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On September 12, 1997, at 1020 eastern standard time (est), a Beech 76, N18562, operated by a certified flight instructor was destroyed when on takeoff, the airplane pitched up, rolled off to the right and impacted the terrain. A subsequent post-crash fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The instructional flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. No flight plan was on file. The instructor pilot, dual student, and passenger on board the airplane were fatally injured. The flight originated at West Lafayette, Indiana, at 1019 est.
The Administrative Coordinator for the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, said that the instructor pilot was supposed to give the student pilot flight instruction in accordance with the university's multi- engine land airplane syllabus. The lesson objectives were to introduce single-engine operations to the student pilot; and then on a subsequent flight, give the same instruction to the student- passenger, who at the time of the accident was occupying the airplane's left rear seat.
At 0957 est, the Lafayette Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) cleared the airplane for takeoff. The airplane took off on runway 23 at Purdue University Airport, West Lafayette, Indiana, and remained in the airport's traffic pattern. At 1000 est and 1006 est, the airplane "was cleared for an option on runway 23." In both cases, the airplane completed a touch-and-go. At 1012, the Lafayette ATCT cleared the pilot for an option on runway 23. At 1014 est, the pilot of the airplane reported "the operation will be a full stop taxi back to runway 23." The airplane was cleared to land.
The airplane taxied to the alpha intersection, located 703 feet from the approach threshold for runway 23. At 1017, the pilot reported "ready for departure." The ATCT instructed the pilot to taxi the airplane "into position and hold for traffic departing on runway 28." At 1018 est, the airplane was "cleared for takeoff and cleared for the option. The aircraft was instructed to fly left closed traffic."
The ATCT manager and two Air Traffic Control Specialists in the tower saw the airplane near the departure end of the runway. One Air Traffic Control Specialist saw "the top of the airplane's wings perpendicular to the ground as it nosed over." All three witnesses observed the airplane veer to the right and dive straight in, nose first, impacting the ground in a grassy area to the right of the runway.
A witness on the ground, recalled hearing the airplane "rev up its motors, as if to takeoff; then the motors went to idle, then they revved up again and the plane left." The witness saw the airplane "leave the runway going west. When it reached an altitude of 100 to 150 feet [above the ground] with its nose up, it started to wing over to the right." The witness then saw the airplane "nosing straight down into the ground." The witness said that he did not see the airplane hit the ground because of the topography of the area. When the witness arrived at the accident site, "the plane was engulfed in flames."
The instructor pilot was employed by the Purdue University's Department of Aviation Technology, as an Aviation Education Specialist 2, a non-tenure position. According to the Department's Chairperson, the instructor pilot had been recommended as an instructor candidate, by the department, on his graduation from Purdue University in May 1995. At that time, the instructor pilot did not have an instructor rating. During the summer months of 1995, the instructor pilot attended flight training courses in multi-engine jet airplanes, receiving ratings in the Beech 400 and Mitubishi MU-300 airplanes. The instructor pilot received his instructor certificate, with a multi-engine instructor rating, on June 30, 1995. On August 19, 1995, he received his single-engine land instructor pilot rating. The instructor pilot began instructing part-time for the Department of Aviation Technology in September 1995. He remained a part- time instructor with the department over the next 12 months. During that time, on February 8, 1996, the instructor pilot received his instrument instructor rating. In the Fall of 1996, the instructor pilot accepted a full-time position with the Department of Aviation Technology. He gave instruction to students seeking private, instrument, and commercial pilot certificates. The instructor pilot began his multi-engine instructor check out for the university on July 22, 1997. The instructor pilot received 3.3 hours of dual instruction in the Beech 76 prior to his check flight.
The instructor pilot passed the department's standardization check flight, as a multi-engine flight instructor under 14 CFR Part 141, on July 31, 1997. The standardization flight was given by the department's chief pilot. The instructor pilot began giving multi-engine flight instruction in accordance with the department's course curriculum on September 3, 1997.
The instructor pilot's logbook indicated that he had accumulated a total flying time of 1,059.4 hours as of September 11, 1997. The record showed that of the total flight time, 213.8 hours was in multi-engine land airplanes, 22.5 hours was in a Beech 76.
The instructor pilot's logbook showed that the he had accumulated 586.0 hours as a flight instructor. The record showed that of the total instructor time, 7.2 hours was in a Beech 76 airplane. All of the time was logged between September 3, 1997 and the date of the accident.
