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On May 25, 1999, approximately 0945 central daylight time (cdt), an Air Tractor AT-400, N400MJ, piloted by a commercial pilot, was destroyed on impact with the terrain approximately 1.5 statute miles north of the Elkhart-Morton County Airport, Elkhart, Kansas. The aerial spraying aircraft was on a repositioning flight and was operating under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 at the time of the accident. There was no flight plan on file. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight originated from the Ulysses Airport, Ulysses, Kansas, at approximately 0915 cdt, and was en route to the Elkhart-Morton County Airport.
The aircraft was being flown from Ulysses following maintenance to the aerial spray system. A drilling rig worker, operating at a 96-foot tall temporary oil-drilling rig, located approximately 0.75 miles north of the accident site, said that the airplane came directly at them on a south heading. The worker reported that the altitude of the aircraft was below the height of the rig (96 feet) but above his position approximately 50 feet above ground level. The worker stated that the aircraft banked right to avoid the tower and flew southerly into the fog.
The pilot born July 29, 1964, was the holder of a non-instrument rated commercial pilot certificate with privileges for single engine land. His most recent biennial flight review was on March 3, 1999. He held a second class medical certificate issued on April 16, 1999. The pilot logbooks indicated a total pilot time of 3,116 hours flying time as of February 5, 1999.
The airplane was an Air Tractor AT-400, N400MJ, serial number 400-0676. The most recent annual inspection was conducted on February 12, 1999. At the time of this inspection, the airframe had accumulated a total time of 4,949 hours, and the engine had accumulated 6,195 hours. A Pratt and Whitney PT6A-15AG engine, serial number PCE-14056, powered the aircraft.
The Liberal, Kansas weather reporting station, located approximately 50 nautical miles east of the accident site, was reporting an overcast ceiling at 300 feet above ground level with 3 statute miles of visibility approximately 10 minutes after the accident.
A reserve officer for the Morton County Sheriff's Office, who is a private pilot, estimated the ceiling to be 180 to 200 feet and improving when he reached the accident scene approximately 10 minutes after the accident.
A respondent from the Elkhart Fire Department stated that the top of the 180 foot tall grain elevators located in town were not visible at the time of the accident.
There is no record of the pilot obtaining a weather briefing prior to initiating the flight.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane impacted the terrain in a rolling open field. The entire airplane was located and accounted for within an area 400 feet long and 120 feet wide originating from the initial impact point on a heading of 210 degrees magnetic. Within the initial impact marks was a ground scar approximately 1 foot by 4 feet containing green glass similar to a navigation light lens.
Examination of the wreckage was conducted and the control system was examined. The control system for the elevator, flaps and ailerons consists of push-pull rods/tubes. The rod end bearings were found and exhibited continuity with the remaining steel components of the control system. The aluminum push-pull tubes for the elevator and right aileron were destroyed in the post-impact fire. The aluminum push-pull tube for the left aileron was found intact. The rudder cables were found and continuity was established.
The propeller was separated at the propeller flange. Examination of the propeller blades revealed nicks in the leading edges of two of the three blades. All three propeller blades exhibited chordwise scratching.
The engine was examined and the front section of the engine case exhibited twisting in the direction opposite of normal propeller rotation.
There were no mechanical discrepancies found during the examination of the wreckage that could be associated with a preexisting condition.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Morton County Coroner, Elkhart, Kansas, performed an autopsy on the pilot on May 26, 1999.
A toxicological examination of specimens from the pilot revealed the presence of propoxyphene, norpropoxyphene and acetaminophen. According to the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR), propoxyphene is used for the relief of mild to moderate pain. The PDR also states that reported side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
A post impact fire ensued which consumed the cockpit portion of the fuselage and the right wing. Respondents from the Elkhart Fire Department extinguished the fire.
The Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Wichita, Kansas was a party to the investigation.
The airplane was released to a representative of the owner on May 26, 1999.