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On February 13, 2000, about 1245 eastern standard time, a Beech 35-P35, N9796Y, owned by a private individual impacted with rising terrain during the climb, and about 6 miles from the departure airport near Dayton, Tennessee. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight. The airplane was destroyed. The private, non instrument-rated pilot was fatally injured. The flight had originated from the Dayton Airport, en route to Hicks Field, Fort Worth, Texas, at 1240.
At 1025, the pilot of N9796Y called the Air Traffic Control Specialist at the Nashville Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), Nashville, Tennessee, for a weather briefing from Dayton, Tennessee, to the Fort Worth, Texas area, for a proposed flight that afternoon. According to AFSS specialist's statement, "...A detailed synopsis with emphasis on forecast thunderstorms and IFR conditions was given. There were AIRMETS (Airman's Meteorological Information) for IFR conditions along the route of flight until 1800 UTC (1400). I told the pilot that I did not expect conditions to improve at that time but would continue for another 24 to 36 hours."
At 1237, the pilot again called the Nashville AFSS, and the specialist said, "...(he) called for forecast information for the 'next couple of hours or so.' The flight would be from Dayton...to near the Dallas/Fort Worth area. VFR only. I proceeded to give current AIRMETS, conditions, and forecast information showing IFR conditions. (The) pilot asked about thunderstorms along the route. I gave the location and movement of thunderstorms and precipitation. Continued with tops information and forecast for continued IFR."
According to a witness at the airport just after the airplane took off from the runway it disappeared into the clouds. Another witness about 3 miles from the crash site said when she saw the airplane it was flying "low" as it came out of the clouds. She said the engine seemed to "sound normal," and the airplane was heading in a southwest direction. The witness said that at the time the weather was, "...overcast, foggy, misting rain."
According to local police records the airplane was found by a ground search at 1649, just off of Brayton Mountain Road, about 1/2 mile from the Deep Down Mine entrance.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight about 35 degrees, 27 minutes north, and 085 degrees, 06 minutes west.
The pilot's personal logbook listing his flight hours was not recovered. Based on his last application for insurance, dated April 20, 1999, it was estimated that the pilot had about 1,207 hours of total flight time in all aircraft, and 36 hours in this make and model airplane, at the time of the application. In addition, at the time of the application the pilot listed 48 hours of night flight time.
The weather at Chattanooga, Tennessee, about 40 miles south of the crash site at 1253 was reported as 900 feet overcast, visibility 1.5 miles, winds from 210 degrees, at 12 knots, temperature 50 degrees F, dew point 46 degrees F, and the altimeter setting was 30.01 inches of mercury.
A line person at the departure airport stated that after the airplane took off, he watched it disappear into the clouds and, "...the ceiling appeared to be about 600 to 900 feet high."
A police officer that had responded to the reported crash site at 1311, said, "due to the fog the visibility was approximately 20 to 30 feet."
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Dr. James D. Nelson stated that there was no autopsy performed on the pilot. On February 14, 2000, the Rhea County Medical Examiner's Office, Dayton, Tennessee, issued a death certificate, dated February 2, 2000, stating that the "...Cause of Death was massive multiple trauma..."
Toxicological tests were conducted at the Federal Aviation Administration, Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and revealed, "No ethanol or drugs detected in muscle."
At 1020, the pilot of N9796Y called the Nashville AFSS, Preflight 2 (PF2) position and the following recorded conversation took place:
At 1025:09, the pilot said, "...need some forecast information...going to...d f w (Dallas/Fort Worth) sometime this evening v f r flight...." The PF2 specialist said, "...well that's not gonna happen...."
At 1026:01, the PF2 specialist said, "...and you said v f r only right." The pilot answered, "Yes sir."
The PF2 specialist gave the pilot the following weather information at 1026:05: "...highly improbable (VFR)...an unsettled frontal boundary extends westward to middle Georgia northern Alabama, Mississippi northwestward up into Missouri and Kansas and then it's back to the southwest through Oklahoma across the Texas panhandle north northwestward up through the Rockies...by this afternoon these systems are gonna still be kinda be in the same general vicinity...scattered thunderstorms and rain showers this morning and probably for the better part of the day as well we have an AIRMET in effect throughout Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and eastern Texas for occasional i f r conditions and mist stratus and precipitation there's an AIRMET over the western half of Tennessee, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma for low level wind shears and...Texas for occasional moderate turbulence below fifteen thousand feet...weather radar shows widespread areas of scattered mostly light rain and rain showers...a developing area of intense precipitation building over central Texas in general for today forecasted conditions enroute from the area forecast over eastern Tennessee, from now up until eighteen hundred zulu (1400) ceilings and visibility at or below a thousand and three in stratus and mist after eighteen hundred zulu becoming ceilings one thousand five hundred broken and scattered to widely scattered thunderstorms and rain showers down over the northern portions of Mississippi after eighteen hundred zulu ceilings fifteen hundred to twenty five hundred broken five thousand overcast occasional visibility three to five miles in numerous rain showers and thunderstorms a few possibly severe on into northern Louisiana...into northern Texas after fifteen hundred zulu (1100) it'll start to improve to three thousand scattered six thousand scattered twelve thousand broken after nineteen hundred zulu (1500) no significant clouds or weather so what are you gonna do...but over south central Texas and southern Texas you gonna have the big thunderstorms again...the question is what are you gonna do."
