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On October 15, 1999, at 2245 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 152 single engine airplane, N5169B, collided with rising terrain while maneuvering near Ventura, California. The aircraft was destroyed and the private pilot and passenger received fatal injuries. The aircraft was operated by Royal Aviation and rented by the pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 when the accident occurred. The flight originated from the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, Santa Barbara, California, at 2226, and was destined for the John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, California. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan had been filed.
According to the pilot's relatives, he and the passenger had left Santa Ana and flew to Santa Ynez, California, to visit a relative of the passenger. They then visited some friends in Santa Barbara (SBA), and afterwards were going to return to Santa Ana via a visual flight rules (VFR) flight. The pilot received three weather briefings (one from Riverside Flight Service Station, and two from the Hawthorne Flight Service Station) for the different segments of flight throughout the day.
An eyewitness stated that he was walking on the beach about 2230, when he saw an aircraft flying along the coastline. He estimated that the aircraft was flying about 100 feet mean sea level (msl) as it passed overhead. He said that the southbound aircraft made a left turn and flew inland less than a mile before turning southbound again. The aircraft disappeared from his view in a coastal fogbank that was also obscuring steeply rising terrain further to the south. Since he did not hear the sound of a collision or see a fire, he concluded that the aircraft had somehow managed to clear the escarpment.
When the aircraft failed to arrive at the John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, concerned family members notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The aircraft was located about 0920 the following morning by airborne Ventura County Sheriff's deputies. The SBA air traffic control tower (ATCT) operator had reported receiving an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal beginning about 2245 the previous evening.
The pilot was issued a private pilot certificate with a single engine land airplane rating on June 8, 1999. He was issued a third-class medical certificate on August 20, 1997, with no limitations. According to the pilot's family, he had accumulated a total of 120 flight hours, of which 30 had been accumulated in the same make and model as the accident airplane. The pilot had also accumulated approximately 20 hours and 5 hours of night and simulated instrument flight time, respectively.
The two-seat, single engine airplane was equipped with two lap belt and shoulder harness restraining systems. The airplane was also equipped with a communication/navigation radio, and an airspeed indicator, attitude indicator, altimeter, turn coordinator, heading indicator, and a vertical speed indicator. The airplane utilized a 110-horsepower Lycoming O-235-L2C engine to propel the 2-blade Sensenich propeller. Review of the aircraft maintenance records revealed that the airplane underwent its last annual inspection on May 20, 1999, at an aircraft total time of 8,512.7 hours. The airplane underwent its last 100-hour inspection on September 16, 1999, at an aircraft total time of 8,613.0 hours. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated approximately 38.6 hours since the 100-hour inspection. According to the maintenance records, the engine had accumulated approximately 920.6 hours since its last major overhaul.
The pilot called the FAA Riverside Flight Service Station at 1100, and requested a weather briefing from the John Wayne Airport to Van Nuys. According to the pilot he intended on departing around 1130, and flying at an altitude of 4,500 feet, "clouds permitting." When the weather briefer inquired as to whether the pilot was capable of instrument flight, the pilot replied that he was not. At that point, the weather briefer informed the pilot that VFR was not recommended because of an AIRMET for instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions over central and southern California coastal areas and coastal valleys for ceilings at or below 1,000 feet and visibilities of less than 3 statute miles in mist and fog. The weather briefer indicated that the IFR conditions would more than likely last until 1100 to 1200, with conditions improving to VFR conditions later in the day. However, the briefer did not recommend VFR flight at that time due to the "current weather conditions across the basin area and the coastal regions." The pilot then asked the weather briefer what time the fog would move in (onshore) that evening. The briefer indicated that the forecast for the evening was VFR, but could not say what time the "stratus and fog" would move onshore.
The pilot called the Hawthorne Flight Service Station at 1719, and requested the current weather conditions for a flight from Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara. He also indicated that he intended on departing in a 1/2 hour. The weather briefer told the pilot that there were no weather advisories for the area and that the current weather report at Santa Barbara indicated a scattered cloud layer at 2,200 feet agl. The briefer indicated that the current weather report was only 5 minutes old and that the previous report indicated an overcast cloud layer and told the pilot that there was an overcast layer in the area. The weather briefer also reported that the Santa Maria weather was reporting an overcast cloud layer at 1,400 feet agl, and indicated that if the pilot were to fly VFR, he would "have to use caution." The pilot then told the weather briefer that he was going to depart "Santa Barbara back to John Wayne about 1100 this evening ," and asked "do [you] think that'll be a problem?" The briefer stated that VFR would not be recommended because the entire coastline should develop low ceilings overnight, and that it would be overcast all the way south to Orange County. The briefer then checked the Santa Barbara forecast for 2300, and stated that the weather was changing from "left to right," and Santa Barbara's forecast did not include a ceiling and "LAX and Santa, and Long Beach are forecasting about 1,500 overcast, but Santa Barbara does not forecast it," The briefer also indicated that Santa Barbara had a cloud ceiling; however, they were only forecasting it for the next 2 hours. The pilot then asked if it would clear up after, and the briefer said that it was supposed to become scattered. The weather briefer then indicated that Santa Barbara "forecast a ceiling to move back in now around midnight." The briefer stated that if the pilot left at 2300, he would be VFR the whole way. The pilot stated that he would leave a little bit earlier. The weather briefer then told the pilot to call them back at his time of departure to make sure that it was VFR. The pilot said that he would and ended the conversation.
