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On March 22, 1997, approximately 1710 central standard time, a Grumman G-164A airplane, N8922H, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while performing aerobatics near Swifton, Arkansas. The commercial pilot, sole occupant in the airplane, was fatally injured. The airplane was owned by a private individual and was operated by Southland Flying Service under Title 14 CFR Part 137. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the aerial application flight which originated from a private ag-strip approximately 45 minutes before the accident. No flight plan had been filed.
The aerial application company's manager reported to the Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) that "the pilot showed up for work that morning at approximately 0700 and had flown about 9 hours of application work before the accident." He further stated that "this was his last flight for the day."
A witness reported that the airplane came from the west and "buzzed the operations trailer, that is what it looked like." The witness further stated that the airplane "came up for a hammer head but I could tell he was too low for it when it broke over, that was about 100 to 150 feet high." Another witness observed the airplane "buzz the trailer by the runway and pull up into a roll." The witness further stated that the pilot "does rolls often, but this time the plane stalled before he got high enough to finish his roll." The witness observed the airplane fall "almost vertically to the ground."
The pilot's last FAA Medical Application (dated April 30, 1996) indicated he had approximately 15,000 hours of flight time. He was flying under a Statement of Demonstrated Ability (dated September 21, 1979) for no vision in his left eye. A bottle of Hydrocodone (30 pill prescription with 11 pills left in the bottle) was found on his person at the accident scene.
A witnesses reported to the IIC that the pilot had expressed to him his concern about his wife's medical condition. The witness further stated that the pilot's wife was in a nearby hospital where brain surgery had been performed on her either that day, or the day before the accident.
A witness reported to the IIC that the pilot "was a good aerobatic pilot and he had seen the pilot perform aerobatics in his ag-airplane before." The owner of the airplane reported to the IIC that he had counseled the pilot on "several occasions" to stop performing aerobatics in his airplane.
Review of the maintenance records by the FAA Inspector revealed no evidence of any uncorrected maintenance discrepancies.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The IIC did not visit the accident site, but an FAA Inspector did go to the site to obtain all the facts, conditions, and circumstances surrounding the accident. The airplane was located approximately 1.5 miles north of Swifton, Arkansas, on Jackson County (JA) road #70. The wreckage was approximately 150 yards north of JA 629 and 200 yards east of JA 70 in a level open agricultural field. The airplane impacted the ground with a longitudinal orientation of approximately 135 degrees. In a written statement, an officer with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department reported "it appeared that the aircraft had nosed straight into the ground." Subsequently, all the debris from the wreckage was confined to a small area which was approximately 70 feet in diameter (see attached photographs). The FAA Inspector identified no horizontal ground scars at the impact site.
The pilot's "unsnapped" helmet was found lying next to him. The FAA Inspector found the pilot's shoulder harnesses and the pilot's seat belt "sheared" (separated).
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy and toxicological test were ordered and completed. The autopsy was performed by William Q. Sturner, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory Medical in Little Rock, Arkansas, on March 24, 1997. Toxicological findings revealed positive results for: Trazodone, Norpropoxyphene, Acetaminophen, and Salicylate.
According to Dr. Dennis V. Canfield, FAA CAMI, "the Trazodone (antidepressant, Desyrel) detected in the blood and urine was at low therapeutic level." He further stated that Norpropoxyphene (a metabolite of Darvon, narcotic analgesic) was detected in urine. Dr. Canfield stated the following:
"The drugs found in this case are capable of impairing the ability of the pilot to perform safety related duties, see enclosed extracts from the current Facts & Comparisons. It is our opinion that these drugs would cause impairment of the pilot and could contribute to the cause of an aviation accident. These drugs are not approved by the FAA for use by pilots."
Dr. Canfield also stated that the two remaining drugs detected in the pilot's urine, Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Salicylate (aspirin), were insignificant. No metabolites of the drug Hydrocodone, which was found on the pilot's person, were found in the pilot's body.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative upon completion of the investigation.