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On June 19, 1999, at 2150 central daylight time, a Keen Glasair I homebuilt airplane, N233TK, was destroyed upon impact with the ground following a loss of control while maneuvering near Albany, Texas. The non-instrument rated private pilot, sole occupant of the airplane, was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed throughout the area for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The 198-nautical mile cross country flight originated from the Clark Municipal Airport (SEP), near Stephenville, Texas, at approximately 2120. The airplane was en route to the Town and Country Airpark (F82), near Lubbock, Texas.
An eyewitness driving northeastbound on state highway 351, observed the green navigation light and landing light of the airplane. The witness and her two children observed the airplane in cruise flight, flying parallel to the highway in a northeast direction, at an estimated altitude of approximately 50 feet agl. The witnesses continued to observe the lights of the airplane after it passed their vehicle, at a distance of about 100 yards off the left side of the road.
The witnesses reported that they observed the airplane "abruptly initiate a near vertical climb" and subsequently observed the lights of the airplane descending toward the ground as if the airplane was "corkscrewing." The corkscrewing ceased as they observed the glow of the red and green navigation lights and the landing light descending towards the ground. The witnesses did not see or hear the impact. They added that they did not see any "sparks, flashes, or any sign of a post-impact fire."
The 70-year old private pilot owned a ranch near the community of Bluffdale, approximately 15 miles northeast of the airport at Stephenville. The pilot used the airplane to commute to and from his home in Lubbock and his ranch in Bluffdale. The airplane was kept in a T-hangar at the Town and Country Airport, near Lubbock, Texas. A relative of the pilot stated that the pilot was very familiar with the route of the flight, "having flown it hundreds of times."
The pilot's most recent FAA third-class medical certificate, which was valid for 12 months following the month of the physical exam, was issued on February 2, 1998, with a limitation, "must wear corrective lenses." According to FAA records, the pilot again applied for a medical certificate on January 20, 1999. This application was denied. The reason for the denial was not established.
The pilot earned his private pilot certificate on June 11, 1979. On the application form submitted by the pilot at the time of his last medical examination on January 20, 1999, the pilot reported that he had accumulated a total of 4,600 flight hours, of which 75 were accumulated in the preceding 6 months.
An employee at the Town and Country Airpark reported to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) that he "had never seen the airplane being flown at night." The licensed mechanic who had been performing the maintenance on the airplane reported that the pilot told him that "he always planned to arrive at his destination before sundown because he did not care to fly at night."
The airport manager for the departure airport (SEP) reported that runway 14-32 had been closed for over three months due to reconstruction. Based on the prevailing winds for the early evening, he estimated that the flight departed from runway 21 during the early evening hours. He added that runway 03-21 is not equipped with runway lights.
The builder of the experimental category airplane died soon after completing the airplane. The airplane was then sold by the builder's estate to the pilot. An airworthiness certificate had been issued on December 7, 1984, and the airplane was registered to the pilot on May 11, 1989.
The most recent condition inspection was completed on August 2, 1998, at a total time of 1,000 hours. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated 1,037 hours of flight time. The engine, a 150-horsepower Lycoming O-320-E2D, had accumulated 1,400 hours since new.
The airplane was originally equipped with a tailwheel. The builder of the airplane was involved in a landing mishap soon after completing the airplane, and subsequently converted the landing gear to a tricycle configuration.
The side-by-side 2-place airplane was equipped with navigation lights and a landing light; however, it was not equipped with instrument lights or an anti-collision light. The airplane was equipped with VHF communication and navigation radios, including a transponder and a Morrow II GPS.
At 2153, the recorded weather conditions at the Abilene Municipal Airport, located 20 nautical miles southwest of the accident site, were winds from 140 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 27 degrees C (81 degrees F), dew point 17 degrees C (63 degrees F), and altimeter setting 30.00 inches of Mercury.
According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, sunset occurred at 2049 CDT, and the end of civil twilight occurred at 2117 CDT. The phase of the moon was described as "waxing crescent with 39% of the Moon's visible disk illuminated." Moonrise occurred at 1242 CDT.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located approximately 9 miles west southwest of the city of Albany, Texas. The wreckage of the airplane was located at approximately 0830 on June 20, 1999, when a pilot driving along the highway noticed "what appeared to be the tail of an airplane sticking out." The airplane came to rest in a pasture approximately 1/4 mile west of the highway, on a measured heading of 260 degrees. The accident site was located within a half mile of the centerline of the direct course route between the pilot's destination and point of departure.
The engine was found partially buried in the ground in a 35 degree nose down attitude. The forward portion of the engine case sustained impact damage and was cracked. Most of the engine accessories separated from the engine. The propeller hub was still attached to the propeller crankshaft. Both blades of the wooden propeller were severed and splintered.
The top of the engine cowling, the magnetic compass, the outboard portions of both propeller blades and pieces of clear plexiglass were found forward of the resting place of the wreckage, directly under powerlines. The plexiglass pieces were identified as portions of the windshield/canopy of the airplane.
The airplane came to rest 30 feet from high voltage powerlines. The powerlines, aligned on a heading of 060-240 degrees, were suspended by steel towers/insulators. There were 3 towers between the accident site and the highway. The powerlines were depicted on the sectional chart. The powerlines were inspected by personnel from the regional TU Electric office in Graham, Texas, for evidence of damage or signatures of impact with the airplane. No evidence was found on any of the wires or towers from Tower #61 to the highway. A representative of the power company reported that no power interruptions/trips were reported on that specific line on the night of the accident.
The pilot's seat belt was found separated from its mounting bracket on the airframe. All three landing gears separated from the airframe. The flaps were found in the retracted position.
The airplane was equipped with dual flight controls. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit area to the elevator, ailerons, and rudder. Continuity of the engine control cables (throttle, mixture, carburetor heat) could not be established due to the damage incurred by the instrument panel and cockpit.
There was no fire. The grass area forward of the resting place of the wreckage was chemically burned consistent with the fuel vaporization due to the rupturing of the header and wing tanks at impact.
The VHF receiver/transmitter was found tuned to 122.8 (Unicom frequency for the departure airport). All flight and engine instruments were destroyed. The altimeter was found set to 30.00 inches.
No flashlight was found in the cockpit. No sectional charts or maps were found in the wreckage.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy and toxicological tests were requested and performed. The autopsy was performed by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office on June 21, 1999. Toxicological tests performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, were positive for 0.007 (ug/ml, ug/g) fluoxetine detected in liver, 0.145 (ug/ml, ug/g) norfluoxetine detected in liver, 0.008 (ug/ml, ug/g) fluoxetine detected in kidney, 0.026 (ug/mL, ug/g) norfluoxetene detected in kidney.
The 164 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in kidney fluid; 3 (mg/dL, mg/hg) acetaldehyde detected in liver, and the 15 (mg/dl, mg/hg) ethanol detected in muscle, were considered to be the result of post mortem production due to putrefaction.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative upon completion of the investigation.