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On February 24, 1996, at 1647 central standard time, a Cessna 182R, N9303E, owned and operated by the Civil Air Patrol, and a Cessna 170A, N9523A, owned and operated by a private owner, collided while in flight near Proctor, Arkansas. Both flights were being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area in which the accident occurred. N9303E was destroyed and the airline transport rated pilot and the two pilot rated passengers were fatally injured. N9523A was also destroyed and the private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, sustained fatal injuries. The flight of N9303E originated at the West Memphis Municipal Airport, where the airplane had refueled for the return flight to the Forrest City Municipal Airport. The airplane had been airborne for approximately 5 minutes at the time of the accident. N9523A was en route to the West Memphis Municipal Airport, having departed from the North Little Rock Airport at approximately 1545.
Witnesses driving westbound on Interstate 40 observed both airplane traveling in opposite directions on a collision course at an estimated altitude of 1,000 feet above the ground. The witness further stated that both airplanes attempted to avoid the collision by banking to their left. One witness added that he observed one wing and debris fall to the ground as "both airplanes nosed dived to the ground." The airplanes came to rest in a nose down attitude on cultivated fields approximately 1/2 mile apart.
The collision occurred in class G airspace approximately 7 miles west of the West Memphis Municipal Airport, an uncontrolled airport served with Unicom. The Cessna 182 was headed westbound towards Forrest City, Arkansas, and the Cessna 170 was descending on an easterly heading to enter the traffic pattern for runway 17 at West Memphis.
Witnesses in the area stated that the visibility in the vicinity of the accident was estimated to be in excess of 20 miles. An airline transport rated pilot who witnessed the accident reported the presence of high cirrus clouds and "the sun was setting but the clouds were obstructing the sun so there was no glare."
The 3 occupants of the Cessna 182 were active members of the Arkansas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). They were participants in a CAP sponsored disaster response exercise, which terminated at 1620, when they arrived at the West Memphis Municipal Airport to refuel.
The pilots of both airplanes were required to wear corrective lenses for distant vision and they normally wore contact lenses. An empty contact lenses case was found in the purse of the pilot of the Cessna 182. Reading glasses were found by forensic personnel in the shirt pocket of the Cessna 170 pilot. Forensic technicians could not determine if either pilot was wearing their contact lenses at the time of the accident. The person occupying the left front seat on the Cessna 182 had recently undergone a radial keratonomy operation of both corneas to correct for distant vision and was reported to have 20/20 vision.
Both airplane were painted white. The Cessna 182 sported brown and gold stripes, while the Cessna 170 was accented by blue stripes.
Both airplanes were equipped with anti-collision and landing lights. The anti-collision light for the Cessna 182 was mounted atop the vertical stabilizer, while the one for the Cessna 170 was mounted in the belly of the airplane, below the cabin area. The operational status of the anti-collision and landing light at the time of the accident could not be determined due to post-impact damage.
The Cessna 182 was equipped with strobe lights. According to CAP safety personnel, their policy is to operate the strobe system from before takeoff until after the airplane clears the active runway.
Both airplanes were equipped with ATC transponders with altitude encoding capabilities.
The Cessna 182 was topped off with 29 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel at the West Memphis Municipal Airport just prior to takeoff. The Cessna 170 had been refueled at the same location the morning of the accident prior to the flight to North Little Rock.
Examination of the airplanes and engines at the accident site did not reveal any evidence of pre-impact mechanical problems. Reviews of the airframe and engine records by the investigating team did not reveal any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects prior to the flight.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Physical evidence as well as airframe scarring and paint transfers were consistent with a mid-air collision and indicate that the right wings of both aircraft collided in flight. See enclosed wreckage distribution diagram and a sketch illustrating the approximate initial position of the aircraft at the point of impact.
The main wreckage for the 1984 Cessna 182 was found on a cultivated field on a measured heading of 110 degrees. The right wing, lift strut, right horizontal stabilizer, and elevator were not found with the main wreckage. The right wing was found approximately 950 feet away from the main wreckage on a magnetic bearing of 043 degrees. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were found fragmented and scattered along the energy path. The right cabin door was found with the main wreckage and evidenced crushing at the lower hinge.
The main wreckage for the 1949 model Cessna 170 was found on an adjacent field on a measured heading of 060 degrees. The engine, propeller and cowling were found buried in a 5-feet diameter crater approximately 6 feet below ground level. Pieces of windshield plexiglass and the small fragments of the outer portion of the right wing were found northwest of the main wreckage along the energy path. The top portion of the rudder, including the balance arm, separated from the rudder and could not be located. The outboard end of the elevator trim tab for the Cessna 182 was found at the main wreckage of the Cessna 170.
The windshield plexiglass on both airplanes were found undistorded and clear. Both airplanes were equipped with sunvisors; however, their position at the time of the accident could not be determined.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies and toxicological tests were ordered and performed on the pilots of both airplanes. The autopsies were performed by the Medical Examiner Division of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory at Little Rock, Arkansas, on February 26, 1996. Toxicological tests were negative.
TEST AND RESEARCH
No radar data was available from Memphis Center. The frequencies being monitored by either aircraft could not be determined due to severity of damage to the instrument panels/avionics equipment.
Both aircraft were released to their owner's representatives upon completion of the field portion of the investigation.