LAX96FA244
LAX96FA244

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On June 16, 1996, about 2215 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 152, N6198P, collided with trees and mountainous terrain near Carmel, California. The aircraft was operated by Nice Air of San Jose, California, and rented by the pilot for a night tour of the San Francisco Bay area. Based on nearby weather station observations, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site and no flight plan was filed for the operation. The aircraft was demolished in the tree and ground impact sequence. The certificated private pilot and his one passenger sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated from Reid-Hillview Airport, San Jose, California, on June 16th at 1949.

According to the operator, the pilot scheduled the aircraft from 1800 until midnight on the 16th and departed their ramp at 1949. Review of the Reid-Hillview ATCT records disclosed the aircraft was given a takeoff clearance at 1956. Bay TRACON radar and air-to-ground communications tapes disclosed the aircraft contacted the facility near the San Jose airport and requested a "Bay tour" (according to ATCT controllers, this is a recognized term which means the requester wishes to overfly the standard tourist sights, then down the Pacific coast to Half Moon Bay, then across the coastal mountains back to San Jose). The aircraft was given a discrete transponder code and the tour was authorized. The aircraft flew over Highway 101, over San Francisco airport, around Treasure Island, past the tourist sights along Fisherman's Wharf, and over the Golden Gate Bridge. Once past the bridge, the aircraft turned south along the peninsula's Pacific coast. When the aircraft was in the vicinity of Treasure Island, the pilot requested a descent to 1,300 feet to stay below the low coastal stratus.

About 8 miles north of Half Moon Bay, radar services were terminated by Bay TRACON due to limited radar coverage in the area. At the time radar services were terminated the pilot reported that he had the Half Moon Bay airport in sight. The last documented radar contact with the aircraft was over the Half Moon Bay airport at 2057; the mode C reported altitude at that time was 1,000 feet msl.

The aircraft did not return to San Jose and the operator reported the flight overdue and missing on June 18th. No Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signals were detected by either aircraft or satellites. A search was initiated by the Civil Air Patrol and was suspended on June 28th without success. Additional searches were initiated on June 30 and extended until July 3, when all official search activities were suspended.

On July 18th the aircraft was found by hikers at the 1,750-foot level of the coastal mountains 15 miles south of Carmel in Palo Colorado Canyon. The accident site is 85 miles south of the Half Moon Bay airport, and 17 miles south of the Monterey airport. On-site examination disclosed that the aircraft collided with multiple large California Redwood trees. The recording flight hour meter on the aircraft disclosed it had flown a total of 2.5 hours since departure from San Jose.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot's flight logbook was recovered from the aircraft and examined. In addition, information was obtained from the FAA Airman and Medical Records centers in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The flight instructor who worked with the pilot for his private pilot certificate was also interviewed.

Review of the records and information disclosed that the pilot began flight training in Ohio on September 24, 1995, and continued until November. After moving to the San Francisco Bay area, the pilot resumed flight training in January 1996 at the aircraft operator's facility and continued until his private certificate was issued on April 2, 1996. At the time of the accident, the pilot had accrued a total time of 82 hours, of which 4 were at night. Detailed examination of the logbook entries disclosed that the accident flight was the third night flight for the pilot.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

Manufactured in March 1981, the airframe had accrued a total time in service of 4,408 hours. Review of the aircraft maintenance records disclosed that an annual inspection was completed June 14, 1996, 8 hours prior to the accident. No unresolved maintenance discrepancies were noted during the records review. The aircraft was equipped with the instruments and equipment specified by 14 CFR Part 91 for flight during night VFR and IFR conditions.

Fueling records at the Ried-Hillview airport disclosed that the aircraft was last fueled immediately prior to departure with the addition of 9.8 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel. According to the refueling technician, the addition of the fuel filled the aircraft tanks to capacity.

AIDS TO NAVIGATION

Review of FAA facility records disclosed that all ground based electronic aids to navigation within reception distance of a course line between Half Moon Bay and the accident site were operational during the time frame of the accident flight.

According to the facility managers at Bay TRACON and Oakland ARTCC, the floor of both facilities radar coverage south of Half Moon Bay is 2,000 feet msl.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Review of FAA and National Weather Service records disclosed no evidence that the pilot received a weather briefing on the day of the accident.

