HISTORY OF FLIGHT On August 24, 1997, about 1420 eastern daylight time, a Waco Classic, YMF-5, N68SH, was destroyed as it impacted the ocean off the shoreline of Ocean City, Maryland. The certificated airline transport pilot and the two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane, registered to Buntings Dusting Inc., Berlin, Maryland, was operated by Ocean Aerial Ads, Ocean City, Maryland. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the sightseeing flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The two passengers purchased a 15 minute flight and the airplane took off from the Ocean City Municipal Airport, about 1410. The owner of the company, flying another airplane, was returning to the airport when he spotted the accident plane. He watched the airplane fly the standard route, east to the inlet and a left turn north to fly along the shoreline. The owner reported that the pilot of the other airplane radioed him with the comment that "he had two female passengers onboard who wanted a thrill." The owner stated that he did not think anything of the comment.
Numerous witnesses along the shoreline watched as the airplane flew northbound. A rated pilot reported that he watched the airplane from 2 miles south of his position until it impacted the water. He wrote that the airplane caught his attention because it was a "nice looking shiny red aircraft, and it was doing unusual maneuvers, unusual in the sense that they were out of the ordinary for airplane traveling northbound along the coast line." He described the maneuvers as "climbing turns and descents, commonly referred to as S-turns." The witness recalled that the pilot might have been warming up to do aerobatics.
The witness stated that the S-turns continued until the airplane was about 1/4 mile north of his position. The airplane was climbing and descending about 200-300 feet, without any change in the engine RPM. The witness thought that the pilot was about to do a loop, and watched as the nose raised up, but instead of continuing over and completing the loop, the airplane went vertical. At the top of the climb, the witness watched as the airplane entered a spin to the right. He observed two turns and realized there was not sufficient altitude to recover. The airplane completed one more turn and the revolutions stopped just prior to impacting the water in approximately 45 degrees nose down attitude.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 38 degrees, 24 minutes north latitude, and 75 degrees, 3 minutes west longitude.
PERSONNEL INFORMATION The pilot held an airline transport certificate for multi-engine land, instrument airplane. He also held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single engine land, and a flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine and multi-engine land, instrument airplane.
His most recent Federal Aviation Administration Second Class Medical Certificate was issued on May 30, 1997.
The pilot's logbook was found in his mobile home on August 26, 1997. The last entries in the logbook covered the period of August 15, and pre-written through the date of August 28, 1997. Total duration of flight times were written in for the dates August 15 through August 22, and August 23 through August 28 were left blank. Totaling the flight hours on this page, the pilot had an estimate of 4,418 hours of flight time, with about 682 hours in tail wheel airplanes.
AIRCRAFT INFORMATION According to the owner, the airplane's logbooks were kept in the airplane. The logbooks were not recovered with the wreckage. The owner wrote in the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report that the airplane was under an Annual Maintenance program, with the mechanic's records indicating that the last 100 hour Inspection was completed on July 30, 1997.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION The captain of a charter dive boat, transiting the area, observed the airplane impact the water. The captain altered course and headed to the impact area. Upon arrival in the area, he spotted floating debris. The U.S. Coast Guard requested that the captain, with the help of the divers onboard, locate the wreckage and attach a buoy to it. With near zero visibility in the water, the divers were able on their second attempt to attach a buoy. The Maryland State Police Dive Team arrived in the area and were transported to the crash site. At 2130, because of zero visibility and the hazard to the divers presented by the broken and twisted wreckage, the recovery operation was postponed until the next morning.
The wreckage was recovered by members of the Maryland State Police Dive Team on August 25, 1997. Airbags were utilized to lift the wreckage off the ocean floor and float it on the surface. It was towed to the shore line by 94th Street, and pulled ashore using a front end loader. Once loaded onto a rollback wrecker, it was transported and place inside the bay of the local fire department.
The wreckage was then taken to the owner's hangar and examined on August 26, 1997. The examination revealed that all major components of the airplane were contained in the wreckage. The biplane's wings, constructed of wood, metal wiring and fabric, were shattered and held together by the metal wiring. Since the wreckage was dragged to the shoreline in the water once it was brought to the surface, all of the broken pieces of the wings were entwined and positioned at the front of the fuselage with the engine. Flight control continuity was verified through tracing of wires through the fractured pieces. All fractures of the wooden structure and metal wires and tubes were consistent and similar to overload forces.
The radial engine was displaced towards the fuselage 4-6 inches. The metal cowling around the bottom of the engine was depressed against and molded around the indentations of the cooling fins of the radial engine. The wooden propeller was splintered. One blade was absent, and pieces of it had been found floating near the crash site on the day of the accident.
All damage observed in the engine and the airframe were consistent with water impact, with no indications of pre-impact mechanical malfunctions.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on August 26, 1997, by Roger P. Milton, M.D. and J. Laron Lock, M.D., of the office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of Maryland.
Toxicological testing was conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION The airplane was equipped with dual flight controls. The airplane was normally flown from the rear seat by the pilot. Passengers were normally seated in the front cockpit with the control stick removed.
A customer, who heard about the accident and flew with the pilot on August 3, 1997, wrote that he asked the pilot if he would perform a loop or roll while they were flying. He (the Pilot) "emphatically and without hesitation" politely declined citing company policies and insurance restrictions. After boarding the airplane, they were thoroughly instructed on what not to touch. The customer wrote that "the flight was conducted in a highly professional manner by a mature and experienced pilot."
The airplane wreckage was released on August 26, 1997, to Robert Bunting, owner of the airplane.