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On April 14, 1996, at 1615 eastern daylight time (EDT), N8682Z, a Cessna P206C, operated by Hartwood Aviation Inc., collided with a parachutist as it exited the airplane on a jump. The aircraft subsequently impacted terrain near Hartwood, Virginia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed. The certificated commercial pilot was seriously injured, one parachutist was fatally injured, one parachutist received minor injuries and another parachutist was not injured. The airplane was destroyed. The local skydiving flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91, and originated in Hartwood, Virginia, at 1550 EDT.
According to the pilot, the airplane was on the fourth parachuting flight of the day and carried three parachutist He stated that they had completed three prior jump flights successfully, and this was the fourth and final jump flight for the day. He stated that the airplane was at an altitude of 10,000 feet mean sea level (msl), and the "spotter" signaled that they were in position for the parachutist to exit the airplane.
The first parachutist reported that he was sitting next to the pilot facing rearward during the climb to altitude. He stated that he had completed a pin check for the main parachute successfully and the second parachutist/spotter told him to climb out when the airplane was over the correct point. He stated that he climbed out of the cockpit area, and had one foot was on the wheel step and the other foot free when his main canopy deployed. He stated that he was pulled toward the rear of the airplane, and he struck the right horizontal stabilizer. He stated that he was able to control the main parachute and make a safe descent/landing.
The second parachutist/spotter reported that he had one foot on the wheel step and the other foot in the door when he saw the first parachutist's main canopy deploy, pulling him from the strut. He stated the first parachutist struck the horizontal stabilizer and the aircraft "...began gyrating wildly. I was pressed hard against lower side of wing but with effort was able to get free. I observed aircraft spinning and tail section came off...I watched aircraft tail impact. I also saw pilot's parachute." He stated that he did not see the canopy of the third parachutist. He also stated that the first parachutist canopy could have deployed due to the pin being loose and simply worked its way out or perhaps "...closing loop broke or failed in some way."
The pilot stated that shortly after the first parachutist exited the airplane, he felt a "thud" and the airplane started to react violently. He reported that, "...the aircraft rolled one time...all control inputs I make have no effect on the aircraft. The next thing I remember I (am) on the floor of the aircraft aft of the jump door getting slammed from one side of the aircraft to the other along with the third skydiver...I can see the third skydiver behind me being subjected to the same forces that I am...I am able to brace myself and grab the side of the aircraft where it meets the jump door. I pull myself out of the jump door...I estimate the total time from when I heard the bang to this point would be one minute...." The horizontal stabilizer and tail section separated from the airplane and came to rest inverted in a wooded area. The main wreckage came to rest inverted in a wooded area about 200 yards from the tail section.
A witness stated, "I heard the engine pulsating so I looked up and I saw the plane flipping wing over wing. The tail section came off and shortly after the pilot got out. "
The airplane impacted terrain during the hours of daylight at 38 degrees, 30 minutes north latitude and 77 degrees, 36 minutes west longitude. Witness statements and radar data plots are appended.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with single engine and multi-engine land ratings. He also held an instrument airplane rating. According to the pilot operator report, he had over 1,078 hours of total flight time, including 86 hours in the accident make and model airplane. The pilot held a valid Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first class medical certificate, with limitations to wear corrective lenses for distance vision, which was issued on September 7, 1995.
The Cessna P206C airplane, serial number P206-0482, was equipped with a Continental IO-520-A5 engine, serial number 112424R. At the time of the accident, according to the airplane's tachometer, the airplane had accumulated 4,338 hours of flight time. Maintenance records indicate that the most recent inspection was a 100 hour inspection, dated February 20, 1996. The airplane accumulated over 44 hours of flight time since that inspection.
At 1550 eastern daylight time, Dulles Airport, Virginia, located about 40 miles northeast of the accident site issued the following observation:
Sky condition, clear; visibility, 20 miles; temperature, 64 degrees Fahrenheit (F); dew point, 40 degrees F; winds out of 330 degrees at 12 knots gusting to 18 knots; and altimeter, 29.99 inches Hg.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on April 15, 1995. The wreckage consisted of two parts, the main wreckage and the tail section.
The main wreckage was oriented on a magnetic heading of 310 degrees and came to rest inverted in a wooded area. The separated tail section consisted of the horizontal stabilizer, dorsal fin, rudder and elevator, and was located about 200 yards from the main wreckage. The tail section separated from the fuselage at the aft bulkhead. Flight control continuity was confirmed to the elevator and rudder from the aft bulkhead. Aileron continuity was confirmed to the ailerons from the cockpit.
Examination of the elevator revealed the leading edge of the right elevator was crushed inward, and the lower surface was buckled. There were slash marks on the lower outboard surface of the right elevator. According to a Cessna representative the elevator trim indicator was found in the takeoff position, and the flap indicator was indicating about 5 degrees . The dorsal fin remained attached to the tail section. The flaps were found in the retracted position.
One of the propeller blades was bent rearward midspan, and the other blade was straight. There were tree limbs in the engine compartment. The examination of the wreckage revealed no pre-impact failure of the airplane or engine.
The pilot sustained serious injuries including head lacerations, bruises, fractured ribs, chipped tooth, and his right side contacted trees requiring surgery. Due to the seriousness of the injuries sustained to the pilot a toxicological test was not performed The first parachutist sustained a chipped bone of the left wrist and a sore neck. The second parachutist was uninjured. The third parachutist was located in the aircraft and sustained fatal injuries.
The investigation revealed that the parachutists repacked their own parachutes after each jump. Examination of the first parachutist's reserve parachute revealed that it did not deploy. The examination revealed that the reserve static line remained in place except the static line connection was torn from the left shoulder of the harness. There was evidence of blue transfer marks on the left and right risers. The blue marks are visible also at the reserve static line attach point and at the right toggle. The black canopy bag exhibited evidence of polishing. There were black marks on the safety line between the bag and the canopy. See excerpt from the Hartwood skydiving brochure for descriptions of parachutes/lines. The first parachutist wore an altimeter strapped to his left wrist. There were blue paint marks on the face of the altimeter.
According to the company president/owner, the third parachutist had accumulated over 195 jumps.
The airplane wreckage was released to Harry Schoelpple, owner and president of Hartwood Aviation Inc., on April 15, 1996.