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On February 9, 1996, approximately 2050 central standard time, a Cessna 150, N7973F, was destroyed after colliding with terrain while maneuvering near Galveston Municipal Airport, Galveston, Texas. The private pilot, sole occupant and owner of the airplane, received fatal injuries. The airplane was being operated under Title 14 CFR Part 91 when the accident occurred. The airplane departed Addison Airport, Dallas, Texas, approximately 1636 on a VFR flight plan en route to Galveston, Texas, via Huntsville, Texas. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed along the route of flight; however, instrument conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site.
After an uneventful flight between Dallas and Huntsville, the pilot landed at Huntsville Municipal Airport to refuel prior to leaving for his planned destination of Galveston. According to a refueling receipt found in the airplane after the accident, the airplane received 13.9 gallons of 100 low lead aviation fuel at Huntsville. In an interview with the investigator-in charge, a ramp attendant at Huntsville stated that the airplane was "topped off" prior to departure. Although he did not recall the exact time of departure, he thought that it was "sometime around 1915." He added that during a conversation with the pilot, the pilot told him that he was en route to Galveston, and that "fog could be a problem if he didn't hurry up and take off." The pilot also told him that, "if the fog doesn't blow over, I'll be back in." The pilot was a regular customer and, according to the ramp attendant, "it was not typical for [him] to arrive on a Friday night because most of his visits were in the middle of the day."
The Conroe, Texas, Flight Service Station contacted Galveston Airport operations at 2045 to inquire about the aircraft as it was in an overdue status. Airport personnel then conducted a ramp check with negative results. At 2055 Galveston police 911 dispatch relayed a cell phone report of an airplane crash north of the airport. Airport operations then mobilized Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) units. The wreckage was located at 2120 on the edge of Galveston Bay, approximately 1,550 feet north of the departure end of runway 35. Although there were no eye witnesses to the accident, it was discovered that 2 fishermen (made cell call to police) who were in a boat north of the airport reported hearing the sound of an aircraft engine through the dense fog, and then a "crash" sound.
The pilot kept detailed records of his flight time. According to those records, that were provided by a family member, the pilot earned his private pilot certificate on March 13, 1993. His total flight time at the time of the accident was approximately 250 hours, and 146 of those hours were flown in N7973F. He had 23 total hours of night time and 0.0 hours of actual instrument time. All of the pilot's 5.0 total hours of simulated instrument time was logged prior to March 14, 1993. His last flight, 105 days prior to the accident, was logged on October 27, 1995 (also logged 2.0 hours of night time on this date). The records revealed that since January 26, 1993, the pilot flew 9 round trip flights as pilot-in-commend from Dallas to Galveston. During those flights, no actual or simulated instrument time was logged. His last round trip flight to Galveston was logged on October 7, 1995.
According to airframe maintenance records, provided by the owner's family, the aircraft's total time in service was 2,757.1 hours as of its last 100 hour inspection performed on February 8, 1995. Tachometer time and Hobbs time could not be determined at the accident site due to impact damage. However, according to family members, the airplane was flown exclusively by the pilot. Therefore, since the pilot logged about 60.3 hours after the last inspection, the aircraft's total time at the time of the accident was approximately 2,817.4 hours. A review of the maintenance records did not reveal any uncorrected maintenance defects and, according to the records, the airframe was in compliance with applicable airworthiness directives. The records also indicated that the last static system and altimeter check was performed on February 21, 1994.
The engine was a Continental model O-200-A. According to engine maintenance records and estimated tachometer time, the engine's total time in service was approximately 2,817.4 hours at the time of the accident. The last major overhaul of the engine was performed on September 3, 1970 (tachometer time 1,611.89 hours before zeroed). The engine's time since major overhaul was approximately 1,205.5 hours at the time of the accident. The engine was operated about 60.3 hours since the last annual inspection performed on February 8, 1995. According to the records, there were no uncorrected maintenance defects and the engine was in compliance with applicable airworthiness directives.
The reported weather observations at Galveston Municipal Airport before and during the accident time period were as follows (estimated time of accident event is 2050):
TIME CEILING VISIBILITY TEMP DEW WIND ALTIMETER
1850 100 OVC 1/4 mile/FOG 60 60 180/12 30.01
1950 100 OVC 1/4 mile/FOG 60 60 200/12 30.02
2050 Obscured 1/8 mile/FOG 59 58 170/11 30.03
2127 Obscured 1/8 mile/FOG 59 58 170/10 30.03
In an interview with the investigator-in-charge, the pilot of an aircraft (N5484D) reported that he was executing the ILS RWY 13 approach into Galveston at approximately 2115. He stated that, while being vectored at an altitude of 2,000 feet, "fog was below and it was clear above." Ground lights were "dimly" visible through the fog. On final, he activated the pilot controlled MASLR lights to high intensity and entered the fog bank at approximately 400 feet AGL. At decision height he executed a missed approach due to the fact that "the runway lights were not visible and the incandescent approach lights were barely visible." He added that, the visibility "had to be 3/10 or less." He further stated that he was able to see parked aircraft and distinguish between paved and unpaved surfaces from directly above the fog layer. However, upon entering the fog on the descent, "visual cues disappeared" and he relied solely on his instruments.
According to Galveston Airport's daily activity log, the last aircraft to land at the facility on the day of the accident was at 1825. The UNICOM radio attendant at Galveston reported that the foggy weather conditions prevailed at the airport from about 1830 throughout the evening.
