HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On August 18, 1997, at 2050 central daylight time, a single engine Beech B24R airplane, N2521W, owned by Valley Resources, Inc., of Lubbock, Texas, and operated by Abilene Aero of Abilene, Texas, under Title 14 CFR Part 91, impacted the terrain following a loss of control during takeoff initial climb from the Albany Municipal Airport, Albany, Texas. The commercial pilot/flight instructor and the student pilot received fatal injuries. The airplane was destroyed during the impact sequence and by a post impact fire. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed. The flight departed Abilene, Texas, at 2016 for the instructional flight.
During telephone interviews, conducted by the investigator-in-charge (IIC), and on written statements, witnesses and the flight instructor's students reported their observations and experiences. Two witnesses observed the airplane approach the Albany Municipal Airport, as they drove to the airport. Upon reaching the airport, one of the witness observed the airplane land and taxi back to the departure ramp for runway 17. This witness observed the airplane takeoff and stated that the airplane lifted off and appeared to remain in ground effect close to the runway. Subsequently, the airplane entered a near vertical climb to approximately 200 feet AGL, rolled to the right and then descended almost vertical to the ground. A post impact fire and explosion ensued. The second witness reported seeing a green flash of light (right wing navigation light) arc to the right toward the ground and then he saw smoke and fire. These witnesses called the local sheriff's department. Local authorities reported there was a bright moon, with the temperature in the high 80's, no wind, and a few high scattered clouds at the time of the accident.
Several months before the accident, three Shackelford County Deputy Sheriffs observed the flight instructor fly a Cessna single engine aircraft off the runway at Albany, Texas. One deputy sheriff stated that the aircraft lifted off the runway "as soon as possible and travel[ed] the length of the runway at a very low altitude and once arriving at the end of the runway pulled strai[gh]t up and held that position for a short period of time and then bank[ed] to the east and level[ed] his wings." Another deputy sheriff, who reported observing the Cessna aircraft on several occasions, stated the pilot would fly the airplane "to the end of the runway and pull straight up" prior to level flight. The other deputy sheriff stated that he observed a high wing airplane "off the ground about midways retract the landing gear, stay about 30 to 50 feet above the runway until the south end where it would go almost straight up a ways then head south."
A student, who had flown with the flight instructor for several months, and practiced short field takeoffs at the Albany Municipal Airport, during clear night weather conditions stated "we got the lowest speed we could takeoff and lifted off. We built speed until almost the end of the runway. I think we had reached about 100 knots when we started into a steep climb. During the climb we banked right and kept climbing. We climbed until we bleed off airspeed." Subsequently, the flight instructor leveled the aircraft and the flight returned to Abilene. This student recalled that the instructor said "we were practicing for trees or hills at the end of a short runway."
Students reported that the flight instructor demonstrated spins in aircraft that were approved for intentional spins. The flight instructor expected the students to demonstrate entry, spin, and spin recovery. Spin training is not required by Title 14 CFR Part 61 for private pilot certification.
Several of the flight instructor's students described the instructor as capable, serious, smooth with the flight controls, competent, and safety conscious.
During interviews, conducted by the IIC, personnel from Abilene Aero, reported that the flight instructor was employed by Abilene Aero in November 1996. The commercial pilot/flight instructor's training was accomplished at Spartan School of Aeronautics, Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the time of employment with Abilene Aero, the flight instructors' total flight time was 359.9 hours. Pre-employment documents did not list any flight time in the Beech B24R airplane.
The commercial pilot/flight instructor's logbook and the FAA records reviewed by the IIC showed that the pilot began flight training in July 1992 at Tulsa. During the pilot's certification, he failed the initial private pilot practical flight test on January 14, 1994. Subsequently, this test was passed on January 21, 1994. On June 18, 1995, the pilot failed the initial commercial pilot practical test in the area of takeoff and landings, and the initial instrument rating practical test. The commercial certification with the instrument rating was passed on June 21, 1995. The pilot failed the initial flight instructor practical test on May 21, 1996, in numerous areas and failed the re-testing on June 5, 1996, in the areas of fundamentals of flight, ground reference maneuvers, and emergency procedures. Subsequently, the initial flight instructor rating test was obtained on July 7, 1996.