The dual student held a temporary commercial single-engine land, instrument airplane pilot certificate, issued on August 6, 1997. At the time of the accident, the student enrolled in Purdue University's AT-353, Multi-engine Land Class.
The dual student pilot's logbook indicated that he had accumulated a total flying time of 243.2 hours as of September 11, 1997. The last three entries in the logbook were dual flights logged in a Beech 76 with the instructor pilot, totalling 2.7 hours.
The airplane was one of two Beech 76 airplanes owned, operated, and maintained by Purdue University's Department of Aviation Technology. The airplane was used primarily as a trainer for students enrolled in the AT-353 course to receive their multi-engine land rating. The airplane was being maintained on a continuous maintenance schedule, requiring "event" inspections to be performed approximately every 100 hours. The airplane had previously undergone an event inspection on September 3, 1997.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on scene investigation began on September 12, 1997, at 1430 est.
The accident site was in a grass field located 130 feet northwest of the parallel taxiway for runways 23-05, abeam the B-4 taxiway, on the Purdue University Airport. The airplane's main wreckage was located approximately 3,063 feet down the runway from the alpha intersection, and 404 feet northwest of the runway centerline on a 321-degree magnetic heading.
The accident site began 110 feet from the northwest edge of the parallel taxiway. A ground scar, 33 and 1/2 feet long, by 6 feet wide, ran northwest along a 321-degree magnetic heading toward the main airplane wreckage. Witness marks corresponding to the right wing tip, right propeller, nose of the airplane and left propeller, were found within the ground scar path and lined up on a magnetic heading of 321-degrees. The airplane's impact heading was approximately 051-degrees.
Pieces of green glass and fiberglass from the right wing tip were observed at point where the ground scar began. The aft half of the right wing tip was located on the north side of the ground scar approximately 14 and 1/2 feet from the scar's origination. The wing tip piece was broken chordwise, along the rivet line. A 21 inch diameter hole was located along the ground scar, 17 feet, 8 inches from where the ground scar's originated. The hole was 17 inches deep. Dirt was pushed up on the northeast side of the hole. The penetration angle of the hole was approximately 70-degrees. The right propeller was located 2 feet northwest of the hole. The propeller had broken off just aft of the flange. The propeller showed torsional bending and chordwise scratches. The spinner was crushed inward and twisted clockwise. The right wing position light and strobe light was broken off and found resting on the south edge of the ground scar, 24 feet from the scar's origination. An area of burned grass, 20 feet long and 12 feet wide, fanned out northward in a 40-degree arc from the north side of the ground scar. Pieces of the airplane's nose, part of the heater, and numerous pieces of clear plexiglass were found in this area.
Pieces of the airplane's left engine cowling were found on the south side of the ground scar approximately 32 feet from the scar's origination. A second hole, 20 inches in diameter, was located along the ground scar, 33 feet from its origination. The hole was 18 inches deep. Dirt was pushed up on the northeast side of the hole. The penetration angle of the hole was approximately 70-degrees. The left propeller was resting 2 feet northwest of the hole. The propeller had broken off at the starter ring gear. The propeller showed torsional bending and chordwise scratches. The spinner was crushed inward and twisted counter-clockwise. At the far edge of the ground scar were more pieces of broken clear plexiglass.
A second area of scorched dirt and grass began 154 feet northwest of the parallel taxiway and extended westward 38 feet. At its widest point, the scorched area was approximately 48 feet.
The main wreckage of the airplane rested on the southwest edge of the scorched grassy area, and was oriented on a 162-degree heading. The airplane's main wreckage consisted of the remains of the cabin area, the aft fuselage, the empennage, the landing gear, both wings and both engines.
The nose of the airplane was broken open, exposing wiring, gages, the aft portion of the heater, and the nose gear well. The bottom metal had been crushed upward and aft. Most of the upper portion of the nose section was charred and melted. The nose gear was intact and in the "up" position in the wheel well. The nose gear doors were closed, crushed inward, and showed wide streaks of black soot running aft from right to left on the outer faces. The heater was bent and charred. The instrument panel was bent aft and crushed upward. The majority of the engine and flight instruments and the engine controls were heavily damaged by fire and/or consumed.
