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On December 11, 1999, about 1550 central standard time (all times central standard time), a Cessna U-3A, N8063X, registered to a private individual, crashed into a field near Brooksville, Mississippi. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight. The airplane was destroyed and the airline transport-rated pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight originated about 1335, from the Moore-Murrell Airport, Morristown, Tennessee.
According to several witnesses, clear weather conditions existed about the time of the accident near the accident site. A witness who was located approximately 3 miles north of the accident site reported hearing the airplane pass over; the noise was loud. She never saw the airplane though she thought it was traveling south. As the airplane got far away, she then heard popping sounds that continued for approximately 5 seconds.
A witness who is familiar with aviation and was located approximately 1.25 miles north of the accident site reported that he looked up after hearing the airplane and it appeared to decelerate. He reported that the airplane then "stalled" and spun 5 or 6 times then recovered "with the engines running wide open...." The airplane then disappeared behind trees. According to the witnesses' father who is a pilot, his son alerted him to look at the airplane. The father reported that he estimated the airplane was at 2,000 feet above ground level (agl), in a "...nose down spiral at "full throttle. After about two more turns the aircraft quit spinning (spiraling) and continued straight down at full throttle for another 4-500 feet after which it started pulling out of its dive." He reported that the airplane disappeared behind a tree line and "we saw a huge ball of fire & heard the rumble of the explosion & impact. The engines both sounded strong up to the point of impact." Copies of the witness statements are attachments to this report.
A witness who owns the property where the airplane crashed was outside and heard the engine(s) "rev up." He first noticed that the airplane was descending nearly vertical and noted an object that appeared to be 2 feet by 4 feet separate. The engines sounded like they were at full throttle and he observed that the nose of the airplane began to pitch up just before impact with the ground. The witness observed a fireball after the ground impact. A copy of the witness statement is an attachment to this report.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot was the holder of an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane multiengine land rating. He was the holder of a commercial pilot certificate with the rating airplane single engine land, and also the holder of a certified flight instructor (CFI) certificate with ratings airplane single and multiengine, and instrument airplane. The pilot's last flight review and instrument proficiency check were accomplished on October 22, 1999. He was issued a second class medical certificate with no restrictions on April 13, 1999. He was also the holder of an airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate.
According to his pilot logbooks, he had logged a total of 13,545 hours total time, of which 3,452 hours were in multi-engine airplanes. He logged as pilot-in-command a total of 13,383 hours. Between January 5, 1999, and December 9, 1999, he logged a total of 67.7 hours in a Cessna 310 airplane that was registered to Netherland Flying Service, Inc. According to the pilot's wife, they owned that airplane for 10-11 years.
The airplane registration number was assigned on October 15, 1979; the airplane was previously a military airplane. The last registered owner of the airplane was Mr. Hershel W. Dockery; his registration application was dated September 30, 1993.
According to an FAA airworthiness inspector, the FAA registry file did not contain any documentation that an airworthiness certificate had ever been issued for the airplane. The FAA inspector interviewed the previous owners of the airplane, a copy of his inspector statement is an attachment to this report.
Work performed by the person who purchased the airplane from the registered owner included replacing the propellers, headliner, and 1/8-inch thick cabin door window purchased from Great Lakes Aero Products.
The seller of the airplane stated to an FAA inspector that the pilot inspected the airplane maintenance records and also looked the airplane over. The auxiliary fuel tanks were full and the main fuel tanks were not full. He suggested to the accident pilot to fly to Morristown to purchase fuel. He also advised the FAA inspector that he video recorded the departure.
Located at the accident site were the covers of engine logbooks, no pages that contained entries were recovered or located. No other permanent maintenance records were located.
A METAR weather observation taken at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport at 1555 hours indicates that the wind was calm, the visibility was 10 statute mile, the sky condition was clear, the temperature and dew point were 59 degrees and approximately 44 degrees Fahrenheit respectively, and the altimeter setting was 30.08 inHg. The crash site was located approximately 12 nautical miles nearly due south of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
There were no known recorded transmissions from the accident pilot to Columbus Approach Control immediately prior to, or during the in-flight loss of control.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane crashed on private property located in Brooksville, Mississippi; the crash site was determined using a portable global positioning system receiver (GPS) to be located at 33 degrees 14.959 minutes North latitude and 088 degrees 34.441 minutes West longitude. That location when plotted was approximately 311 nautical miles from the departure airport. An approximate 77- acre field was located immediately east of the crash site.
