ATL97FA054
ATL97FA054

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On March 24, 1997, about 1909 eastern standard time, a Beech V35, N9049S, was lost from radar and radio contact, about 20 NM southwest of Marco Island, Florida. The airplane was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and instrument flight rules. Night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at Naples, Florida, the closest reporting facility. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the other two occupants are presumed to have been fatally injured. Minimal airplane debris has been located. Family members reported that a trip had been made to Marathon, Florida, with an expected return that day.

The pilot contacted Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center (Miami Center) at approximately 1838 and requested VFR flight following to Punta Gorda, Florida. The pilot reported he was 8 miles north of Marathon, and he gave a pilot report about the weather in Marathon. There was no record of a weather briefing from a Flight Service Station (FSS) before departure. At 1903, the pilot advised Miami Center that he needed an instrument flight rules clearance. An instrument flight rules flight plan was air-filed with Miami Center, during which the pilot received the weather and information regarding a convective SIGMET in his destination area. The pilot acknowledged the clearance and continued towards his destination. At 1906, N9049S was handed off from Miami Center to Southwest (SW) Florida (FL) Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT). Radio contact was lost after SW FL ATCT initially contacted N9049S. Radio and radar contact were lost by the SW FL Regional Airport air traffic facility at 1907:43 at the geographical coordinates of 25.45.35 North and 081.58.23 West. The last reported altitude was 8,000 feet. ATC received no reports of distress from the airplane.

Using the reports from a Radar Specialist and a Weather Specialist from the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Radio Communications from the FAA, the following time line was constructed. Throughout the time line below, the airplane was skirting the southwest edge of an area delineated by a SIGMET warning. (See attached map and overlay). During the time line, the term "primary return" referred to the return given as the radar bounces off the surface of the airplane. The term "secondary return" referred to the return given by the airplane's transponder.

1907:23 N9049S replied to Fort Myers Approach Control after being handed off from Miami ARTCC. Secondary radar return was 7,900 feet with a ground speed of 171 knots. 1907:43 N9049S replied to Fort Myers Approach Control. This was the last radio transmission from N9049S.

1907:47 Secondary Radar showed the airplane at 8,000 feet with a ground speed of 165 knots. The airplane course was approximately northbound.

1908:11 The airplane's ground speed was 151 knots. The primary data showed the airplane following generally the same northerly flight path at an undetermined altitude. The secondary data showed a return 3/4 of a mile to the east of the primary return at an altitude of 5,200 feet.

1909:35 An intense weather echo (Level 5 Thunderstorm) was over the accident site. An extreme weather echo (Level 6 Thunderstorm) was within one kilometer to the south of the last radar return. Weather echo tops were about 26,000 feet.

1915:26 A very strong weather echo located over accident site. An intense weather echo was located 5 kilometers to the northwest of the last radar return. Weather echo tops were 20,000 feet.

The Coast Guard recovered human remains on March 30, 1997, that were subsequently identified by the medical examiner as the pilot of N9049S. The other two occupants were not recovered.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

During this flight, there were three certified pilots in the airplane. It was not determined who was sitting in the left and right front seats or who was flying the airplane at the time of the accident. For the purposes of this report, the private pilot with an instrument rating was designated the first pilot. According to relatives, the first pilot was the voice heard during radio communications with ATC.

The first pilot held a private pilot certificate with single engine land and instrument airplane ratings. His certificate was issued September 17, 1990. His last medical certificate, a third class, was dated July 3, 1996. It held the limitation that the holder must wear corrective lenses in order the exercise the privileges of the airman's certificate. According to a friend of the pilot, the pilot had between 30 and 40 total hours in N9049S, which he had purchased in December 1996. After purchasing the airplane, the pilot had completed 10 hours of dual flight with a flight instructor in Sarasota, Florida, in order to familiarize himself with the airplane. The pilot's friend also stated he believed that the pilot was night and instrument current. The pilot's logbooks were not recovered.

The second pilot onboard was also the owner of the airplane. The private pilot received her license on April 5, 1993. She also held a third class medical certificate which was issued in December 1995. According to a friend of the family, she was night current.

The third pilot onboard the airplane was a certified flight instructor (CFI). The CFI had single engine land, multiengine land, and instrument ratings. His certificate was issued May 30, 1994. His last medical, a second class, was issued August 28, 1995. According to family members, he had never flown the accident airplane.

Additional information about the pilot is contained on page 3 under the section titled First Pilot Information. Supplement E contains information about the pilot-rated passengers.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The engine and aircraft records were examined. The engine had an annual inspection on March 21, 1996. Since the last inspection, the only work done on the engine was four oil changes. The aircraft also had its last annual inspection on March 21, 1996. During that inspection, six Airworthiness Directives were complied with including those dealing with landing gear uplock roller inspections, elevator magnesium fittings, V-tail fuselage bulkhead inspection, front spar crack inspections, ignitions switch check, and fuel cell leakage check, with no discrepancies noted.

Within the aircraft logbooks, the airplane was listed as being painted gold and brown. According to friends of the owner, the airplane was red and white. There was no record of the airplane being painted.

According to a friend of the pilot in command, the airplane had a throw-over yoke. It also was not equipped with any weather avoidance equipment, such as a weather radar.

A friend of the pilot reported that the aircraft had only left and right main fuel tanks. He stated that there were no tip tanks on this airplane.

Additional information about the aircraft is contained on page 2 under the section titled Aircraft Information.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 1846 in Naples, Florida, the weather was visual meteorological conditions. The clouds were broken at 2,800 feet, temperature 72, dew point 62, and the wind was from 140 degrees at 7 knots, gusting to 20 knots. The altimeter was 30.09, with a visibility of 10 miles. By 1918 eastern standard time, the wind had started blowing from 100 degrees. The visibility had decreased to 2.5 miles due to rain showers. The cloud cover became 2,500 feet overcast. The altimeter setting had risen to 30.11 inches of Mercury. A convective SIGMET was issued for the area to the northeast of the flight path of the airplane. The SIGMET covered the area from 20 miles SE of Fort Myers (FMY) to 20 miles SW of Miami (MIA) to 60 miles S of FMY to 20 miles SE of FMY. (See attached map for actual location). After the accident, a weather study was done of the Marco Island area by the National Transportation Safety Board, Office of Aviation Safety, Washington, D.C.. It was determined that about two and a half minutes after radar contact was lost with N9049S, the accident area showed an intense weather echo. There was also an extreme weather echo within one kilometer of the site. Less than ten minutes later, there was a very strong weather echo at the site, and an intense weather echo about 5 kilometers away. All of these weather echoes were to the west of the area outlined in the above SIGMET.

According to the Airman's Information Manual, "severe turbulence can be expected up to 20 miles from severe thunderstorms". It also stated a pilot should "avoid by at least 20 miles any thunderstorm identified as severe or giving an intense radar echo".

Additional information about the weather is contained on page 3 and 4 under the section titled Weather Information, and under the Weather Study.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane was not recovered. The only wreckage found by the Coast Guard was a swim fin, wooden pieces, and a pair of coveralls.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

A post mortem examination of the first pilot was performed on March 31, 1997 by Manfred C. Borges, Jr., Associate Medical Examiner in District Twenty, Naples, Florida.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Family members reported that when the pilot typically went scuba diving, he descended to 26 feet as a maximum. They reported the pilot had stated to them that on this trip he planned to snorkel along the water's surface instead of scuba diving.

A researcher from Duke University stated the current research indicates that a pilot will begin to feel the effects of nitrogen in the blood while flying at 8,000 feet after scuba diving to 60 feet. A shallower dive would have little or no effect on the pilot, according to the research.

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