At 1030:34, the pilot said, "I'm probably going to wait." The PF2 specialist said, '...yeah cause I think you are gonna be pretty well stuck here."
At 1030:39, the pilot said, "...yeah see...right here...I'm in Dayton...and...it's all foggy." PF2 said, " You're not in the big blue hole huh." The pilot answered, "Nope like to think I was but it's not here yet." The PF2 told the pilot, "...I tell you what Knoxville and Chattanooga are down...just totally wiped out with fog this morning.
At 1031:00, the pilot said, "...yeah well it was earlier...I would have suspected that it was less than three to four hundred feet...from just looking outside...it's not windy it's just foggy."
The specialist told the pilot that the system would take about 24 to 36 hours to clear, and the phone call ended at 1032:13.
At 1237:51, the pilot of N9796Y called the Nashville AFSS a second time and was briefed by the Preflight 13 (PF13) specialist. He said, "...I need a little forecast information for maybe the next couple of hours...I'm...v f r I need to go v f r...."
At 1238:38, the PF13 specialist gave the pilot the following briefing, "...AIRMETS for IFR all the way to Texarkana and on down to the southeastern Texas...that's going to last I think IFR to Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, improving over southern portion...between fifteen (1100) and eighteen (1400) and continuing beyond twenty one z (1700) through the rest of the day over northern portion...Chattanooga has got a whole mile and a half...Memphis is eight hundred...they're down to six hundred overcast two and a half...i f r six hundred overcast...its better in Texas...but...we got a long way to go here it appears at eighteen hundred zulu (1400) I'm showing i f r running from right around Chattanooga southeast Tennessee, across northern Alabama, down into central Mississippi and on to the southwest marginal v f r all the way through Tennessee, all the way over to Arkansas, Texarkana so it's gonna be awhile."
At 1240:02, the pilot said, "...these thunderstorms are the ones that seem to I uh heard just a few minutes ago there's one banging up in Nashville someplace."
The PF13 specialist gave the pilot the following information at 1240:09, "...we've had several convective at uh storm warning on the t v and center weather advisories for pilots and convective SIGMET's (significant meteorology) right now there's a big one just southeast of McKeller moving northeastward and then precipitation running from Anniston, Alabama, through Birmingham and up to the northwest from there east of Tupelo and into west Tennessee, so you'd be flying through precipitation." The pilot asked the specialist about cloud tops and the specialist said, "...well let me see if I got any pilot reports just on the low scud we got...no I have nothing at all."
At 1241:08, the pilot said, "...so there's no way of getting over the top...it seems so literally thin here because I'm not we're not having any dark stuff all morning it has just been foggy." The PF13 specialist then gave the pilot the following information, "...the precipitation's around Muscle Shoals a little bit southwest of Chattanooga, also probably down around Boaz or somewhere pushing up toward you but a pretty solid area of precipitation through west Tennessee, down through Muscle Shoals into Birmingham, Alabama, and embedded in that uh isolated thunderstorms pretty heavy activity."
The pilot asked the specialist, "...you guys are seeing some improvement later on today...." The specialist answered "especially from the west."
At 1241:52, the pilot said, "...well it's clear in Texas...." The specialists said "right." The pilot continued, "...over in that part of the world they're...clearing...I [was] just wondered [if] it was clearing in this direction or if there was anyway of getting over it...doesn't look like there is."
At 1242:06, the PF13 specialists said, "...not for v f r I'm afraid looks like...." The pilot asked about later in the day "about six o'clock five o'clock someplace along in there," and was told by the specialist, "...in Chattanooga alone...two thousand overcast three miles with thunderstorms till zero zero zulu (2000) and after that...they are forecasting thunderstorms heavy rain and i f r conditions so it's supposed to actually get worse in you area tonight."
