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On February 19, 1998, about 1347 eastern standard time, a Schweizer SA 2-37A, N61474, collided with a houseboat shortly after takeoff from the Reynolds Airpark, in Green Cove Springs, Florida. The airplane was operated by the airline transport pilot (ATP) for the purpose of familiarization of a newly hired ATP under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. Both pilots received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed during the impact and subsequent post crash fire. The flight had originated about 1330, on the same day.
According to the airplane operator, this was a pilot familiarization flight. After two landings, the airplane took off from runway 5 for continued closed pattern work. The airplane was refueled prior to the flights.
According to several witnesses, the airplane was observed in a climb attitude about 200 to 300 feet above the ground. The takeoff and climb up to that point appeared normal. Witnesses said they then heard the engine noise decrease, as if it was powered back. Witnesses stated the airplanes nose was lowered slightly, and the airplane began a left turn back towards the Airpark. They stated the airplane's bank angle increased to between 60-70 degrees, and the nose dropped as if the airplane had stalled. The airplane then struck a docked, unoccupied houseboat and exploded into flames. One witness also commented that the propeller was still turning on impact, but there was no engine noise.
The first pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with single engine land, multiengine land, helicopter, instrument airplane, and instrument helicopter ratings. He also held a flight instructor certificate with helicopter and instrument helicopter ratings. His last medical, a first class, was issued June 18, 1997, and contained the limitation that the pilot must wear corrective lenses in order to exercise the privileges of the airman's certificate. The first pilot had a flight review in August 1997, and was occupying the left seat at the time of the accident.
The second pilot held airline transport pilot and commercial pilot certificates with single engine land, single engine sea, multiengine land, helicopter, instrument airplane, and instrument helicopter ratings. He was also a certified flight instructor of airplane single engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane. His last medical, a second class, was issued March 6, 1997. The second pilot was hired February 17, 1998, and was on a flight training familiarization flight. He was in the right seat.
Additional information about the flight crew can be found on page 3 under First Pilot Information and in Supplement E.
N61474, SA 2-37A, was a single engine, low wing monoplane of all metal construction. The airplane was a conventional configuration with a fixed landing gear. The tail wheel was steerable through the rudder control. The cockpit was configured for two crew members, seated side by side. Identical flight controls were provided for each crew position; however, flight instruments were located on the right side of the instrument panel, which requires the airplane to be flown solo from the right side position.
The airframe was inspected on January 21, 1998, as part of a continuous airworthiness program. The engine was newly installed on November 5, 1997, and inspected on the same date as the airframe. Both the airframe and engine had approximately 34 hours of flight time. No discrepancies were noted on either the airframe or engine.
Additional information about the airplane can be found on page two under Aircraft Information, and in the Textron Lycoming Report.
The weather at the time of the accident was visual meteorological conditions. Additional information about the weather can be found on pages 3 and 4 under Weather Information.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane came to rest at Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates North 29 degrees 58 minutes 95 seconds latitude and West 081 degrees 38 minutes 77 seconds longitude. The left wing and a portion of the right wing tip was recovered from the surrounding water, and the engine was located in the water below the houseboat. All other components were destroyed by impact or consumed by the post-crash fire.
After its recovery, the engine was examined further. According to Textron Lycoming report, the rear of the engine was heavily fire damaged, and the front of the engine was impact damaged. All cylinders, pistons, spark plugs, and connecting rods were examined, and they were unremarkable. The crankshaft was rotated, and there was valve action and continuity to the accessory gears. Most other components were destroyed by fire. According to Textron Lycoming, no preexisting deficiencies were noted on the portions of the engine that were able to be examined.
With the exception of the engine, four (4) feet of the outboard right wing and 22 feet of the left wing, the entire airplane was consumed by post crash fire. Examination of the right wing tip recovered from the water found that it had burned and subsequently dropped into the water, following the impact. Examination of the left wing found that it had separated about two (2) feet outboard of the wing root. The wing was bent up about 80 degrees mid-span of the wing. Hydraulic damage was noted similar to that found with water impact at the 80 degree bend and outboard to the wing tip.
According to witnesses, the airplane impacted and came to rest nose down into the back right corner of the houseboat. The surrounding wooden structure of the houseboat held the airplane in a nose down position until the structure was destroyed by the post crash fire.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A post mortem examination of both pilots was completed February 20, 1998 by the Office of the Medical Examiner, 2100 Jefferson Street, Jacksonville, Florida, 32206. A toxicological examination of both pilots was completed by the Federal Aviation Administration's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory on April 15, 1998. The first pilot was positive for cyanide, and negative for carbon monoxide, ethanol, and drugs. The second pilot was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.
The fuel used to refuel the airplane was tested for water and contaminants, and none were found.
According to the Pilot's Operating Handbook, Section 3, b. After Takeoff, in Bold Capitalized letters is the paragraph which states: "Avoid attempting to accelerate, then turn back to the runway or to another landing area by over-banking or skidding the aircraft. Stall speed increases significantly with increased angle of bank, and stall characteristics are aggravated by a skidded turn." In addition, this paragraph states, If the loss of power occurs below 300 feet above ground level (AGL), "make shallow turns to avoid obstacles. Perform power-off touchdown using practiced techniques. (See attached POH pages).