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On November 14, 1998, at 1357 eastern standard time, a Cessna 152, N48882, experienced a fire during initial climb following takeoff from Daytona Beach International Airport, Daytona Beach, Florida. The airplane was operated by PhilAir Flight Center under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91, and visual flight rules. A flight plan was not filed for the personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. Origination of the flight was the Daytona Beach International Airport in Daytona Beach. Florida, about seven minutes prior to the accident, with a planned destination of New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport, New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
On the day of the accident, the pilot rented the airplane from the operator for the purpose of conducting a solo flight. At 1321, the pilot of N48882 contacted the Daytona Beach Ground Control over the radio and requested taxi clearance to the Jet Center, a local FBO (fixed base operator) based on the airport, to fuel the airplane (a Jet Center fuel receipt indicated that 11.9 gallons of fuel was added). The request was approved, and taxi instructions were provided.
At 1337, the pilot contacted Daytona Beach Clearance Delivery and requested a local visual flight rules (VFR) flight to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and a local VFR clearance was issued. At 1339, the pilot re-contacted Ground Control and requested permission to taxi for departure. He was issued instructions to taxi to runway 25L. At 1347, the pilot contacted the Daytona Beach Tower and advised that he was ready for departure. At 1349, the pilot was cleared for takeoff. At 1351, the pilot was issued a heading of 210 degrees and was instructed to contact Departure Control. At 1352, the pilot contacted Departure Control and radar contact was established.
At 1354, the pilot of N48882 was issued a heading of 180 degrees and was instructed to change radio frequencies to another departure sector. At 1356, the pilot advised Departure Control, "I need an emergency landing. I've got fire onboard." When asked to say again, the pilot reiterated that he had a "fire onboard" the airplane. The pilot was provided instructions to turn back towards the airport and to contact Daytona Beach Tower. That was the last transmission received from the pilot. At 1357, radar contact of N48882 was lost.
A witness located in another airplane flying in the area overheard the pilot of N48882 declare an emergency over the radio. He observed the airplane in a slow descent, then bank to the right towards a dump. Prior to touching down, several witnesses observed the airplane collide with power lines, immediately followed by the wings separating from the airplane. According to one witness flying overhead, "the remainder of the aircraft dove into the ground and burst into flames."
The pilot held a private pilot certificate, dated August 24, 1998, with a single engine land rating. In addition, he possessed a first class airman medical certificate, dated July 3, 1998, with no waivers or limitations. According to the pilot's logbook, he had accumulated a total time of 232 hours, 231 of which were in the Cessna 152, and 192 hours of which were as pilot-in-command. The pilot was a native of Italy and frequently rented the airplane from the operator. According to the operator, his intention was to pursue additional flight licenses and ratings during his extended visits to the United States.
N48882, a Cessna 152 (S/N 15283384), was manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company in 1979. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-235-L2C engine, rated at 110 horsepower, a McCauley 2-bladed, fixed pitch propeller, and fixed landing gear. The last 100-hour inspection was performed on October 28, 1998, at a tachometer time of 8,067.4 hours, and a total time in service of 8,830.6 hours. At the time of the accident, the airplane had a total time in service of 8,893 hours, and had accumulated 63 hours since the last inspection was performed.
At 1404, reported weather conditions at Daytona Beach International Airport, located 2 miles north of the accident site, were scattered clouds at 4,200 feet, 10 statute miles visibility, temperature 28 degrees C. (82 degrees F.), dew point 17 degrees C. (63 degrees F.), winds from 220 degrees 7 knots, and an altimeter setting of 30.00 inches of mercury.
Daytona Beach International Airport is located 3 miles southwest of the city of Daytona Beach, Florida, at an elevation of 34 feet above mean sea level (msl). The airport is tower-controlled, designated within the boundaries of Class C airspace, and is certified under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 139. The airport has three asphalt runways; 7L/25R (10,500 ft. x 150 ft), 7R/25L (3,195 ft. x 100 ft.), and 16/34 (6,001 ft. x 150 ft.).
