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On May 26, 1996, at 1230 eastern daylight time (edt), a Cessna 152, N68610, operated by a private pilot, sustained substantial damage when on base leg in the traffic pattern for landing, it experienced a loss of control and impacted the terrain near Mount Pleasant, Michigan. According to witnesses the airplane stalled prior to impacting the terrain. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. A VFR flight plan was on file. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The flight originated at Pontiac, Michigan, at 1200 edt.
An airframe and powerplant (A&P) employed by Pontiac Flight Service, Pontiac, Michigan, saw the pilot and passenger arrive at Pontiac Flight Service at approximately 1100 edt. He saw the pilot check the weather and file a VFR flight plan to Mount Pleasant, Michigan, via telephone with the Lansing, Michigan, Flight Service Station. The witness stated that the pilot then waited for a fuel truck to arrive at the airplane. The airplane was fueled by IFL East, Waterford, Michigan. "It had full fuel when it left Pontiac. He took on 13.3 gallons of 100 low lead." The A&P received the receipt for the fuel. The A&P watched the airplane take off shortly after being refueled.
Approximately 1230 edt, an off-duty Mount Pleasant, Michigan fireman and his wife were traveling east toward the airport in their vehicle when he saw the airplane ahead of him above the trees. "I saw the airplane straight nose dive. The airplane was white and there was no noise. I lost it in the trees." The witness said that as the airplane dove to the ground, it rotated about a quarter turn from left to right.
A witness driving his vehicle southbound on U. S. Highway 27 near Mount Pleasant, Michigan, said that he noticed a big shadow go over him. He then noticed the airplane in his front windshield go ahead of him. "It was quiet. There was no engine sound. It was right at tree top level. It was cruising straight and then all of a sudden went nose first straight down. There was no upward of sideways movement before it went down. It crashed between me and a red car which had just gone past where the airplane crashed."
A witness who holds a private pilot certificate, was in his automobile entering northbound U. S. Highway 27 near Mount Pleasant, Michigan. He said that he saw the last 10 to 15 degrees of the airplane's turn. "I commented to my wife, God he's slow. Then he came down. His airspeed was slow, he was too low and his nose wasn't low. It (the nose) looked level or up a little bit. I didn't see the last 50 to 60 feet of his fall because of the trees. He was pointing toward runway 9, but he wound up pointing south when he hit, so there might have been a small amount of rotation. He came straight down. The whole thing was over in less than two seconds." The witness said that because his car windows were up, he didn't hear anything. He didn't hear the roaring of an engine.
The pilot had 103.5 total flying hours, 40.4 hours as pilot in command. The pilot had logged 3.5 hours of flying time in the previous eight months, all of which were flown within 30 days of the accident.
The airplane was owned and operated by Pontiac Flight Service, Waterford, Michigan. It was used for flight training and rental.
The airplane had an annual inspection performed on August 2, 1995.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on scene investigation began on May 28, 1996, at 1230 edt.
The wreckage had been moved into a pole barn on a farm located 5 miles southwest of Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Examination of the accident site revealed a single ground scar, in level ground, beginning at the east edge of a 25 foot wide road shoulder, on the southbound lane of U. S. Highway 27. The ground scar was approximately five feet wide at the center, and 27 feet in length. The ground scar resembled the forward profile of a high-wing airplane. At its deepest point, where the propeller, engine, forward fuselage and cabin were recovered, the depth was approximately three feet. A mound of soil, approximately 8 inches high, was pushed up in front of the ground scar. The ground scar was oriented on a 230-degree magnetic heading. Foliage along the length of the ground scar showed discoloration and damage. At the end of the ground scar, where the highway's paved surface began, a 2-foot wide smear of oil was observed. Approximately 15 inches behind the widest point of the ground scar, two 1-foot wide indentations in the ground were observed. These two indentations were approximately 7 feet apart and ran parallel to the length of the ground scar.
The main wreckage encompassed all of the airplane's components. The wings and cabin ceiling were removed from the fuselage at the crew compartment by emergency response team personnel to extract the pilot and passenger from the wreckage.
The left wing was crushed from the leading edge aft, three- fourths of its chord length along its entire span. The left main fuel tank was ruptured. Evidence of fuel was observed on the upper and lower surfaces of the wing. The left wingtip had separated from the wing at the rivet line and was broken into several pieces. The left aileron was buckled in the middle. The left flap was bent upward. The left wing strut had separated at the wing mount and was bent aft. The pitot tube was broken off.
The right wing was crushed from the leading edge aft, three- fourths of its chord length along its entire span. The right main fuel tank was ruptured. Evidence of fuel was observed along the upper and lower wing surfaces along the leading edge. The right aileron was bent in several places. The inboard one-third of the right wing flap was bent upward.
The spinner, cowling and forward fuselage were crushed rearward from the spinner to just aft of the crew compartment. The crushline showed an impact angle of approximately 75 degrees nose down. The engine remained attached to the mount and had been pushed rearward into the firewall and the crew compartment. The engine mount was broken in several places. The firewall, forward landing gear mount and forward bulkhead were crushed rearward. The instrument panel was bent underneath the bulkhead. The cabin seats were pinned beneath the instrument panel. The plexiglass which formed the windscreen and cabin windows was shattered into numerous pieces. The left main landing gear strut was broken and bent rearward at the step approximately one-third its length from the wheel hub and brake assembly. The right main landing gear remained attached to the fuselage and showed no evidence of damage.
The fuselage aft of the crew compartment was bent upward and to the left. A large tear in the fuselage skin was evident just aft of the crew compartment. Numerous skin wrinkles were evident throughout the aft fuselage. The tailcone was partially separated from the aft fuselage along the rivet line on the right side.
The top forward edge of the vertical stabilizer was bent to the left. No evidence of damage to the rudder was observed. The left horizontal stabilizer was bent upward. The left elevator displayed some small bends and skin wrinkling. The right horizontal stabilizer, right elevator and trim tab showed no evidence of damage.
The propeller was broken in half at the hub and remained attached to the flange. The spinner exhibited rotational marks and had bent to conform to the propeller. Subsequent examination of the propeller revealed torsional bending and chordwise scratching. Subsequent engine examination revealed no evidence of preimpact malfunction.
Flight control continuity was confirmed. The position light bulbs were removed from the right wing tip and tail, and examined. Both bulbs exhibited filament stretching.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy of the pilot was performed on May 28, 1996, by the Isabella County, Michigan, Medical Examiner, in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The autopsy revealed that the pilot "had significant heart disease, suggestive of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can be associated with sudden death."
The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot revealed the following volatile concentration: 1.000 (mg/dl) Acetaldehyde detected in kidney fluid A national resource specialist in the National Transportation Safety Board Office of Research and Engineering determined that this volatile concentration was the result of post mortem putrefaction.
Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Cessna Aircraft Company, Wichita, Kansas, and Textron Lycoming, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The wreckage was released and returned to Pontiac Flight Service, Waterford, Michigan.