At 1956, the pilot called the Hawthorne Flight Service Station and asked for a weather briefing from Santa Barbara to John Wayne, and added that he was intending on departing at 2230, or if it was forecast for better weather then he might depart at 1000 the following morning (October 16). The weather briefer told the pilot that he may be better off if he departed that evening if he needed to fly VFR. The pilot indicated that he intended on flying VFR. The weather briefer then told the pilot that around 2230, they were expecting "2,200 scattered...Santa Anas expected to actually remain clear." The briefer continued by telling the pilot, "Santa Ana will probably be looking at 1,500 scattered for your arrival tonight. Tomorrow morning you're going to run into two problems, uh first of all they're calling for IFR conditions until about 0900 and so you run into the possibility of the marine layer may not clear up as early as they say it's going to, and the other problem you run into is that the airport is closed after 1100 for the air show." The pilot asked where the air show was and the briefer informed him that it was at Santa Barbara. The pilot asked if he would be able to takeoff after 1100, and the briefer told him that he "can't after 1100, you're stuck at the airport until 1630." The briefer added that if the weather cleared up late, and they close the airport, "you may find yourself stuck there, you may find yourself enjoying and air show." The weather briefer added that the weather was supposed to remain scattered along the pilot's route of flight except for an overcast layer at 1,500 feet over Oxnard, California (OXR, approximately 15 miles southeast of the accident site). The pilot was told that the ceilings would change to broken over Camarillo, California, and would change to few clouds at 1,000 feet agl over Point Magu. The current weather for Santa Barbara was reported as a few clouds at 2,200 feet agl, and visibility of 5 statute miles in haze. Santa Ana's weather was reported as a few clouds at 1,500 feet agl with "some broken to overcast ceilings in Ventura County," and the rest of the route forecasted scattered cloud layers. The briefer added that Santa Monica was reporting clear skies and Los Angeles was reporting a few clouds at 2,000 feet agl. The pilot then asked the weather briefer if he would "be able to see the coastline," to which the briefer responded, "not around Oxnard." The briefer added that "it's expected to stay that way until after midnight, so tonight it should...be VFR. Tomorrow morning it will not be VFR, and then you're dealing with the issue of will it clear up at Santa Barbara before they close the airport. So, tonight you'll probably have a better chance." The pilot indicated that they would leave that night and ended the conversation.
The following is a listing of the weather reports around the time of the accident:
SBA at 2153, wind calm, visibility 4 statute miles in haze, overcast ceiling at 2,000 feet agl, temperature 17 degrees Celsius, dew point 13 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 29.87 inches of mercury.
SBA at 2253, wind from 230 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 4 statute miles in haze, overcast ceiling at 1,600 feet agl, temperature 17degrees Celsius, dew point 14 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 29.88 inches of mercury.
SBA at 2335, wind from 250 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, overcast ceiling at 1,400 feet agl, temperature 17 degrees Celsius, dew point 14 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 29.88 inches of mercury.
OXR at 2151, wind from 170 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 7 statute miles, overcast ceiling at 1,500 feet agl, temperature 17 degrees Celsius, dew point 14 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 29.87 inches of mercury.
OXR at 2251, wind from 250 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 6 statute miles in haze, overcast ceiling at 1,500 feet agl, temperature 17 degrees Celsius, dew point 14 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting 29.89 inches of mercury.
OXR at 2335, wind from 290 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 3 statute miles in mist, few clouds at 300 feet agl and overcast ceilings at 1,500 feet agl, temperature 16 degrees Celsius, dew point 15 degrees Celsius, altimeter setting of 29.89 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT DAMAGE
The accident site was located about the 550-foot level of terrain that rose to nearly 600 feet. The site was less than a mile from Emma Woods State Beach and less than a mile north of U.S. Highway 101. The site was covered by manzanita brush that stood about 6 to 8 feet in height. The local law enforcement personnel reported that the accident's geographic coordinates were 34 degrees 17.67 minutes north latitude and 119 degrees 20.13 minutes west longitude.
The aircraft was found resting upright along a heading of 140 degrees. The positive 40-degree angular crush line (relative to the wing chord line) on the leading edges of both wings was congruent with the angular slope of the rising terrain when both slopes are measured from a common horizontal plane. The left wing was bent aft approximately 10 degrees. The aft fuselage showed evidence of buckling aft of the rear window. There was no evidence of fire.
The wreckage was moved to a storage facility where it was examined on October 20, 1999, by the Safety Board, the FAA, and an air safety investigator from Cessna Aircraft Company.
Although the airframe exhibited structural deformation, all flight control surfaces were found in place. The left and right wings and the empennage were removed from the fuselage at the wing roots and just forward of the horizontal stabilizer respectively to aid in the recovery process. The aileron, elevator control and trim cables were also cut by the recovery personnel. Flight control cable continuity was verified from the cockpit to the wing root and to the fuselage separation point, and then from the separation points to the flight control surfaces. Both cockpit control yokes were fractured forward of the instrument panel. The flap actuator was found in the full up position.
Fuel was found in both main fuel tanks. Fuel samples taken from both tanks were blue in color and free of visible contamination. The aircraft retrieval personnel reported that they drained a total of 20 gallons from both main fuel tanks before the aircraft was recovered. The fuel shutoff valve was found in the on position.
The propeller exhibited one scarred, curled, and twisted blade, while the opposite blade showed only slight evidence of bending and leading edge scarring. Continuity from the propeller flange to the accessory case, pistons, and valves was confirmed. The top four spark plugs were removed and examined. All of the spark plugs were serviceable when matched to the Champion Spark Plug Guide and displayed light gray deposits. The vacuum pump was removed and no internal damage was noted. The carburetor was disassembled and no discrepancies were noted. No discrepancies were found that would have prevented operation of the engine.
The altimeter setting was found set on 29.86 inches of mercury.
TOXICOLOGY AND AUTOPSY INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot, and according to the local coroner, the pilot died as a result of blunt force trauma. Toxicological tests on the pilot were negative for cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.
The aircraft wreckage was released to the owner's representative.