The commercial pilot/flight instructor's logbook indicated his total flight time as 944.7 hours with 122.2 hours in the Beech BE36 (low wing retractable gear aircraft). The logbook indicated total night flight time of 99.5 hours of which 22 hours were in the last 90 days. Total flight time logged in the Beech B24R (N2521W) was 17.1 hours of dual instruction given to the student pilot/owner from June through August 1998. Night flight time logged in N2521W was a 1.5 hour flight on June 30, 1998, at the Abilene Regional Airport, Abilene, Texas. Stalls, slow flight, steep turns, touch and goes, and emergency procedures were logged for this 1.5 hour flight at Abilene.
The flight instructor scheduled the night cross country instructional flight with the student pilot from 2000 to 2200 on August 18, 1998, in N2521W. This was the first night flight in N2521W to the Albany airport. Logbook records revealed that the pilot had conducted night cross county flights in a Cessna 152 and a Cessna 150 on April 28 and May 6, 1998, respectively at the Albany airport.
The student pilot, who owned the airplane, obtained his third class medical certificate on May 6, 1997. On this medical application the student pilot listed his total flight time as 75 hours with 6 hours in the previous 6 months. The student pilot, who resided in Lubbock, Texas, enrolled in the private pilot certification course on May 13, 1997, at Abilene Aero, Abilene, Texas. The student pilot received 17.1 hours of dual instruction from the flight instructor at Abilene Aero from June through August 1998.
Aircraft N2521W was topped with 23.1 gallons of fuel on the morning of August 18, 1998, at Abilene Aero, for a scheduled (1300-1500) flight. No discrepancies were reported with the aircraft (N2521W) following this flight. Subsequently the aircraft (N2521W) was topped with 27.0 gallons of fuel for the night instructional flight. Throughout the day numerous aircraft had been fueled by Abilene Aero with no discrepancies reported.
The Beech B24R aircraft, serial number MC-195, aircraft was manufactured in 1974 and a standard airworthiness certificate was issued for N2521W on November 27, 1973. The FAA registration records revealed that the airplane was registered to the current owner (student pilot) on July 28, 1997.
The aircraft and engine records were kept in the airplane and were destroyed by the post impact fire. Records supplied by the operator revealed that Airworthiness Directive (AD) 73-20-07 R2, for installation of new wing attachment structural parts, was permanently complied with in accordance with Beech Service Instructions No. 0042-031, Rev. II, on May 15, 1997, at Abilene Aero.
At approximately 1945, the pilot requested and obtained an abbreviated weather briefing via telephone to the Fort Worth Automated Flight Service Station. The pilot inquired about a convective sigmet and local weather for the Abilene area. The pilot was briefed that the convective sigmet covered the area from San Angelo, Texas, to Midland, Texas. Weather at Abilene and the surrounding area was scattered clouds at 7,000 with 10 miles visibility and winds 150 degrees at 10 to 18 knots until 2200.
The U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical data revealed that for August 18, 1997, sunset was at 2018 and moonrise was at 2035. Twilight ended at 2044.
Air traffic control personnel reported that the pilot of N2521W called the Abilene tower controller and at 2016 the aircraft was cleared for takeoff.
At 2020 the pilot contacted the Abilene departure controller.
At 2029 the pilot reported that he had the Albany Municipal Airport in sight. The pilot was approved by the controller for a frequency change to the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) for the Albany airport.
Albany Municipal Airport (T23), Albany, Texas, is a non towered airport located at 32 degrees 43.14 minutes North; 099 degrees 16.05 minutes West, at an elevation of 1,425 feet. The hard surface (asphalt) runway 17-35 is 3,700 feet long and 60 feet wide. Low intensity runway lights are activated by the pilot on frequency 123.5. The common traffic advisory frequency is 122.9. The airport is located on the 055 degree radial at 33.4 nautical miles from the Abilene Vortac (113.7).
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted a mesquite tree at the start of the wreckage path and subsequently impacted the terrain (rolling, pasture, mesquite brush and trees). The initial tree, 12 feet high, was located on a measured magnetic heading of 212 degrees approximately 1/4 mile southwest of the departure end of runway 17. The base of the tree trunk and several of the tree branches exhibited diagonal cuts consistent with propeller blade strikes. The wreckage distribution path was on a measured magnetic heading of 290 degrees from the tree. Ground scars, near the base of the tree, were consistent with the powerplant/fuselage nose section initially impacting the ground. The main wreckage came to rest 55 feet from the initial impact point with the fuselage resting on a measured magnetic heading of 110 degrees and the empennage on a measured magnetic heading of 175 degrees. Damage of the airplane components and the wreckage distribution was consistent with a nose low and left bank attitude at impact. The engine and firewall were found separated from the airframe. See the enclosed diagram for details.