Examination of the accident site revealed ground scars from the wingtips of both wings inboard to the engine nacelles. Craters 2-foot deep associated with both engines was noted. The ground scar made by both wings was oriented on a magnetic heading of 206 degrees (See photograph No. 4). Fire damage to grass was noted for a distance of 81 feet forward of the initial impact ground scar. The main wreckage consisting of both wings with the right engine, the fuselage and empennage was located approximately 35 feet from the initial impact location (See photograph No. 2). Wreckage was scattered for a distance of 185 feet forward of the main wreckage; the cargo door, three pieces of the cabin door, foul weather window assembly, and portable global positioning system (GPS) receiver were located among the wreckage forward of the main wreckage.
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the left and right wings were fragmented; the fuselage was destroyed. Evidence of postaccident fire damage was noted to the area near the left auxiliary fuel tank (See photograph No. 5). No evidence of postaccident fire damage was noted to the area near the right auxiliary fuel tank (See photograph No. 6). The left fuel tank selector position could not be determined; the right fuel tank selector position was near the "main" tank port (See photograph No. 10). All flight control surfaces were located in the immediate vicinity of the accident site; all counterweights were located on the control surface or in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. Elevator and rudder flight control cable continuity was confirmed from the rear bellcrank and horn assembly near the flight control surfaces to the cockpit. Evidence of overload failure of the left and right aileron control cables were noted. The flaps and landing gear were retracted. Examination of the cargo door revealed accordian type crushing. The pilot's lapbelt was found unlatched. The left engine was separated from the airframe and was located immediately forward of one of the 2-foot deep craters. The right engine was in the vicinity of the right wing and was only secured to the wing by cables. The left propeller hub was attached to the engine but both propeller blades were separated from the propeller hub. Both propeller blades of the left propeller were located in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. The right propeller was separated from the engine; only one propeller blade remained attached to the propeller. The separated right propeller assembly and the propeller blade were found in the immediate vicinity of the accident site. No evidence of in-flight fire damage was noted. The propellers, propeller governors, pressure carburetors, cabin door, portable GPS, restraints, throttle quadrant, and three pieces of acrylic were retained for further examination (see TESTS AND RESEARCH section of this report). The left and right engines were also retained for further examination.
Examination of the left engine revealed no evidence of lack of lubrication. The crankshaft and camshaft were not failed; the camshaft was bent. Examination of both magnetos revealed both were broken at the front mounting flange; impact damage precluded bench testing. The points of the right magneto were misaligned and the breaker contacts were out of alignment (See photograph No. 12). The screw securing the contact assemblies was found to be tight; the plastic tab at the screw securing the breaker point assembly was broken off. Examination of the left magneto revealed that the breaker points were slightly out of alignment; approximately 50 percent of the outer contact was still making contact with the contact (See photograph No. 11). The plastic tab at the assembly screw was broken. A copy of the report from the engine manufacturer is an attachment to this report.
Examination of the right engine revealed no evidence of lack of lubrication. All propeller studs remained in the crankshaft flange which was bent. Impact damage to the crankcase was noted. The crankshaft and camshaft were not failed; the camshaft was bent. The top compression ring was broken in all cylinders except the No. 5 cylinder; no unusual blowby signatures were observed on the piston skirts. Impact damage to the left magneto precluded bench testing. The right magneto was placed on a test bench and no spark was noted. The magneto point cover was removed and the breaker point outer arm was misaligned with the inner breaker contact (See photograph No. 13). The screw securing the breaker assembly could be moved with a fingernail. Additionally, the plastic tab at the assembly screw was broken. The outer breaker point was pushed into normal position where it aligned with the contact, and normal spark was noted across the 7 millimeter gap. A copy of the report from the engine manufacturer is an attachment to this report.