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The on-scene examination disclosed that the airplane came to rest approximately 300 feet southwest of a landfill area, two miles south of the Daytona Beach International Airport. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. The wreckage was scattered along a path of approximately 140 degrees. The first impact mark was found 50 yards from a set of severed power lines on a service road separating two retention ponds. A 10 to 15-foot wide section of the damage power lines was severed. The engine, fuselage and empennage were found another 50 yards from the initial impact mark in the second retention pond, submerged approximately 6 feet underneath the water.
The right and left wings were both separated from the main fuselage. The inboard section of the left wing was found several feet to the right of the main wreckage on the ground. Resting slightly aft were the left door and left window. The inboard section of the right wing was found 75 yards beyond the power lines and to the right of the main wreckage. The outboard section of the right wing, the underside section of the tail cone, and the left aileron were found approximately 20 yards beyond the power lines leading up to the first impact mark. The right wing root and a section of the right fuel tank were consumed by fire. The outboard section of the right wing and inboard section of the left wing exhibited signatures similar to that of a power line strike along the lower half of the leading edges. Several sections of wing panels were scattered along the accident area, and exhibited evidence of post-impact fire.
The propeller remained attached to the engine. One blade exhibited slight torsion and aft bending 7 inches from the tip; the second blade exhibited moderate torsional damage. Both blades had chordwise scratches on the cambered surfaces.
Examination of the engine revealed no indications of pre or post-impact fire. Rotation of the crankshaft was accomplished, and valve and gear train continuity was established. Thumb compression was verified on all four cylinders. A small amount of fuel was found in the primer pump. No pre or post-impact mechanical discrepancies were found.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On November 16, 1998, the postmortem examination on the pilot was conducted by Dr. Valerie Rau, M.D., of the Office of the Medical Examiner, Volusia County, in Daytona Beach, Florida. The cause of death was multiple injuries, with drowning listed as a significant finding. A toxicological protocol was performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to CAMI's report, no carbon monoxide or cyanide was detected in the blood, no ethanol was detected in the vitreous, and no drugs were detected in the blood.
Inside the airplane's cabin, the forward section of the interior upholstery was burned. The left side of the pilot's seat was melted and charred. The underneath side of the carpet was not burned. The majority of the fire damage existed along the left side face of the cockpit's instrument panel. No evidence of fire was found on the backside of the instrument panel; no evidence of sooting or melting was found behind the ignition switch, the master switch or the fuel gages. The left side of the pilot's control yoke was melted. A piece of paper was found melted into the carpet on the floor forward of the pilot's seat.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
According to interviews with friends of the pilot, the pilot was reported to be a smoker. Following the accident, the pilot's flight bag, located in the cabin, was examined. One opened pack of cigarettes was found, along with several unopened packs of cigarettes. In addition, two cigarette butts were found in the zippered pocket of the pilot's flight bag.
The pilot's autopsy report noted the presence of "diffuse, moderate, anthracotic reticulation" in the lungs. Microscopic examination of the lung tissue indicated "one section shows anthrocosis." The medical examiner's toxicology report indicated that the urine analysis was "nicotine/cotinine positive." A Dr. with the Civil Aeromedical Institute's toxicology laboratory confirmed that cotinine was found in the pilot's liver fluid.
Nicotine is a major active substance in tobacco smoke, and is also found in most medications used to assist individuals in quitting smoking. Cotinine is a metabolite of nicotine. The presence of either of these substances suggests the ingestion of nicotine in some form. Anthrocosis results from the deposition of carbon deep within the lungs and is commonly found in individuals who smoke. According to the Board's Medical Officer, it is not likely to be seen in individuals who died soon after exposure to fire. In those cases, carbon particles, when found, are deposited in the larger airways.
In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation were the Cessna Aircraft Company and Textron Lycoming engines.
The wreckage was released to the operator, PhilAir Flight Center, on November 15, 1998. No parts were retained.