Components not destroyed by the post impact fire were examined. All of the flight control surfaces were found at the site. Rudder and aileron control continuity was established from the cockpit area to the respective control surfaces. Stabilator control continuity was established, except for the stabilator up cable exhibiting separation aft of the turnbuckle (located between Frame Section 181 and FS 210 bulkheads). A portion of the aircraft battery was found lying near the flight control cables. The separated ends of the stabilator up cable were forwarded to the NTSB Metallurgical Laboratory for examination.
The main cabin wing carry through spar was intact. The cabin doors were destroyed by the fire and their respective door handle assemblies were found with the main wreckage. The cockpit yoke for the left seat pilot was intact. The arm of the cockpit yoke for the right seat pilot was found separated from the yoke. The landing gear mechanism was intact, the wheel assemblies were found inside the wheel wells, and the landing gear hydraulic actuators were found in the retracted positions. The manual flap actuator handle and ratchet assembly had the ratchet tooth disengaged and forward of the ratchet teeth. According to the manufacturer representative this would place the flaps forward of the flaps retracted position.
The Hartzell propeller (part number HC-M2YR-1BF, serial number EN645) was separated from the engine. The crankshaft flange exhibited fractures consistent with overload along the inner circumference. The propeller blades were bent and exhibited striations, and gouges.
The engine (model IO-360-A1B6, serial number L-11297-51A) and accessories exhibited thermal damage. Impact and thermal damage precluded a determination of the engine control positions. The oil suction screen was clear of debris. Engine continuity with rotation of the engine crankshaft, camshaft, and gears was established after removal of the thermal damaged rear case. Thumb compression was noted for cylinders' #1, 2, & 4. The intake valve spring for the #3 cylinder exhibited thermal damage. No evidence of any pre-impact mechanical deficiencies were found which would have prevented the engine from developing power.
The Bendix fuel injector (model RSA-5AD1, serial number 43378) fuel screen was clear of debris. The Bendix flow divider (part number 2524232) injector nozzles were open and the diaphragm valve was intact. The Champion spark plug (type REM38E) electrode were within specifications. The fuel system integrity was compromised by the post impact fire. The Bendix magnetos (model 1200-series) had the steel drive gear, coupling, and center shaft intact. The Woodward propeller governor (part number A210490, serial number 1120163C) had the drive coupling intact and the control rod attached to the pitch change mechanism. During the examination of the engine accessories, no pre-impact anomalies were found associated with the fuel system, magnetos, propeller governor, or the vacuum pump.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were performed by the Anatomic and Forensic Pathology Consultants at Fort Worth, Texas. Toxicological testing was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The CAMI toxicological findings for the student pilot were positive for benzoylecgonine (primary metabolite of cocaine). According to Dr. Canfield, CAMI, the 0.398 (ug/ml, ug/g) benzoylecgogine detected in the urine indicates that "cocaine had been ingested at some time prior to the accident." See the toxicological report for details.
The CAMI toxicological findings for the commercial pilot/flight instructor were positive for ethanol in muscle fluid and acetaldehyde in blood. According to Dr. Canfield (CAMI), the "ethanol detected in this case is from postmortem ethanol production." See the toxicological report for details.
TEST AND RESEARCH
The fractured surfaces of the stabilator up cable, part number NAS314-25-0820, and the turnbuckle, part number AN155-81, were examined at the NTSB Metallurgical Laboratory. The metallurgists reported that examination of the cable ends revealed surface sooting and corrosion. Portions of the cable strands had individual wires rounded off, melted, and fused together.
Scanning electron microscope (SEM) examination revealed corrosion, fusing of strands and melting of individual wires. Reexamination with the SEM, after cleaning the cable, indicated that some of the wires were not subjected to melting. The "reduction in diameter and the dimpled surface" is indicative of "tensile overload."
According to the aircraft manufacturer representative, the empennage flight cable routing in the B24R is consistent with that found in the Beech model C23. The C23 battery installation location is the right side of the empennage aft of FS 181 with the empennage control cables routed along the longitudinal center line of the fuselage. See the photographic index of the exemplar aircraft (C23) for details.
The aircraft was released to the owner's representative.