Examination of the left propeller and both separated propeller blades revealed a blade clamp was inplace around the No. 1 propeller blade. The leading edge of the No. 1 propeller blade was twisted towards low pitch, the blade was bent towards the blade face, and about 1.2 inches from the tip was bent aft at about a 45-degree angle. The pilot tube extended from the blade approximately 1.2 inches and was fractured at the breather hole. The latch plate on the No. 1 propeller blade clamp exhibited no evidence of an impact signature. The latch assembly of the Nos. 1 and 2 propeller blades was broken. No determination could be made as to the propeller blade angle at impact. Examination of the No. 2 propeller blade revealed no blade clamps were installed; the leading edge was twisted towards low pitch, the blade was bent aft approximately 10 degrees, 9 inches from the blade tip, and the pilot tube was fractured and extended approximately 11/32 inch from the blade. Gouges on the leading edge of the blade near the blade root were noted. An impact signature on the butt end of the blade that matches with an impact signature on the propeller hub correlates to a propeller blade angle of approximately 15-20 degrees. Both blade arm shoulders were rolled outboard from about the 10 o'clock to 4 o'clock position. No evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction was noted (See photograph No. 7). Examination of the right propeller revealed the No. 2 propeller blade remained attached with the blade clamp in place. Both latch assemblies were not recovered. The leading edge of the No. 2 propeller blade was twisted towards low pitch, gouges on the blade back were noted 13 and 15 inches from the butt end of the blade. Spanwise scratches on the blade back beginning 2 inches from the blade butt extending approximately 13 inches from the blade butt were noted. An impact signature on the butt end of the blade and the hub shoulder indicate the propeller blade angle was approximately 15 degrees. The pilot tube was fractured inside the blade bore. The propeller blade latch plate exhibited no evidence of impact damage. Examination of the No. 1 propeller blade revealed that the inboard blade shoulder was missing from approximately 5 o'clock to the 11 o'clock position on the blade face side. The pilot tube was also fractured inside the blade bore. The leading edge was twisted towards low pitch and the blade tip was curled aft approximately 180 degrees. An impact signature on the butt end of the blade and the corresponding impact signature on the propeller hub correlates with a negative blade angle of approximately 5-6 degrees. Deep gouges on both inboard and outboard shoulders at the 4 o'clock position were noted. No evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction was noted (See photograph No. 8). According to a representative of the propeller manufacturer, the low pitch stop prevents a blade while in-flight from going into a negative blade angle.
Postaccident, a reward for finding the component(s) that was seen by a witness separating from the airplane was offered by the attorney who represented the purchaser of the airplane. One of the witnesses located two pieces approximately 175 yards north of the accident site. One piece was clear acrylic material measuring approximately 11 inches in length and 4 inches in width (See photograph No. 9). The second piece was white colored plastic material measuring approximately 2.75 inches by 1.625 inches. The recovered items were retained by the NTSB for further examination (see TESTS AND RESEARCH section of this report).
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by Steven T. Hayne, M.D., F.C.A.P., Designated Pathologist, Mississippi State Medical Examiner's Office. The "Discussion of the case" indicates that the decedent sustained massive injuries.
Toxicological testing of specimens of the pilot was performed by the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory (CAMI). The result of testing by CAMI was positive for diphenhydramine (.152 ug/ml) in the kidney and (.33 ug/ml) in the liver. Ethanol (37 mg/dL) and Acetaldehyde (6 mg/dL) were detected in kidney. Ethanol (24 mg/dL) was also detected in muscle. Testing for carbon monoxide and cyanide was not performed.
According to the pilot's wife, her husband's sleep habits for the 5 days prior to the accident were typical and consisted of 8-10 hours of sleep nightly. She reported that her husband had a "stuffy" nose and no other complaints.
According to an FAA inspector who spoke with a doctor who flew with the accident pilot the day before the accident, the doctor reported that the pilot had a nagging cough.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The day of the accident the main fuel tanks were filled; a total of 36.4 gallons of fuel were added. After being notified of the accident, the fueling facility suspended fueling operations and submitted a fuel sample to their vendor for testing. All test results were reported to be in normal specification. A copy of the fueling record, and test results is an attachment to this report.
