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On November 16, 1998, at 1949 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172N, N92KK, collided with utility lines and trees during an attempted instrument approach to the Concord Regional Airport in Concord, North Carolina. The personal flight was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with an instrument flight plan filed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The private pilot received minor injuries, but his passenger was seriously injured. According to the pilot, the flight initially departed Hot Springs, Arkansas, with a refueling stop in Fayetteville, Tennessee. The flight departed Fayetteville at 1459.
At 2115 central standard time, on November 15, 1998, a man who identified himself as the pilot of N92KK, telephoned the Jonesboro, Arkansas, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS). The pilot requested and received a weather briefing for a flight from Hot Springs, Arkansas to Charlotte, North Carolina. After a routine briefing, the pilot filed an instrument flight plan for the proposed flight.
At 0739 central standard time, on November 16, 1998, a man who identified himself as the pilot of N92KK telephoned Jonesboro AFSS, and requested an updated weather briefing from Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Charlotte, North Carolina. Again, the pilot was given a routine weather briefing.
At 1423 central standard time, on November 16, 1998, the pilot of N92KK telephoned Jackson AFSS in Jackson, Tennessee, and closed the first instrument flight plan from Hot Springs to Fayetteville, Tennessee. The pilot requested a weather briefing from Fayetteville, Tennessee, to Charlotte, North Carolina. The briefer briefed the pilot on the current, forecasted, and radar summaries for the intended route of flight. The pilot was told that the current and forecasted weather conditions for his arrival would be below visual flight rules. The pilot requested an airport with visual weather conditions for an alternate. The pilot filed an instrument flight plan and listed Fayetteville, North Carolina, as the alternate airport. At 1442, the pilot was issued an instrument flight plan through Huntsville, Alabama, Air Traffic Control Tower. At 1459, the flight was airborne, and was cleared to climb to 9,000 feet.
A review of radio communication between the pilot and the air traffic system (from 1459 central standard time to1807 eastern standard time), revealed that basic handling of N92KK was routine.
At 1807, Charlotte approach, established radar and radio contact with N92KK as a handoff from Atlanta center. According to recovered radar and communication data, Charlotte approach provided the pilot of N92KK air traffic services for about 1 hour 45 minutes after the initial contact. The service included radar vectors and ILS approach clearances for four missed approaches at the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
At 1857:46, the pilot reported that he was experiencing a gyro problem and needed to get down. At 1859:09, the pilot advised the controller of his low fuel status. At 1900:00, the controller advised the pilot of the lower weather conditions at Charlotte and told him that the weather at Concord was better. The pilot requested another approach into Charlotte. As the controller vectored the airplane back to Charlotte, the pilot was asked if he would like to climb to 6,000 feet to settle down, the pilot told the controller that he was settled down. The controller continued to vector the flight for the ILS approach to Charlotte. This approach also terminated in a missed approach. After the last missed approach, the flight was vectored to the Concord Regional Airport for the ILS 20 approach.
At 1946:00, the pilot executed a missed approach to runway 20 and climbed to 3,000 feet. At 1949, the pilot reported seeing lights from a nearby truck stop. The controller told the pilot that the airport was at his welve thirty position, and 1/2 mile. The pilot was also told that local emergency personnel were positioned at the airport, and airport lights were turned to their high intensity position. Within seconds, radio contact was lost with N92KK.
The airplane collided with utility lines and trees approximately 1/4 mile northwest of the airport. The pilot reported that he was about 200 feet above the tops of the trees when the collision occurred. Several witnesses reported flash of blue light at the approximate time the airplane collided with the utility lines. One witness reported that the airplane was under power at the time of the collision. The utility lines were approximately 45 feet above the ground.
The pilot held a private certificate with an instrument rating. According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the pilot was issued an instrument rating on March 24, 1998. According to the pilot, he accumulated 9 hours of instrument flight time as pilot-in-command. Additional personnel information is contained in this report on page 3, under "First Pilot Information".
A review of the aircraft maintenance logs disclosed that an annual inspection had been completed on October 13, 1998. The maintenance logs also disclosed that on January 2, 1998, an S-Tec Autopilot System 30 Model ST-674-30 was installed in accordance with STC SA 09237 AC-D. The owner provided a serviceable directional gyro with heading bug couple and it was installed in the airplane with the new autopilot system. N92KK was also equipped with a standby vacuum system.
According to the radio transcriptions of the pilot and controllers' conversations, the weather condition at the Concord airport was reportedly better than at Charlotte. The weather information at Concord airport is normally accessed through the commercial telephone system. Reportedly, the controller telephoned Concord airport and obtained the weather information through the stand-alone Automatic Weather Observation System (AWOC). According to an official from Concord airport, AWOS weather data is only archived for 24 hours.
Before departing Fayetteville, Tennessee, the pilot obtained a weather briefing. The reported weather data showed instrument weather conditions prevailed at the destination airport. The pilot elected to file for an alternate airport where visual weather conditions existed. At the approximate time that N92KK arrived in the Charlotte area, the weather at the planned alternate airport was 1,100 feet overcast with 4 miles visibility. At the time of the accident, the reported weather at the alternate airport was 700 feet overcast and 1 1/2 mile visibility. At 1954, Charlotte reported 1/4 mile visibility, and indefinite ceiling 100 feet. Additional information about the weather can be found on pages 3 and 4 under the data field "Weather Information".
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site found the airplane resting inverted in a nose-down attitude. All aircraft debris was located in the immediate vicinity of the main wreckage. Airplane wreckage was scattered over an area 125 feet long and 40 feet wide, and the airplane was orientated on a south easterly heading. The right wing assembly was folded under the fuselage. The nose section of the airframe was displaced aft into the cockpit area. The frame structure around the pilot's station was crushed downward from its normal installed position. Examination of the engine compartment showed diagonal scrap marks on the engine exhaust pipe.
To facilitate the subsequent examination of the airplane, it was removed from the accident site to a storage facility in Griffin, Georgia. During the wreckage examination, the airframe and flight control systems were checked for security. The nose and cockpit sections of the airframe remained attached, and were examined as one unit. Minor repairs were performed on the engine assembly to facilitate an engine run, (see attached engine examination). The engine operated within the normal operational power ranges. The cockpit and instrument panel also remained attached. During the engine run, engine and flight instruments operated normally, including the directional gyro. The subsequent bench examination of the directional gyro and other flight instruments failed to disclose mechanical problems, (see attached component examination).
A review of the maintenance logs revealed that the airplane was maintained in accordance with current Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
According to the pilot, "A recurrence of such a situation might be prevented when you are diverted to an alternate airport with less equipment and smaller runways having altitude deviations called out would have been helpful. Also, rather than advising only higher ceilings, a more complete weather briefing and better information would have been helpful." The pilot filed Fayetteville, North Carolina, as the suggested alternate airport. Fayetteville Regional Airport has a 7,204-foot-long and 150- foot-wide paved runway surface. Fayetteville Regional Airport has several published precision and nonprecision instrument approach procedures available.