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On June 28, 1998, at 0032 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 175, N7366M, was destroyed following a loss of control during an attempted go-around at Clovis Municipal Airport, Clovis, New Mexico. The non-instrument rated private pilot, the sole occupant in the airplane, was fatally injured. The airplane was being operated by the pilot under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the dark night cross-country flight which originated from Los Lunas, New Mexico, approximately 2.5 hours before the accident. No flight plan had been filed.
According to the pilot's son, the pilot called him on the evening of June 27, 1998, telling him that he was going to depart from the Mid Valley Airpark, Los Lunas, New Mexico, about 2200. The pilot's son arrived at the Clovis airport about 2330. Approximately 0030, the pilot's son observed sparks off the approach end of runway 4, followed moments later by N7366M flying by performing a "go around." A witness, who was in his automobile driving towards Clovis on Highway 60, reported to the Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) that he observed "a large flash that lit up the whole sky."
The airport manager stated that "after midnight, the PCL [Pilot Controlled Lighting] were brought up to high intensity." He further stated that at approximately 0030, the airport power went out (all the lights went out, including the runway lights) "followed almost immediately by the sound of an airplane engine." He next observed an airplane fly over runway 4 at approximately 4 to 6 feet above the ground, and "at that time I heard the airplane go to full power and begin a climb to the north." The airplane came to rest in a circular irrigated cornfield approximately 1500 left of the centerline of the runway.
On the approach end of runway 4, 3 transmission lines (East-West orientation) were found separated after the accident, and the local power company reported that they were the transmission lines which supply all the electrical power to the airport.
The pilot began his flight training February 9, 1995, and he received his private pilot certificate on March 8, 1996. He did not have an instrument rating. During the 90 days prior to the accident, the pilot's logbook and airplane records indicated that he had flown 6 times for approximately 7 hours. Adding the accident flight of 182 nm or approximately 2.5 hours flight time, his total flight experience would have been approximately 237 hours. His logbook further indicated that he had accumulated a total of 17 hours of night flying, with his last three night flights: October 9, 1997, 2.1 hours; June 20, 1997, 2.0 hours; and January 1, 1997, 1.1 hours; or 5.2 hours during the previous 18 months.
The pilot purchased N7366M on June 6, 1996, and had accumulated approximately 143 hours in it by the time of the accident. The pilot last flew with his original flight instructor (in N7366M) on March 19, 1998, and was signed off for his FAR Part 61 regulated flight review. It could not be determined if the pilot had training or exposure to the Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) system. Records indicate that he had flown into airports that had PAPI systems (including the Clovis airport), but not every runway at those airports were equipped with PAPI landing systems.
The pilot was a professional truck driver and had worked 64.75 hours in the previous 9 days. On Friday, June 26, 1998, he departed Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 1900 and drove to Kingman, Arizona, arriving at 0330 on June 27, 1998. He departed Kingman at 1200 on June 27 for the return trip to Albuquerque, arriving at 2030. He logged 5 hours of driving time on the evening of June 26, 1998 and 12 hours of driving time on June 27, 1998.
The airplane was manufactured in 1958 and received its last annual inspection on September 10, 1997. N7366M had an artificial horizon which was powered by an external venturi horn mounted on the left side of the fuselage. On March 19, 1998, when the pilot's flight instructor gave the pilot a flight review, the flight instructor noticed that the artificial horizon was not functioning properly. The flight instructor reported to the IIC that he made a recommendation to the pilot that he get it fixed. The IIC could not find any documentation that this work had been done.
The weather at Clovis airport at the time of the accident was: wind 140 degrees at 11 knots, visibility 10 sm plus, cloud condition - clear, temperature 79 degrees F., dew point 41 degrees F., and altimeter 29.91 in. The moon set 1 hour 35 minutes before the accident.
The Clovis airport is an uncontrolled airport located 6 nm east of town in an agricultural area with very few residential dwellings (i.e., very few ground lights near the airport). Runway 4 (6,200 ft. x 150 ft.) is equipped with pilot controlled medium intensity approach lighting system (MALSR). Runway 4 is also equipped with a PAPI, which provides the pilot with a visual 3 degree glide slope to the runway touchdown zone (see attached documentation). The approach end to runway 4 had transmission lines (East-West orientation) approximately 31 feet high and approximately 3,510 feet from the PAPI indicated runway touchdown point.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane's wreckage was located 1,500 feet from the departure end of runway 4 on a heading 310 degrees; N34 degrees 26.25 minutes, W103 degrees 04.58 minutes (see photographs). The airplane came to rest in a cornfield in a nose down orientation with the aft cabin/fuselage standing nearly vertical. The separated cornstalks in the initial impact area indicated that the airplane impacted the ground in a 30 degree bank with a 30 degrees nose down attitude (see attached wreckage diagram). All the airplane's components were accounted for at the impact scene. Control cable continuity was established from the elevator, rudder, and elevator trim tab, forward to the aft cabin. Aileron cable continuity was established from the aileron bell cranks to the left side control yoke. Flap continuity was established to the wing roots.
No fuel was observed aboard the airplane, and there was no evidence of fire. Three 5-gallon plastic fuel containers were located in the impact area and rescue authorities identified a strong smell, on their arrival to the scene, that they believed was auto fuel. Vegetation, in the vicinity of the impact area, became discolored (brown to gold) and dried up in appearance within 24 hours of the accident; suggesting that fuel had been dispersed over the area.
The propeller and reduction gear remained attached to each other, but were found separated from the engine. Both propeller blades demonstrated chordwise striations. One blade was curled forward and exhibited 4 pitted surface areas approximately 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter near the mid span on the leading edge. The 2 inboard pitted areas were heavily blackened with soot. No damage or transfer signatures were identified on any of the aerodynamic surfaces.
Continuity of the engine could not be established due to extensive impact damage (see attached engine report).
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsy and toxicological tests were ordered and performed. The autopsy was performed at the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine's Office of the Medical Investigator, State of New Mexico, on June 29, 1998. Toxicology test results were negative.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The FAA inspector interviewed an airline captain who flew a VFR approach to runway 4 on the morning of June 28, 1998, after N7366M's accident. The captain stated that he "believed that the PAPI was working OK, and was on the money." The FAA inspector also retrieved and submitted the most recent maintenance logs of the Clovis airport PAPI system (see attached documentation).
The IIC performed the mathematical calculations which indicated that an airplane on the PAPI glide slope to runway 4 at Clovis, New Mexico, would be approximately 184 feet above the ground (at the transmission lines), or 153 feet above the transmission lines.
The airplane was released to the owner's representative on July 2, 1998.