The pilot filed a VFR flight plan from Dallas via telephone with Fort Worth Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) at 1443. He relayed to the operator that he would be departing Dallas at 1530 and would arrive at Galveston between 1800 and 1830. The operator gave the pilot weather information along the route of flight. According to FAA records, the following is a draft transcript portion of the weather information received by the pilot from AFSS between 1443 and 1444 central standard time:
1443:29 AFSS "No adverse weather features anywhere in the state and no flight precautions. Addison is reporting clear and ten surface winds two four zero at one zero. They should be like that as you depart. It's clear across much or about the first half of your trip. Southern half is partly cloudy but still VFR typical of Galveston. They are two thousand scattered, four thousand broken, two five thousand broken, visibility is seven with surface winds one nine zero at one five. What time would you be arriving, I'll check for their forecast."
1444:09 PILOT "I guess be about twenty-four or double thirty." (zulu time)
1444:16 AFSS "Your arrival stays pretty much as they are now with two thousand scattered ceiling, four thousand broken, visibility seven or greater, surface winds one nine zero at five. What altitude for winds."
The complete draft transcript between the pilot and Fort Worth AFSS is attached to this report.
The pilot activated the VFR flight plan with Fort Worth AFSS at 1636 after becoming airborne from Addison Airport, Dallas, Texas. According to FAA records, no further radio communications between the aircraft and any AFSS or approach control facility along the route of flight was reported. Radar data from Houston Center was reviewed with negative results.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was found in a marshy area on the southern edge of Galveston Bay, approximately 1550 feet beyond the departure end of runway 35, on a magnetic heading of the 350 degrees. The entire wreckage distribution, including ground scars, was spread over a linear rectangular area approximately 160 feet long by 30 feet wide. The approximate center line of the energy path was oriented about 350 degrees magnetic. Initial ground scars encompassed a 14 foot wide area of cut branches from bushes standing about 4 feet from ground level. The approximate angle of the cuts were measured to be 10-15 degrees sloping downward about 30 feet forward along the energy path. The next ground scars along the energy path were 2 impressions in the ground about 8 feet apart and 8 inches deep. These impressions correspond to the measured distance between the main landing gear struts of the aircraft. Just forward along the path of these impressions was a 12 inch deep, 25 foot long, and 2 foot wide ground impression. Paint chips and debris from the underside of the fuselage were found embedded in this scar. The main wreckage was found about 85 feet forward of this impression.
The engine compartment and forward cabin section was found folded under the aft fuselage. The fuselage was partially separated along the lateral axis of the fold (aft of the baggage compartment). Both wings exhibited bending aft along the chordwise axis near the wing root, and were also folded under the fuselage. The left wing leading edge was crushed aft along the span from the wing tip inboard to the wing support strut. The right wing exhibited similar damage. The empennage was intact and flight control cable continuity from the fuselage (aft of the baggage compartment) to the rudder and elevator control surfaces was confirmed. Flight control cable continuity from the cockpit to the ailerons, and from the cockpit aft to where the fuselage was separated, could not be confirmed due to impact damage. Measurement of the flap jackscrew revealed a 10 degree down position. The cockpit was mostly destroyed by impact forces. The landing light, navigation light, and strobe switches were found in the "off" position. The mixture control lever was destroyed, throttle lever "open", and carburetor heat was "closed." The altimeter needles displayed "470" feet and the kohlsman window within displayed "29.91" (the reported altimeter at Galveston was 30.03 at the time of the accident).
The propeller hub assembly was attached to the flange mount and the spinner exhibited spiral crushing aft. Both blades exhibited bending toward the non-cambered side and were twisted in the direction of rotation. The engine exhibited heavy impact damage. The engine oil sump was crushed aft, the intake and exhaust pipes were crushed, and the right magneto was partially separated from the case. The #1 and #3 top ignition leads were damaged near their respective plugs. For documentation purposes, the top spark plugs and valve covers were removed and the crankshaft was rotated. The oil inlet screen was clean and clear of debris. Internal engine continuity was confirmed by piston and valve rocker arm movement, and movement of the accessory drives. A differential compression check was performed with the following results: #1 cylinder, 0/80 PSI; #2 cylinder, 31/80 PSI; #3 cylinder, 0/80 PSI; #4 cylinder, 46/80 PSI. A timing check of the left magneto revealed it to be 24 degrees before top dead center. Impact damage (flange mount fractured) to the right magneto prohibited a timing check. Both magnetos sparked at all terminals when rotated by hand. The carburetor body exhibited impact damage and the mixture and throttle were free to move. Upon disassembly, no internal damage was noted. The fuel screen was clean and clear of debris. The spark plugs electrodes exhibited moderate, uniform wear. The vacuum pump assembly drive shaft was found partially separated.
Other that the aforementioned impact related damage to the airframe and the engine, no pre-existing anomalies were discovered that would have contributed to the accident.
ARFF rescue personnel (on the scene about 20 minutes after the accident) reported that there was a heavy fuel odor at the accident site. Pools of fuel were evident in the marsh adjacent to the wreckage. Inspection of the runway revealed no physical evidence that the aircraft came into contact with the paved surface.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Toxicology tests on the pilot for alcohol, drugs and carbon monoxide were negative. An autopsy, performed by the County of Galveston Medical Examiner's Office, revealed that the pilot's cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries.
There was no evidence of an in-flight or post impact fire.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
According to carburetor icing probability charts, atmospheric conditions were conducive for carburetor icing. However, the fishermen who heard the engine operating prior to impact did not report any unusual sounds
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative.