FTW97LA134
FTW97LA134

On March 20, 1997, approximately 1230 central standard time, an Air Tractor AT-502, N7319Y, was destroyed following impact with terrain during an aerial application flight near Paragould, Arkansas. The commercial pilot, sole occupant in the airplane, was seriously injured. The airplane was owned by the pilot and operated by Marshall's Flying Service under Title 14 CFR Part 137. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight which originated from a private airstrip approximately 45 minutes before the accident. No flight plan had been filed.

The pilot reported to the Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) that he was "working" the field north of the field where his airplane impacted the ground. He said that he "entered that field flying north to south, maybe slightly southwest." The pilot further stated that he was "cleaning up the ends of the field" when he felt a "hard right hand pressure that he could not correct." The pilot told the IIC that the "stick suddenly went sloppy;" he said that "he knew he was in trouble, let go of everything, and grabbed the inside tubing of the cage." The airplane flew over a row of 30 to 40 foot high trees and impacted the ground with the right wing low.

The pilot reported to his brother, while in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, that "I might have hit a bush." The pilot stated to his insurance claims representative in an interview while in the hospital that "I hit something." The pilot further stated to the IIC that "I remember tree limbs brushing on the bottom of the wings." The pilot stated in his NTSB's Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (Form 6120.1/2) that "[I] do not think I hit any obstacle before impact."

A witness in the first field, who was approximately 100 yards away from where the airplane entered the field, reported to the IIC that she heard a loud "pop," and she looked up to see the airplane flying southeast across the field. She stated that the airplane was "corkscrewing all the way around, maybe 3 or 4 times, before it went over the tree-line and out of sight." She further stated to the IIC that "one wing was bent 90 degrees in half (at the midway point)."

Another witness, who was approximately 200 yards from the airplane's impact point, reported to the IIC that he heard a loud "bang, like a shotgun going off." He stated that he saw the airplane coming over the trees with "something hanging down under the left wing at about the midpoint (like a support brace)." The witness further stated that "at the same midpoint area of the left wing, he noticed that the leading edge was funny or something was flapping around." He reported that "the airplane rolled, and hit the ground."

Postcrash examination of the wreckage by a representative of the airplane's manufacturer revealed a ground scar which was approximately 220 feet in length on a 170 degree heading. The fuselage was found in the inverted position with the left wing folded under the fuselage and the right wing sticking in the air. All the major airframe components were found in the vicinity of the fuselage wreckage. The left wing leading edge was found crushed aft to the spar at the midpoint (see photographs). The left wing spray boom was dented in the leading edge approximately 2.5 feet inboard from the outboard end and no paint transfer was found in the dent. All other spray boom dents had accompanying yellow paint transfer.

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