 as a personal flight, collided with trees and impacted the ground in remote mountainous terrain near Witter, Arkansas. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private pilot-in-command and two passengers received fatal injuries, and the rental airplane was destroyed by impact forces. The flight originated from Hot Springs, Arkansas, during early morning hours and was en route to Fayettville, Arkansas.
According to his wife, the pilot received a phone call "around midnight" at their home. After the call, he told her that he needed to fly an airplane to Fayetteville to take care of "an emergency." The exact time line of the pilot's activities after he left his home are unknown. However, it was confirmed that the pilot had retrieved N61899 from the ramp located at Cobb Aviation, Hot Springs Airport, during early morning hours. The owner of the airplane reported that, the pilot was a customer and had purchased a "block" of rental flying time (10 hours) on September 24, 1994. He further reported that, the pilot had a key to a lock box which contained airplane keys for rental customers. The lock box system was intended to be a means for customers to pick up or drop off an airplane after business hours. The owner added that, customers would "normally" call him when they were going to pick up an airplane utilizing the lock box system, but he had no knowledge that the pilot had used the airplane until after the accident.
According to the owner, the pilot's wife called him approximately 0930 and asked if he had heard from her husband. After verifying that N61899 was missing from the ramp, he contacted the FAA and requested that a search be initiated for the airplane. Earlier that morning, at 0618, a Civil Air Patrol airplane, flying in the vicinity of the accident site, reported receiving an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal. During the ensuing search, an air evacuation helicopter located the airplane wreckage atop a heavily wooded mountain ridge, approximately 4 miles southeast of Witter, Arkansas.
According to FAA records, the pilot reported having 226 hours of flight time at the time of his last flight physical on August 12, 1994. A review of the pilot's log book entrys showed that his last night flight (3.2 hours) was in October of 1979. The last recorded entry in his log book was .8 hours on May 11, 1995. Total flight time (recorded in the pilot's log) from 1979 to the accident date was 61.3 hours.
A review of the airplane's maintenance records provided by the owner did not reveal any anomalies or uncorrected defects that would have contributed to the accident.
Although there were no local weather reporting sources in the vicinity of the accident, a witness, who lived in the mountains near the accident site, reported that there was heavy fog in the vicinity of the accident site during the early morning hours. The Fayetteville, Arkansas, weather observation station, located 30 miles northwest of the site, reported reduced visibility due to fog during early morning hours (0052 through 0602). Additionally, the Harrison, Arkansas, weather observation facility, located 40 miles northeast of the site, reported partial and total obscuration due to fog (0052 through 0556).
According to the FAA, there is no record of an AFSS weather briefing or radio communications between the airplane and air traffic control facilities along the route of flight. It is unknown whether the pilot obtained weather information from a source other than a FAA facility. Additionally, Memphis Center conducted a computer search of all radar data, both beacon and primary returns, for 30 miles either side of a straight line course from Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Fayettville, Arkansas. The search revealed that no data could be correlated with a flight from Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Fayettville, Arkansas, during the early morning hours of September 13.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
On site examination of the wreckage revealed that the airplane descended through mature trees for approximately 420 feet on a heading of 290 degrees until ground impact, coming to rest inverted. Two propeller blades, which were painted black, exhibited chordwise scratches. Angular cut branches, ranging from 1.5 to 4 inches in diameter, were found along the wreckage path and exhibited black paint transfers. Both wings exhibited compression damage on their leading edges. The left wing was separated from the fuselage and lodged in a tree approximately 75 feet above the ground, 150 feet east of the main wreckage. Fuel odor was evident at the site and fuel was present in the carburetor bowl. The propeller spinner had wood splinters embedded in the center and exhibited spiral crushing aft.
TESTS AND RESERCH
Examination of the engine did not reveal evidence of malfunction that would have contributed to the accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy on the pilot was performed by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Medical Examiner Division, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Toxicology tests, performed on the pilot by CAMI, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed positive results for Methamphetamine in the blood (0.365 ug/ml), Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (marihuana) in the urine (0.059 ug/ml), and Ethanol in the blood (2.5 mg/dl). According to the FAA regional flight surgeon (statement enclosed), the Methamphetamine concentrations could have impaired the pilot's performance. The effects of Methamphetamine, from the Physicians Desk Reference, is enclosed as an attachment to this report. The flight surgeon also stated that, the level of alcohol in the blood could have been a result of post-mortem production and, therefore, inconclusive. The level of marihuana found in the urine is indicative that the pilot had been under the influence of the drug some time in the recent past before his death. Although it cannot be concluded that the marihuana contributed to pilot impairment, the flight surgeon stated that, studies have been published concerning the detrimental effects of the "carryover or hangover" from using the drug and the ability of pilots to safely operate aircraft.
The wreckage was released to the owner.