At 1242:35, the pilot said, "...isn't that interesting cause it looks like...it's improving earlier this morning it was down to the ground but uh all right sir that's uh that tells me what I need to know." The briefing ended at 1242:49.
The airplane impacted in a heavily wooded area, in rising terrain. The elevation at the crash site was about 1,910 feet mean sea level. The elevation at the departure airport was 855 feet. The airplane struck trees, and the wreckage path was on a heading of 267 degrees. The wreckage path was about 273 feet long. Several trees were severed during the impact sequence. The largest tree was about 15 inches in diameter.
The left wing had separated from the airframe, and the wing tip remained attached to the outboard portion of the wing. The outboard 12 inches of the left aileron had remained attached to the outboard section of the wing. The flap and the inboard section of the aileron were found separated from the wing. The inboard section of the left wing was found fragmented. A piece of the inboard left wing that included parts of the fuel cell and filler cap was found in a tree about 15 feet above the ground. The flap actuator was measured at 1.8 inches, which corresponded to the flap being in the up position.
Observation of the right wing revealed that the outer portion of the wing, outboard of the main landing gear had separated from the wing. The right aileron had remained attached the outboard portion of the wing. The right wing tip remained attached to the outboard section. The leading edge of the wing exhibited chordwise crushing along the entire length. The right main landing gear remained attached to the inboard section of the right wing. The flap remained attached to the inboard section of the wing. The flap actuator was measured at 1.8 inches, which corresponded to the flap being in the "UP" position.
The fuselage had sustained extensive impact damage. The forward portion of the fuselage, from the rear spar forward, was fractured in several pieces. The instrument panel was destroyed and no meaningful readings were obtained. The pilot's seat was found separated from the fuselage. Examination of the landing gear motor and gearbox indicated that the landing gear were in the retracted position.
The left stabilizer was found separated from the fuselage at its attachment point. The left ruddervator had separated from the stabilizer. The ruddervator was found separated into two pieces at its mid-point. The torque fitting and push rod end was still attached to the inboard portion of the left ruddervator. The left ruddervator counterweight had separated from the outboard portion of the ruddervator, and was found along the wreckage path. The trim actuator measured 0.7 inches, which according to Beechcraft, corresponded to 9.5 degrees tab down (airplane nose up). Examination of the mixer assembly showed that the control cables were attached. Both ruddervator push rods had remained attached to the mixer assembly. The inboard half of the right stabilizer and ruddervator remained attached to the fuselage, and the right ruddervator counterweight (outboard ruddervator tip) was found along the wreckage path.
The engine had separated from the fuselage, and was removed from the crash site for further examination.
Both propeller blades had separated from the hub. Only one blade was recovered. This blade exhibited twisting at the tip, and polishing along the leading edge.
TEST AND RESEARCH
On March 1, 2000, the engine was examined at Universal Loss Management's facilities Saint Peters, Missouri, under the supervision of the NTSB investigator-in-charge.
The examination revealed that the left side of the engine received impact damage. All of the left side valve covers were crushed. The right magneto, starter, and alternator were separated from the engine. All of the intake and exhaust pipes were found crushed. The left side spark plugs were found broken. A crack in the right side case half was observed over the No. 5 cylinder attachment area. The No. 1 valve cover was found crushed. The No. 5 and No. 6 cylinder's cooling fins were damaged. The top spark plugs and valve covers were removed, and the crankshaft was rotated. The crankshaft rotated about 40 degrees, and engine continuity was established. All of the pistons moved and valve action was observed on cylinders 2, 3, 4 and 5. The push rods on all the remaining cylinders were damaged. Examination of the top spark plugs revealed moderate deposits in the electrode area, and some wear. Both magnetos sparked when they were hand rotated. The right magneto was found separated from the engine. The fuel pump rotated freely. The pump was disassembled, and no internal damage was observed. The fuel manifold did not display any damage. The safety wire was in place. The unit was disassembled; the spring and diaphragm were not damaged. The screen was found clean and clear. No fuel was found in the manifold. Examination of the main fuel screen revealed it was clear and clean. No fuel was found in the interior. The oil filter element was clean and clear with no metal particles noted. The vacuum pump rotated freely by hand. The vacuum pump was disassembled, no discrepancies were noted, and no circumferential scoring or rubbing was found on the rotor or housing interior.
The airplane was released to Deputy Wayne Griffith on behalf of Mr. Russ Day, insurance adjuster, for the owner's insurance company, on February 14, 2000. The engine was released to Mr. Brian Hooper, facility manager, at Universal Loss Management, representing the owner's insurance company, on March 1, 2000.