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On July 20, 1993, about 1740 hours eastern daylight time, N44CT, a North American T-6G airplane, registered to Robert C. Tullius, Winchester, Virginia, was destroyed during an in-flight collision with terrain while maneuvering near Berryville, Virginia. The certificated private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed. The personal flight originated from Winchester, Virginia, at 1732 hours and was conducted under 14 CFR 91.
The airplane was based at the Winchester Regional Airport. According to the Virginia State Police, the pilot intended on giving a friend a ride in the airplane on a local flight. According to a member of the Civilian Air Patrol who was conducting a study of the amount of activity at the airport, N44CTR performed a "normal takeoff" at 1732 hours. About five to ten minutes later, several witnesses observed the airplane flying in the vicinity of Berryville, located about 8 nautical miles northeast of the departure airport.
A witness was sitting on the deck of his home, located about 3/4-mile from the accident site, when he observed the accident. He reported that the airplane was flying "low to the ground" and began a left bank around the home of the pilot. After a 180-degree turn around the home, the airplane "began a climbing turn." At the top of the climb, about 500 feet above the ground, the witnesses observed a "small puff of white smoke coming from the engine" and the engine "started to cough." The witness further reported that the airplane "flipped over and began a steep dive; it turned twice as it headed down.... I heard the engine rev up just before the explosion. At the elevation he was at when he began his dive, it did not appear to me he had enough altitude to pull out."
The witness also stated, "I've seen [the pilot] fly low around my area frequently, including banks, rolls, and loops just above the ground."
A witness who was driving his car on a road about 1/2- mile form the accident site reported that he first thought the airplane was "a crop duster making low passes." The witness further reported, "I saw it fly straight at about tree top level, then it went straight up, then kind of stopped, then tilted over on its side, then came straight down like it was going to strafe the ground."
Another witness who was driving along the same road stated, "it was that yellow plane that flies down here once in awhile. The plane pulled up into a stall, about 300 feet high, then flipped over on its back, then went into a spin. It spun around at least three times until it disappeared behind trees.... There was no smoke or flames coming from the engine when I saw it."
Another witness was sitting under a tree on his property located about 1/4-mile from the accident site. He stated that he saw the airplane "... going in a circle like he was turning around." He also reported that the heard an increase in engine noise just before impact.
The airplane was observed to explode into flames at impact. An area of trees surrounding the wreckage site began to burn. Local fire and rescue personnel responded to the scene and extinguished the fire.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 39 degrees, 14.6 minutes North, and 78 degrees, 02.51 minutes West.
The pilot, age 50, was a certificated private pilot with ratings for airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane. He was issued an FAA third class medical certificate on April 16, 1993, with the limitation that he "must wear corrective lenses." At the time of his most recent FAA medical certificate application, he reported 1,760 hours of total flight time. According to the registered owner of the airplane, the pilot had about 200 total flight hours in type.
The airplane, a North American T-6G, was based at the Winchester Regional Airport. It was manufactured in 1949 and was originally utilized as a single-engine, tandem-seated, military training airplane. According to FAA records, an FAA individual type registration certificate for the airplane was issued to Robert C. Tullius on May 16, 1990.
An examination of the airplane's maintenance records revealed that the airframe and engine received an annual inspection on July 9, 1992. As of that date, the airframe had accumulated about 11,500 total flight hours. The engine, a Pratt and Whitney model R-1340-AN-1 radial engine, had accumulated 566.55 hours since its last major overhaul.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on July 20 and 21, 1993. The examination revealed that the airplane impacted the edge of a field and continued into a wooded area after the initial impact. Evidence of widespread post-impact fire was noted along the entire wreckage distribution path. This path was about 225 feet in length and was oriented along a magnetic heading of 056 degrees. A crater about 16 inches in depth was found near the initial ground scar; a piece of a cylinder head from the engine was found embedded in the crater.
A propeller blade was found separated from the hub about 90 feet from the initial ground scar, followed by the right wing, left wing, empennage, and main landing gear. The engine, with the other propeller blade attached, was found about 205 feet from the initial ground scar. The cockpit area and firewall were separated from the engine and were found in the same area. The carburetor was separated from the engine and was located about 225 feet from the initial impact point. Several trees were found to be sheared along the wreckage distribution path, and these trees received thermal damage.
All primary and secondary flight control surfaces were accounted for in the wreckage. Both wings and the empennage were separated from the fuselage; they displayed evidence of a post-impact fire. Flap and trim positions could not be determined due to impact damage. All associated flight control cables were separated and revealed evidence of stretching.
The cockpit and instrument panel were crushed and burned. The altimeter setting was 29.90 inches. The "G meter" was recovered and the following readings were noted; top needle, positive 3 G; middle needle, zero G; bottom needle, negative 2 G. The top and bottom needles are "witness" indicators; these needles indicate the highest positive G force and lowest negative G force imposed on the airplane during a flight. No other instrument readings could be determined. A wrist watch was found and read 37 minutes after the hour of five o'clock. The throttle quadrant was found and displayed the following settings: throttle control, full power; mixture control, 1/3-travel distance from the fuel shut-off position; propeller control, 1/6-travel distance from the full DECREASE position.
The airplane was configured with a Pratt and Whitney R-1340-AN-1 engine. The engine is a nine-cylinder, single-row, air-cooled, supercharged, radial engine rated at 600 horsepower at 2,250 revolutions per minute. The engine was examined at the accident site on July 21, 1993, and again on December 9, 1993. A Safety Board Powerplant Group Chairman Factual Report (attached) of the examination did not reveal any preimpact mechancial deficiencies associated with the engine.
The airplane was configured with a Hamilton Standard 12D40-217 propeller. The propeller is a constant speed propeller, with two forged aluminum blades. The retained blade was twisted approximately 90 degrees toward low pitch (leading edge down), and bent approximately 17 degrees aft, toward the flat side, at mid-span. Additionally, the retained blade tip was bent approximately 40 degrees aft, toward the flat side, at approximately 3/4-span. The separated blade was also twisted approximately 90 degrees toward low pitch (leading edge down), and bent approximately 40 degrees aft, toward the flat side, at mid-span. The blade shank fracture surface exhibited evidence that it was fractured in a rearward bending direction. Numerous chordwise scratches were found on the both the camber and flat sides of the blade, and the leading edge had gouging damage.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The autopsy was performed by Dr. Byer at the Commonwealth of Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on July 23, 1993. The cause of death cited on the report of autopsy was "multiple severe injuries." A toxicological analysis of specimens taken form the pilot was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the toxicological report, results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and any screened drugs. Results were positive for the presence of ethanol; however, according to Dr. Dennis V. Canfield, Manager, Toxicological and Accident Research Laboratory at CAMI, "it could not be determined if the presence of ethanol was due to ingestion or putrefaction. If the presence of ethanol was due to ingestion, the levels that were found would not have caused impairment."
The airplane wreckage was released to Mr. Charles Hyer, Vice President, Crittenden Adjustment Company, representing the registered owner of the airplane, On September 14, 1993.