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On September 23, 1996, at approximately 0445 central daylight time, an Ayres S2R-T45 agricultural airplane, N3107B, was destroyed following a loss of control while maneuvering near Granger, Texas. The airplane, owned and operated by Schwarz Spraying Service of Taylor, Texas, was being operated under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The non-instrument rated commercial pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site. The flight originated from the operator's private airstrip near Laneport, Texas, approximately 10 minutes prior to the accident. A flight plan was not filed for the intended 195 nautical mile night cross country flight.
According to local law enforcement personnel, concerned relatives reported the airplane missing and a search was initiated. The wreckage was located by family members at approximately 1830 on September 24, 1996, in an open pasture approximately 5 miles west of the point of departure, about a half mile south of FM 971 and a mile west of Granger Lake.
The airplane was en route to the Haskell Municipal Airport, near Haskell, Texas, where the airplane was scheduled to spray for 6 weeks on a boll weevil eradication contract. There were no reported eyewitnesses to this accident.
The non-instrument rated commercial pilot started taking flying lessons on February 26, 1981, obtaining his private certificate on January 19, 1982, and his commercial certificate on March 2, 1982. His logbook was recovered and reviewed at the accident site. The most recent entry in the logbook was made on April 29, 1996, at the time of the pilot's last biannual flight review (BFR) in a Cessna 150.
A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that no entries had been made in either the "night" or "instrument" blocks in the pilot's current logbook. The current logbook revealed that besides the Ayres, the pilot was qualified in 12 additional airplanes; however, the bulk of his flight time was in restricted category agricultural airplanes. The pilot's first logbook, which was not recovered, included his first 1,482 hours of flight which were flown prior to May 7, 1986.
The 1992 model airplane was purchased by the pilot on March 3, 1995, from Queen Bee Air Specialties of Rigby, Idaho. The airplane was equipped with an auxiliary seat aft of the pilot's station, a "smoker" or drift control smoke generator, and a cabin air conditioner. A SatLoc GPS system was installed in the airplane on December 13, 1995.
The airplane's 510 gallon hopper was washed prior to the flight and no chemicals were spilled at the accident site. The airplane's 230 gallon fuel system was last serviced on the last flight prior to the accident flight.
Flight instruments installed in the airplane consisted of an altimeter, an airspeed indicator, a magnetic compass, and a slip (ball) indicator. According to the manufacturer's representative, a flight instrument packet was available as optional equipment at the time the airplane was delivered; however, that option was not exercised by the original owner of the airplane. An electronic locator transmitter (ELT) was not installed on the airplane. The airplane met the FAA standards for night VFR operations.
A review of the airframe and engine records by the investigator-in-charge, did not reveal any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects prior to the flight. The airframe and engine were found to be in compliance with applicable airworthiness directives. The last annual inspection was completed on October 23, 1995.
Local residents, law enforcement personnel, and laborers reported that the weather in the vicinity of the accident on the morning of the accident was "foggy and drizzly" with visibility reported as low as a quarter mile during the early morning hours. One resident (statement enclosed) stated that he was leaving his house (less that a mile from site) to go to work at 0500, and the visibility was 300 to 400 yards.
Pertinent weather data for the area of the accident was requested from the National Climatic Data Center, and is enclosed in this report. Temple, Texas, located 26 nautical miles to the NNW of the accident site reported 500 foot ceilings at 0455. Killeen, Texas, located 30 nautical miles NW of the accident site reported a 1,200 foot ceiling at 0456. At 0453, Austin, Texas, located 31 nautical miles SSW of the site was reporting a 500 foot overcast ceiling with 7 miles visibility, a temperature of 23 degrees with a dew point of 22 degrees Celsius. The enclosed weather study reported that no thunderstorms or rain showers were detected by radar near the area of the accident.
According to the records, a weather briefing for the flight was not requested by the pilot from either the FAA Flight Service Station or the National Weather Service.
The pilot's wife stated that the pilot was a subscriber to DTN Weather Services of Omaha, Nebraska, and he received a briefing via the computer in his office prior to his flight. The provider was contacted to obtain a copy of the weather the pilot was provided during the weather briefing. The information provided confirmed that the operator was one of their subscribers; however, he only subscribed to the "Pro-Ag Service" which provides agricultural information services only. The pilot did not have access to aviation weather services, such as aerodrome forecasts and aviation weather reports. It is unknown if the pilot obtained a weather briefing from any other source prior to his departure. According to another agricultural operator at the Haskell Municipal Airport (15F) near Haskell, Texas, the weather there remained VFR throughout the night and early morning hours on the day of the accident. The operator added that the airplane was expected to arrive at the airport prior to 0630.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located at 30 degrees 34 minutes 6 seconds North and 97 degrees 21 minutes 53 seconds West, in the Sore Finger Wildlife Area of the Granger Lake Reservoir. The wreckage distribution path was on a measured heading of 150 degrees. An imprint of the right wing extended from approximately 25 feet from the point where portions of the green navigational light were found to the point where the engine was found buried. The engine was buried 6 feet below ground level in an 8 foot diameter crater. The imprint of the spray boom was visible aft of the ground imprint of the wings.
Both main landing gears separated from the airframe. The imprints made by the tires were approximately 10 feet apart. The main spar was found in one piece; however, it was stripped of all wing skin and ribs. The actuator motor for the wing flaps was found in the retracted position.
The exposed portions of the Pratt & Whitney PT6-45AG engine assembly displayed severe impact damage. The engine was not removed from the ground for inspection at the accident site. Portions of the 5-bladed propeller system were found at the initial point of impact.
The push-pull tubes used for the elevator and aileron control system were severely damaged or destroyed, hence continuity could not be established. Flight control continuity was confirmed for the rudder system. All aircraft components were accounted for and located within 100 foot radius from the point of impact.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy and toxicological tests were requested and performed. The autopsy was requested by the Justice of the Peace for the Fourth Precint of Williamson County. The autopsy was performed by the Chief Medical Examiner of the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office in Austin, Texas, on September 26, 1996. Toxicological tests were positive for ethanol, acetaldehyde, and N-butanol. According to Dr. Canfield of the FAA's Civil Aviation Medical Institute (CAMI), the ethanol, acetaldehyde, and N-butanol detected in lung and muscle, may be the result of postmortem ethanol production.
The pilot was wearing a flight helmet at the time of the accident. The restraining system for the pilot remained anchored to the airframe. According to law enforcement personnel that responded to the accident, the pilot's seat belts were cut by rescue personnel during the rescue process. There was no post-impact fire.
TEST AND RESEARCH
The SATLOC CPU was retained by the investigator-in-charge to attempt to download the flight data for the last flight. The card could not be released from the damaged computer, so the complete unit was shipped to the manufacturer. The manufacturer reported that no data could be retrieved from the computer's memory.
An engine examination and teardown was completed at the engine manufacturer's repair station in Addison, Texas, on October 24, 1996. The engine displayed rotational signatures on the internal components characteristic of the engine developing power at impact. The propeller hub, with one propeller blade remained attached to the engine's reduction gear case. The oil filter was found to contain an elastic substance identified as an ester resin or polymer, and other debris consisting primarily of oil sludge containing carbon and small amounts of metallic debris; however, the oil filter was not in the oil bypass position. There were no indications of any anomalies or distress to any of the engine components that would have precluded normal operation prior to impact. See details of the engine examination in the enclosed engine manufacturer's report.
Recorded radar data was requested from Houston Center; however, none was available.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative upon completion of the field portion of the investigation.