As noted in the HISTORY OF FLIGHT section of this narrative, during the flight the pilot advised Bay TRACON that he had to descend to 1,300 feet msl to stay below a coastal stratus layer. Review of weather observations from the stations of San Francisco and Monterey disclosed that ceilings were generally broken to overcast between 1,600 and 2,000 feet. Visibility ranged from 20 miles at San Francisco to 5 miles at Monterey. Upper air data from Oakland, California, disclosed that the top of the moisture layer was 2,600 feet.

A Safety Board computer program was utilized to determine the position of the sun and moon during the accident flight. Sunset occurred at 2031 for the latitude of the site. At 2215, both the sun and moon were below the western horizon at 18 and 14 degrees respectively.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT

An on-site wreckage documentation was conducted on July 19, 1996.

The accident site is about 5 miles inland from the coast in Palo Colorado Canyon at an elevation of 1,750 feet msl. Part of the central California coastal mountain range, the canyon is heavily forested by stands of California Redwood trees, which reach heights in excess of 150 feet agl. Oriented on an average magnetic bearing of 100 degrees, the central axis of the canyon from the coast narrows as it rises from near sea level to elevations in excess of 4,000 feet msl. The area is sparsely populated with few ground reference lights at night.

The immediate vicinity of the accident site consists of a hillside slope ranging from 30 to 45 degrees. A path of disturbed trees was noted on a magnetic bearing averaging 100 degrees over a distance of 175 feet, and culminated in the fuselage wreckage mass. The first disturbed tree was geometrically measured to be 150 feet tall, with a contact mark and wing skin noted about 25 feet from the top. The remaining sections of the right wing to include the cabin right door post were located at the base of the tree.

Another disturbed tree (also a large California redwood) was noted 150 feet along the wreckage bearing, with the contact marks observed to be about 50 feet lower than the disturbed area on the first tree. The left wing and the cabin spar carry-through member were found at the base of this tree. The instrument panel and cockpit contents were found distributed between the second tree and the fuselage wreckage mass 25 feet away.

TEST AND RESEARCH

Following on-site documentation, the wreckage was recovered to a salvage facility in Pleasant Grove, California, for detailed examination of the airframe and engine.

The digital aircraft communication and navigation radios were removed from the aircraft and taken to an avionics shop to determine the frequencies selected. In addition, the ELT was taken for functional tests. The radios were found selected to the following: Com 1= 120.1; Com 2 = 135.1; Nav 1 = 114.1; and Nav 2 = 117.3. The ELT battery was found to have 9.3 volts. The ELT power output and G-switch functions were determined to be normal.

The engine crankshaft rotated, with compression noted in all cylinders. Valve train and accessory gear continuity was established. Both magnetos were tested with their respective ignition lead harnesses and produced strong sparks in firing order with hand rotation. The engine was completely disassembled, with no discrepancies noted. A complete report of the examination is appended.

Complete control system continuity was established from the control surfaces to the cockpit controls within the airframe.

The cabin heat muff was intact, with no evidence of exhaust gas leakage.

The propeller displayed leading edge damage, cordwise striations and blade tip end twist deformation opposite the cambered side.

The airframe was schematically laid out for review of the damage patterns. From a mid door point, the forward portion of the fuselage was extensively fragmented. The firewall, with engine attached, was separated from the structure, as was the instrument panel. Both wings were separated from the cabin carry-through member. The left wing was intact in a spanwise direction, with the tip end crushed rearward on a 45-degree axis over the outboard 3 feet. Leading edge crush was observed on the inboard 6 feet of the left wing, with brown-greenish organic material transfer noted to the damaged areas. The right wing was extensively fragmented, with large 30-inch diameter semicircular indentations crushed rearward to the main spar area. Organic material transfer similar to the left wing was observed in the damaged areas of the right wing. The axis of all crush deformation on the wing leading edges was observed to be roughly perpendicular to the wing cord line.

All control surfaces and balance weights remained attached to their respective structures.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

According to the Monterey County Coroner, both occupants sustained fatal injuries in the accident. No suitable tissue or fluid specimens were available for toxicological tests.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The aircraft wreckage was released to a representative of the registered owner on August 19, 1996, at the conclusion of the airframe and engine examinations. When last seen, the wreckage was located the facilities of Plain Parts, Pleasant Grove, California.

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