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On October 11, 1997, at 0814 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 152, N67293, descended into mountainous terrain about 4 miles southwest of Julian, California. The aircraft was rented by the pilot from Plus One Flyers, Inc., San Diego, California, for the personal cross-country flight. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was destroyed, and the private pilot was fatally injured. The flight originated from San Diego at 0757.
After takeoff, the pilot requested and received radar flight following service for his flight to Nevada. The airplane was identified on radar, and controllers observed the airplane climbing while proceeding in a northeasterly direction.
At 0808, the pilot advised the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) controllers that he was at 5,400 feet, and thereafter, he reported his intention to climb to 7,500 feet. A review of recorded radar data indicates that the airplane continued climbing, and at 0811:42, it had reached 7,200 feet (as indicated by the airplane's Mode C equipped transponder).
At 0812:13, the pilot advised the controller that he was making a 180-degree turn. At 0812:18 and 0812:30, the airplane's altitude was 7,300 and 7,200 feet, respectively. Thereafter, the airplane commenced a descent, and its altitude at 0812:42 was 6,700 feet. The airplane's final recorded position and altitude occurred at 0813:30. At this time the airplane was at 4,500 feet, at coordinates of 33 degrees 02.833 minutes north latitude, by 116 degrees 40.600 minutes west longitude.
The pilot's last recorded transmissions occurred at 0813:02 and at 0813:35. During these transmissions the pilot was heard to say "L A Center L A Center" and "Los Angeles Center." The controller subsequently reported that during these transmissions the pilot sounded like he was in a panic.
The private pilot did not hold an instrument rating. His recent flying experience and instrument flight time during the preceding 90-day period was not established.
A review of the pilot's California Department of Motor Vehicles driving records indicated that during the preceding 7 years he had been convicted 9 times for various moving violations and other offences including driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, and driving while under the influence of alcohol. On the accident date, the pilot possessed a valid driver's license.
The operator's "Squawk Sheet" for the airplane indicated that on October 10, 1997, a pilot had cancelled a flight because of a rough right magneto. Several days earlier, on September 28, 1997, another pilot had reported this same event and commented that he "cleared it" after leaning the mixture during the engine run-up.
At 0636, the pilot telephoned the Federal Administration Administration's (FAA) San Diego, California, Automated Flight Service Station. The specialist reported that he provided the pilot with a standard weather briefing for the pilot's planned visual flight rules (VFR) flight from the San Diego Gillespie Field to the Las Vegas Henderson Sky Harbor Airport. In pertinent part, during the briefing the pilot was advised of flight precautions for clouds covering mountains and moderate to occasionally severe turbulence. Broken layers of clouds were reported locally at 3,300, 4,800, and 5,500 feet mean sea level (msl). Over the Southern California area, scattered to broken layers of clouds were forecast with bases at 2,500 feet, and broken clouds were forecast at 4,000 feet with tops at 7,000 feet msl. The specialist further reported that an upper level trough was present resulting in unstable air.
Two deputy sheriffs reported that near the time of the accident they were located close to the accident site. One of the deputies was located on the ground, and the other was flying in a helicopter. The deputies provided statements regarding the weather conditions that they observed.
The ground-based deputy described the sky condition as being "heavy overcast." Occasionally the cloud bases were at ground level and he was in fog, while at other times the cloud bases lifted and they just obscured the nearby mountain tops. The precipitation varied from periodic light sprinkles to a "driving rain." Within about 7 miles to the north and east of the accident site the terrain elevation increased to nearly 6,000 feet msl.
According to the airborne deputy, the visibility to the west of the accident site was about 25 miles. However, to the east there was a squall of rain showers that reduced visibility to about 1/2-mile. In the general accident site area the cloud bases were between 400 and 500 feet above the ground. The cloud tops were ragged and may have extended upward to 13,000 feet msl.
The aviation weather reporting facility located closest to the accident site was at the Gillespie Airport, about 40 nautical miles to the southwest. At 0852, the Gillespie Airport, elevation 385 feet msl, reported the local visibility was 25 miles, and there was a broken layer of clouds with bases at 2,500 feet above ground level.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
According to FAA records of facility operations, all electronic aids to navigation pertinent to the airplane's route of flight were functional.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
From an examination of the accident site and airplane wreckage, the airplane was found to have descended into 3,400-foot msl mountainous terrain at coordinates of approximately 33 degrees 02.877 minutes north latitude by 116 degrees 40.475 minutes west longitude. This location is approximately 0.11 miles from the last position recorded by radar. Wreckage was found scattered in a southerly direction over an estimated 150-foot-long path. No eyewitnesses reported observing the aircraft accident.
The initial point of ground impact (IPI) was noted by the presence of a ground scar that matched the appearance of the airplane's right wing tip. Several pieces of green colored (right wing tip) navigation light lens fragments were located adjacent to the IPI ground scar.
The propeller was located about 31 feet south of the IPI. The blades were observed torsionally twisted. Chordwise scratches were noted on the cambered surface of the blades, and the leading edge was found gouged. The propeller was observed separated from the engine's crankshaft.
Cabin windshield fragments, the pitot tube, and several crushed aileron sections were located between 57 and 88 feet south of the IPI. The main wreckage was found approximately 150 south of the IPI.
The cockpit was observed destroyed, both wings were found broken from their respective fuselage attachments, and the engine was found separated from the firewall. Both fuel tank caps were observed seated in the filler necks. The tanks were ruptured. There was no evidence of fire.
All of the airplane's flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site. The continuity of the flight control cable system was established from the elevator and rudder assemblies to the center portion of the impact-damaged and crushed fuselage.
The leading edge of the right wing was observed crushed in an aft direction, and the entire outboard portion of the wing, including the tip, was found destroyed. The outboard portion of the left wing was found bent. The rudder and the right side of the elevator assembly were found attached to the stabilizers by their respective hinges.
An exterior examination of the engine did not disclose evidence of preimpact case punctures or oil leaks. Both magnetos were found separated from the engine. The left magneto's drive gear was rotated and spark was noted at two of the four torn leads. The crankshaft flange was observed bent, and the crankshaft could not be rotated.
The carburetor was found separated from the engine. The fuel finger screen was removed and was observed devoid of foreign debris. The venturi was found seated. The vacuum pump's drive gear was observed intact.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed by the San Diego County Coroner's Office, in San Diego. The FAA performed toxicology tests. Results of the tests were negative for ethanol and all screened drugs.
The airplane wreckage was released to the owner's assigned insurance adjuster on October 13, 1997. No parts or records were retained.