The airplane's cabin and wings were located just aft of the nose section of the airplane. They were resting front-first on the ground at a 70-degree inclination angle. The entire section was charred and/or melted. The cabin walls were broken outward exposing the cabin interior. Both cabin doors were broken off. The left door was bent down and aft. The window frame was melted. The right door was broken off and crushed inward. Its window frame was also melted. The forward cabin floor was charred. The seat rails remained attached to the floor and were charred. The two front seats were broken forward. The aft cabin floor, walls, and interior panels were charred and consumed. The remains of the rear seats and several personal effects were found in the aft cabin area.
The left wing, outboard from the root to mid-span, left engine locker area and mount were charred and melted. The left engine had broken off from the mount and was resting inverted on the ground. It showed heavy charring. The upper engine cowling was broken outward. The lower cowling was crushed inward and charred. The left wing outboard of mid-span, and the left aileron were consumed. The underside of the left wing and landing gear wheel well showed minor fire damage. The left flap was broken aft and down. The left main landing gear was down.
The right wing was crushed aft, broken open, charred, and consumed. The right engine had broken off from the mount and was resting upright. It sustained heavy fire damage. A portion of the right aileron was located near the remains of the right wingtip area. It was charred and melted. The underside of the right wing and landing gear wheel well showed fire damage. The right flap was broken aft and down. The right main landing gear was down and showed fire damage.
The fuselage, aft of the cabin area, and the empennage were broken aft and twisted right approximately 90-degrees, leaving the top of the "T" tail resting on the remains of the right wing.
The underside of the fuselage received moderate fire damage. It showed several laterally-running upward bends aft of the cabin area. The "T" tail of the airplane was intact and showed moderate fire damage. The outer edge of the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator were melted. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator was intact and showed little heat damage.
The right side skin of the vertical stabilizer was charred and melted. The right side skin of the rudder was also charred and melted. The tailcone of the airplane showed melting and distortion from heat.
The right upper and lower engine cowlings were located 30 feet west of the main wreckage. Both pieces had broken off along the rivet lines. The upper cowling showed some minor fire damage and soot. The front part of the cowling was crushed inward. The lower cowling section was crushed up and inward. It sustained heavy charring.
Flight control continuity was confirmed. Examination of the engines, propellers, engine and propeller controls, and other airplane systems revealed no anomalies. Examination of the elevator trim jackscrew assembly showed a position equating to 10 degrees of nose up trim.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies of the instructor and dual student were conducted by the Indiana University Department of Pathology, on September 13, 1997, at Indianapolis, Indiana. The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the instructor pilot were negative for all tests conducted.
Emergency responders, located on the airport, reported that while en route to the accident site, they could see dark black smoke rising from where the airplane had impacted the terrain. On arrival, they reported finding the airplane engulfed in flames. The fire department had the fire under control within seven minutes of arrival on the scene.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Purdue University's Department of Aviation Technology operates only its multi-engine training under 14 CFR Part 141. All other flight training courses taught by the department are operated under 14 CFR Part 61. The Department's multi-engine program was renewed on a provisional certificate, on August 31, 1997. Under 14 CFR Part 141, paragraph 141.5 (b), a pilot school must, within the 24 months preceding the date of application, train and recommend for pilot certification and rating tests, at least 10 applicants for pilot certificates and ratings. Of those 10 applicants, at least 8 of the 10 most recent graduates tested by an FAA inspector or designated examiner must pass that test the first time. The FAA certificate manager for Purdue's part 141 operation stated that at the time of their certificate renewal, the school's multi-engine course was averaging a 75 to 77 percent first-time pass rate.
The requirements for flight instructors under Part 141 are that each instructor to be used for ground or flight instruction must hold a flight or ground instructor certificate, as appropriate, with ratings for the course of instruction and any aircraft to be used in that course; and that each flight instructor for an approved course of training must satisfactorily accomplish a flight check given to him by the designated chief flight instructor for the school by which he is employed. The instructor must also satisfactorily accomplish this flight check each 12 months from the month in which the initial check is given, and he must satisfactorily accomplish a flight check in each type of aircraft in which he gives instruction.
Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Indianapolis, Indiana; Raytheon-Beech Aircraft Company, Wichita, Kansas; Textron Lycoming, Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.
All wreckage was released and returned to United States Aviation Underwriters, Incorporated, Toledo, Ohio.