HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On January 28, 1998, at about 1230 central standard time, a 1937 Fairchild 24G, NC16866, registered to a private individual and operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed about 15 miles southwest of Andalusia, Alabama, within the boundaries of the Conecuh National Forest. Due to the remoteness and heavy forestation at the site, there were no witnesses, and the first persons on the scene were U. S. Army paramedics from Fort Rucker, Alabama, who rappelled from a helicopter. The recently restored antique airplane was destroyed, and the airline transport-rated pilot sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight departed Peter Prince Field, Milton, Florida, about 1115 for Greenville, Alabama, and ultimately, Gadsden, Alabama, where the airplane was to be delivered to a restoration facility for minor mechanical work preparatory to a sale.
The pilot had consented to ferry the airplane to the restoration facility as a favor to the owner, who had recently lost his FAA medical certificate. The flight was being operated as a loose flight of two with a fellow "antiquer" flying a Ryan SCW, who was to provide a ride home to the Pensacola area for the Fairchild pilot. They were not in sight of each other at all times, but were maintaining radio contact. The Ryan pilot stated he thought the Fairchild pilot would have been cruising at about 2,000 feet msl, and he heard no radio transmissions before the crash. A strong emergency locator transmitter signal was reported emanating from the crash site about 1500.
The pilot held an FAA airline transport pilot rating with L-382, B727, DC-8, and L-18 ratings as well as multiengine and single engine land and seaplane ratings. He also held an FAA airframe and power-plant rating as well as IA rating number 1253445. He had recently worked closely with the Naval Aviation Museum at Sherman Field, Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida. The pilot's log books were not recovered, but according to his AME, he had estimated his total flight time to be 15,000 hours on August 29, 1997, when he renewed his FAA third class medical. He had also estimated his last 6 month's flight time as 62 hours. On his medical renewal form he checked, "yes" to the questions, "admission to hospital" and "recent illnesses". According to the family, those entries referred to minor back surgery for persistent pain performed just before Oshkosh, 1997. According to the pilot's AME, the pilot was a heavy smoker, and was taking injections for the back pain. The family stated the pilot received two steroid injections for the back pain, one in early January, 1998, and the other about the middle of January.
The airplane had been completely restored by Bishop's Antique Restoration, Southside, Alabama, about 33.6 hours, (tachometer hours) previous to the accident. It had been owned and operated by the pilot before he sold it to the present owner. This particular airplane, at the time of the accident, had the two rear seats removed to accommodate tires and various fuselage trim pieces. Shoulder harnesses were not installed in the airplane's cockpit. The wings had placarded next to the fuel-cap, "20 U.S. Gals./min 73 Oct". The owner stated that it was his common practice to mix 87 octane automotive fuel with 100 octane low-lead aviation fuel.
The Warner model Scarab S50 engine had undergone a major overhaul 173 hours before the accident. The magnetos, ignition harness, and carburetor were overhauled and reinstalled and the engine was given a 100 hour inspection by Bishop at 33.6 hours before the accident on August 1, 1997. The conformity inspection for the total restoration was approved and signed off on August 2, 1997, by the FAA. The FAA Form 337 is included under, "Reports from Other Federal Agencies".
Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Meteorological information is contained in this report under Weather Information. WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed in dense forest midway between Andalusia and Brewton, Alabama, within the Conecuh National Forest, at coordinates, N 31 11.25, W 86 23.63. Examination of the wreckage site indicated initial contact was with trees about 25 to 30 feet above ground level on the southern bank of the Conecuh River. The pattern of tree canopy breakage and trunk scarring indicated the airplane approached from a northeasterly direction, encountered the trees that stopped the forward momentum, and slid vertically down a tree truck to the ground from a height of about 20 feet. The longitudinal axis of the fuselage was oriented about 200 degrees, magnetic. Bending and crushing of the engine and nacelle skewed those components about 20 degrees left of the longitudinal axis. The wooden propeller blades had separated, one about 10 inches from the hub, and the other, about 14 inches from the hub. About one- third of one blade was located under the wreckage at about the longitudinal station corresponding to the firewall. All airframe components were found in the immediate area. The left outer wing panel was completely destroyed, and the left wing aluminum fuel tank was severely compromised. The right wing fuel tank was intact, contained about 20 gallons of fuel and testing for water content proved negative. The right wing leading edge received four tree strikes 8 to 10 inches deep, with the wing tip and aileron detached and lying about 2 feet aft of their normal position. Both fixed main landing gear struts had collapsed rearward. The aft fuselage and empennage received little damage. The left front seat mount had failed causing the pilot to impact the right side panel and control stick. The right side flight control continuity could not be determined due to the broken control stick. The left side aileron and elevator control and right side rudder control continuity checked satisfactorily.
Subsequent teardown inspection of the engine revealed water and a fine, grainy sediment caked in peripheral areas of the carburetor float chamber. The airplane's gascolator was inspected and a relatively large amount of the same sediment, (tablespoon) was found ringed around the bottom of the removable filter element, (see enclosed photographs). A sample of the liquid contents of the carburetor float chamber, as well as samples of sediment taken from the fuel filter were saved for laboratory analysis. Results of the analysis are discussed in this report under, "TESTS AND RESEARCH" and the laboratory report is included under, "Other Pertinent Forms and Reports".
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Postmortem examination of the pilot was performed on January 29, 1998, at Alabama's Department of Forensic Sciences in Mobile by State Medical Examiner, LeRoy Riddick, M.D. and revealed cause of death to be multiple blunt force injuries. Toxicological tests were conducted at the Federal Aviation Administration Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The tests were negative for ethanol, carbon monoxide, basic, acidic, and neutral drugs.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The airplane's wooden propeller was removed from the wreckage site and sent to the manufacturer for examination. Inspection was conducted, with FAA oversight, and findings were that the powerplant was producing very little power at the time of propeller impact with the trees. A copy of the report is included under, "Reports from Federal Agencies". The magnetos were removed and bench tested, under the oversight of the FAA, for about one hour at normal operational loads, speeds, and temperatures in accordance with manufacturer's specifications. Consistent firing speed occurred between 90 and 100 rpm on both magnetos. Full spark intensity from all test leads occurred at 125 rpm on both magnetos. The coils were within manufacturer's specifications for leakage and resistance. A copy of the report is included under, "Reports from Federal Agencies".
The saved carburetor and fuel filter specimens were sent to Panair Laboratory, Inc., Miami, Florida for analysis. Examination revealed the major elements of the sediment were aluminum corrosion, rust, zinc, and dirt. Testing of the liquid revealed a composition of fuel and water. The fuel was of a pale green color which would have resulted from either mixing blue 100LL aviation fuel and yellow colored automotive fuel or of oxidization of the blue dye in 100LL. A copy of the report is included under, "Other Pertinent Forms and Reports".
The aircraft wreckage, less the components listed on the Release of Aircraft Wreckage, was released to Mr. Gene Shiel, representing the operator's insurance company, on February 13, 1998. All components retained by the NTSB for further examination were returned to Atlanta Air Salvage, Griffin, Georgia, per instructions from Mr. Gene Shiel on September 29, 1998.