Examination of the left propeller governor revealed impact damage that precluded bench testing. The control shaft and head were separated and were not located. Disassembly of the governor revealed that the drive gear and idler gear were intact; no abnormal wear marks were noted on the gear teeth of both gears. The relief valve was noted to actuate; dirt was noted inside. The speeder spring and the pilot valve were not broken, no scoring was noted on the pilot valve. The flyweight pins and the unfeathering plunger checked good, no scoring was noted on the unfeathering plunger. No evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction was noted.
Examination of the right propeller governor revealed impact damage that precluded bench testing. The control arm and shaft were missing and were not located. The unfeathering accumulator fitting had a plug installed which was safety wired. The mounting gasket was inplace; the screen was clean. The drive shaft was sheared at the cam section and the cover has 1 fractured screw. The flyweights were free to move. The pilot valve was fractured, and the drive gear was tight and would not move. The idler gear was free to move; no abnormal wear was noted. The relief valve was clean, no binding was noted. Scoring was noted on 1 flyweight pins; the unfeathering spring was inplace; contamination was noted that impeded spring action. No evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction was noted.
Examination of the left engine carburetor at the manufacturer's facility with FAA oversight revealed extensive damage to the throttle body and related components that precluded bench testing. Disassembly of the carburetor revealed no evidence of improper assembly. Four of the five diaphragms made of Buna-N were noted to be manufactured in the 1970's and all of the Buna-N diaphragms were showing signs of deterioration. Additionally, the idle control components and housing were corroded. A copy of the report from the manufacturer is an attachment to this report. Examination of the right engine carburetor at the manufacturer's facility with FAA oversight also revealed extensive damage to the throttle body and related components that precluded bench testing. Disassembly of the carburetor revealed no evidence of improper assembly. The idle/economizer needle and spring exhibited evidence of rust contamination. Four of the five diaphragms made of Buna-N were noted to be manufactured in the 1970's and all of the Buna-N diaphragms were showing signs of deterioration. A copy of the report from the manufacturer is an attachment to this report.
Examination of the portable GPS receiver at the manufacturer's facility with FAA oversight revealed the memory back-up battery was separated from the unit rendering data retrieval impossible. A statement from the manufacturer is an attachment to this report.
Examination of the piece of acrylic that was recovered approximately 175 yards north of the accident site revealed the thickness range was between .1773 and .1836 inch when measured near the fracture surface. Black colored transfer was noted on the concave portion of the glass. Examination of the three pieces of acrylic recovered by the FAA at the accident site revealed the thickness of two of the three measured between .2375 and .2470 inch. The third piece of recovered acrylic that was flat measured between .1126 and .1130 inch. According to Cessna Aircraft Company personnel, the specified thickness range of all windows in the airplane is .250 inch.
Examination of the recovered three sections of the main cabin door revealed upward and aft crushing at an approximate 45-degree angle of the fuselage skin and lower forward portion of the door. The interior cabin door handle was not attached; the outside door latch was closed. An impact signature was noted on the upper surface of the door latch bolt assembly and also on the upper portion of the bolt slot of the strike plate (See photograph No. 17). Impact damage was also noted to the upper portion of the aft door frame adjacent to the damage on the strike plate (See photograph No. 18). The impact damage on the upper surface of the strike plate and also to the upper portion of the aft door frame adjacent to the strike plate was in an upward direction and matched the contour of the door latch bolt assembly. Additionally, damage to the lower aft portion of the cabin door matched the contour of the damage to the lower aft section of the door frame (See photograph No. 15).
An additional party to the investigation is Mr. William E. Stone, of Garmin International, Inc., located in Olathe, Kansas.
The wreckage minus the retained components was released to Mr. James D. Britt, Jr., Noxubee County Emergency Management Coordinator on December 14, 1999. The retained components were released to Mr. Donald E. Studer, the owner's agent, on December 21, 2000.